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Exploring Jackson Hole {And Fighting Moose}

Bren Herrera Mountain Top Jackson Hole


One of the fun benefits of my job is being able to bring my family along with me when I travel. They’ve come to accept I travel a lot more than they, developing in them a long-absent curiosity on what’s beyond the US. We travel a lot as a family unit (mostly annual hops to Mexico, but also Europe in sub-sets), but one-on-one travel is less feasible.

It’s nice to invite them along if I can. I’ve established this dibs system: Mami always gets first option; my sis, second; and one of my three brothers, third, but on rotation. The latter gets a little tricky, especially when schedules don’t align. But the system works and it’s always a fun draw to see who’s going where. My baby brother, the least travelled amongst us,  has enjoyed three trips with me this year alone, ironically. Most recently, he jumped on the invite when I booked Jackson Hole, WY for a three-night stay at the Hampton Inn by Hilton as I continue on my fall seekender mission! He missed out on the annual siblings snowboarding trip last winter when we endued up in that very middle America town. He wasn’t in queue to be my +1 this time but it worked out. And so lucky him, he tagged along. Plus, he’d not been but really wanted to get to know the city I keep boasting about.

I love, love, love Jackson Hole. You can read about my first play date here, here, and here.

Bren Herrera Jackson Hole Town Square Arch at Sunset

As things go with my travel style and approach, I didn’t plan. I don’t do itineraries.  So much this time, I didn’t realize the town pretty much shuts down in November as it wraps up the summer/fall season –its highest –and recoups for the winter when avid skiers and snowboarders come in droves. Hotels are in off-season and offer some incredible rates. The Hampton Inn, our host for the weekend, has themed rooms for $119/night. A total winner with its perfect placement: 5 minute drive to the quaint Town Square, 20 minutes to the airport, and 14 minutes to Teton Village — where the snow enthusiasts converge at Jacskon Hole. 

The mountain is intense. It was named no. 1 ski resort in 2014 so imagine the influx of winter athletes. It’s a wonderful and completely perfect winter playground for athletes. We weren’t there to challenge the run, though. This was a much less invigorating trip.
With no plan, my brother and I just went for the kill. The figurative kind, though hunting season is in full effect. We rented a car and simply missioned to explored. My only real goal was to uncover new and old food, but also introduce my brother to the beautiful wildlife. I’d seen last year a white blanket-covered topography occupied by massive moose and bison, while elk migrated to the National Elk Refuge. This time, the migration hasn’t quite started and sightings were more a challenge than a given.
It was in that physical absence of could-be intimidating creatures, we surfaced our true explorative nature. Before engaging a local tour guide, we got lost on our own as we trekked over the Pass into Victor, Idaho. The meandering highway landed us at a picture-perfect peak overlooking the dry valley while our immediate surrounding was blistering cold and covered in white.  Locals don’t wait for the official season to kick off. Instead, they take to the backcountry and bravely make their way up the mountain for a quick run down. It’s where true explorative spirits come to life. All my brother and I could do was stand on top of a fluffy mount and breathe in the endless view.

Arms wide open, this was living!

All we could see were miles of snow-covered pine trees lined up along steep drops.

Bren Herrera Jackson Back Country

We eventually made it to our private tour guide — the very private kind since everyone else was shut down. He took us out both weekend days in search of some nature. I was familiar with some of the territory covered but nothing like scarcity lending to creativity. Our new friend Anthony toured us through some rural highways, starting in Kelly, WY.

It’s necessary to carry binoculars in these parts, especially when the meadows are high in bush and the animals’ camouflage nature. Only when you’re looking at the Grand Tetons, you want your natural eye.

Of the many mountain regions I’ve enjoyed here and across the pond, these great whites are incredibly majestic and simply breathtaking.  I’ve seen them before, but my brother… his reaction was priceless. Pretty much mimicking my own reaction almost two years ago, he was ticked but also astonished.

The snow caps juxtaposed with dry, monotonous land, was akin to one of life’s wonderfully drawn reflections: the ying and the yang. My brother, my complete opposite in every way imaginable, stood in humble amazement. I did, too, but I kept it moving.

We finally got what we came for! Moose, both female and male, just grazing, becoming one with the mightily vast land. I spotted a lone coyote, too, as he crept in search of some fresh blood. He was oblivious to our stalkerish place. It’s as if we didn’t exist. And in reality, this is their domain. We just protect them and their habitat. It was quite peaceful and serene until two moose went at it. I’ve never seen anything like it. Two of these guys, in all their girth, erect on their hind legs and boxed it out.

Bren Herrera Single Moose Roaming Solo

We heard it was over a girl.

Typical males.

It was fascinating and scary at the the same time. I was feeling a bit audacious and decided to jump out to capture this on video. In doing so, the moose were startled and started coming toward our truck. My adrenaline was on 10, minimizing my better judgment. It was all good, ultimately, but a close call.
We spent two solid days driving in and out of Jackson, exploring the region, admiring the mountains, and literally getting lost. At some point we ended up in a remote trail where the snow had left its footprint. It was the one time we felt completely out of pocket, leaving our safety to our best instinct. The paths, aptly called Death Canyon, would have dropped us in a majestic trail; but the snow showed no signs of vehicular or pedestrian traffic. A bit too risky for us in 20F weather with questionable black ice, we headed back. It’s definitely a place to hit up with more time….and bear spray in hand!
Bren Herrera Jackson Hole Collage

Safari is exhilarating but also exhausting. Seven hours in a truck, with eyes peeled to marsh, brush and mountains, can tire your mind. Our cozy accommodations at the local Hampton Inn were inviting for relaxing and mindless decompressing.  Before settling in for the night, my brother and I stood around the fire pit and shared our best moment. It was nice and all but I couldn’t wait to get in and sip on some hot cocoa offered up behind the front desk.

Staying in Jackson can be pricey. It’s a high-end ski resort catering to the high rollers chasing fresh powder. If you’re going to really splurge on the mountain, I say save some dollars and stay outside of Teton Village. The Hampton Inn by Hilton there is well-equipped with everything you need for a siblings trip, couples’ retreat or family vacay; it’s centrally located, has lovely themed décor (I asked the manager if I could buy the elk chandelier!), a hearty free breakfast… and better yet…is 200 feet walking distance from one of my new fave restaurants by the Fine Dining Group… where I continued my birthday celebration.

More on Jackson’s dining scene in the next post.

The mountains were calling and we went!
Bren Herrera Hampton Inn by Hilton Jackson Hole
* All images are copyrighted Bren Herrera 
*This post is part of 4 part series of experiences sponsored by Hampton Inn by Hilton. All experiences, storytelling and opinions are honest and my own. 

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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