Canyon and I are both on the hunt. Walking with purpose, scanning the ground. Of course, we are looking for different things. He is looking for a red tailed squirrel that keeps chattering, taunting him as he sits safely in a nearby tree. I am searching for morel mushrooms, an edible treasure that grows in the spring. As I part some tree branches, bushwacking off of the trail, I look down and spy a brown fungi. Precisely what I am looking for. I admire the wavy pattern of the cap and as I kneel to pick it I let the joy of the hunt spread over me. I found one! My first morel. And then, like a drug addict, I am on the hunt for another one. Craving the satisfaction and high that you get from finding a wild mushroom.
Last year, I went foraging for the first time. My first experience was hunting for golden chanterelles. At night I would dream of finding them. Whenever I was on a hike I always kept my eyes peeled for them. After finding my first morel, I assure you, the feeling is the same. As I sit in my office, I am daydreaming of wandering around in the woods in search of small brown beauties. Remembering the taste of my morels, which I dredged in flour and fried in butter last night, makes my mouth water. They tasted earthy and soft.
As far as wild mushrooms go, morels are easily identifiable and valuable – a pound of mushrooms can sell for around $14 dollars a pound. However, they are rather elusive. After an hour of searching, I only had 3 small morels to show for my effort. However, they are just starting to grow at the elevation of the area where I was looking for them.
Like most mushrooms, morels like moist ground and grow in treed areas. Morel hunting is a favorite pasttime of many Jackson Hole residents, but don’t ask them about where they go hunting. Like hunting elk, friends rarely share their hunting grounds. People have their secret spots where they return to year after year to harvest mushrooms. The last thing they want to do is increase the competition and have to share their bounty with someone else. The secretiveness of morel hunting makes the experience even more thrilling.
I don’t recommend that you eat any wild mushrooms unless you are certain that you have correctly identified them. While morels are rather easy to identify, there are a few mushrooms that look similar and can cause gastro-intestinal distress. Here is a link to information on false morels.
Morel hunting is a family friendly activity and is very enjoyable – even if you don’t find any mushrooms, the walk in the woods and the thrill of the hunt itself is very fun. Morels grow in Jackson in May and early June, so go take a walk and see what you can find! Just don’t ask me where I found mine… ;)
Up next, we have our front desk representative, Brittany’s recommendations. Though not as detailed as Kelly’s recommendations this is a great itinerary if you already have an idea of where you would like to stay in Yellowstone. In case you missed it, our front desk is giving us some great ideas for itineraries if you have 5 days to spend in Yellowstone and the Jackson Hole area. See our front desk manager Kelly’s recommendations here!
Day 1: Yellowstone Van Tour
Start off your trip with a tour of the park! Enjoy all the natural wonders that Yellowstone has to offer—including the famous Old Faithful Geyser!
Day 2: Fishing Bridge Hikes
Now that you’ve got the lay of the land, it’s time to get on your feet! Explore the variety of trails around Fishing Bridge and Yellowstone Lake!
Day 3: Mammoth Hot Springs
Get to know the park through the lens of the past! Spend your day learning about Yellowstone’s history—while also checking out one of the park’s most well-known thermals!
Day 4: Lamar Valley Wildlife
While away the afternoon by viewing the wildlife of Lamar Valley! The Valley features some of the most beautiful flora and fauna in the park—and maybe you’ll even see a buffalo or two!
Drink in one final day in this magnificent place! Rent a bike at Old Faithful and ride the Fountain Flats Trail; nothing completes a trip to Yellowstone like cycling through the heart of the park!
Our front desk has created an itinerary for their ideal 5 day trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. First up, we have our new front desk manager, Kelly’s 5 day trip.
Day 1: Arrive in the town of Jackson, WY
- Arrive at the Jackson Hole Airport
- Eat at Jedediah’s at the Airport
- Depart Jackson Hole Airport and head into the town of Jackson – Flying T Taxi $35.00+ (307-690-4141)
- Check in to the Painted Buffalo Inn
- Stroll through the Town Square & browse local shopping, watch “Old West Shootout” at 6pm
- Dinner reservations at Nani’s
Day 2: Jackson Hole Area/Grand Teton National Park
- Breakfast at E.leaven
- Depart Jackson for Teton Village
- Ride the Tram to the summit
- Small hike around the area of the Summit, PHOTO Ops!
- Eat lunch at TOP OF THE WORLD WAFFLES
- Ride the Tram to the base
- Depart Teton Village
- Visit Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center
- Visit Craig Thomas Discovery Center
- Explore Moose & Kelly – Moose-Wilson Rd, Mormon Row, Moulton Barn
- Return via Elk Refuge Rd; Photo Ops!
- Order sandwiches for picnic lunch at Pearl Street Market
- Dinner reservations at The Snake River Grill
Day 3: Grand Teton National Park
- Check out of Painted Buffalo Inn
- Depart Jackson for Grand Teton National Park
- Stop at Snake River Overlook for 6:09am sunrise; Photo Op!
- Breakfast at the Trapper Grill at Signal Mountain Lodge
- Visit Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center
- Take the Jenny lake ‘shuttle’ across
- Hike Cascade Canyon trail
- Stop for picnic lunch @ Hidden Falls
- Take return Shuttle across the lake
- Visit Jackson Lake & dam – small hike with potential for wildlife activity
- Check in to the Jackson Lake Lodge
- Have dinner at the historic Jackson Lake Lodge Mural Room
Day 4: Yellowstone National Park (South/West Sections)
- Check out of Jackson Lake Lodge (early morning)
- Depart for Yellowstone National Park
- Visit Duck Lake Trail at the West Thumb Geyser Basin – easy, 1mi hike
- Visit Old Faithful Geyser – photo ops
- Have breakfast at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge Geyser Grill
- Purchase picnic lunch items from Old faithful Inn Bear Paw Deli
- Visit the Geyser Basin area; including Grand Prismatic Spring, Great Fountain Geyser and Fountain Paint Pot – easy walks w. photo ops
- Visit Harlequin Lake Trail & have picnic lunch – easy, 1mi hike
- Check in to the Alpine Motel in West Yellowstone
- Have dinner at Madison Crossing Lounge
Day 5: Yellowstone National Park (North/East Sections)
- Check out of the Alpine Motel
- Scenic drive to Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace
- Check in to the Mammoth Campground (1st come, 1st serve, $20/nt)
- Visit Wraith Falls – easy, family friendly hike
- Visit the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park – photo ops
- Visit the Upper and Lower Falls – light walking, photo ops
- Visit Artists Point – photo ops, potential wildlife viewing
- Have dinner at the Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room
- Visit Lamar Valley towards dusk for best chance at wildlife viewing
- Return to campsite for s’mores and family bonding
For more resources on hiking in Yellowstone visit this website.
For more information on Grand Teton National Park click here. For more information on Yellowstone National Park click here. Do you have any additions that you would make to Kelly’s itinerary? Suggest them in the comments! Next week we will here from another front desk representative on what their ideal Yellowstone trip is.
I spent many late nights closing down the Cadillac Bar & Grill, so when they closed their doors two years ago I was devastated. No matter what came in its place, it couldn’t possibly be better than the Cadillac. And then, I heard that the new restaurant to open in its place was called the Local Restaurant and Bar. Locals refer to it as “The Local.” I thought, how can they really call it The Local, they have no idea if locals will actually patronize their restaurant. I was very skeptical, but true to their name, The Local on any given Friday or Saturday night is where you are going to find the locals. The school teacher, the entrepreneur, the ski bum and the fly fishermen can be found co-mingling, exchanging stories about their week and catching up with old friends.
The restaurant is located in downtown Jackson on Cache Street, next to the infamous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. The restaurant itself boasts delicious, albeit expensive, steaks, elk and fish options. The bar menu has a variety of finger foods and includes a particularly tasty hamburger. They have a signature cocktail menu with drinks ranging from $9 to $12 and 12 beers on tap. The bar can get a little tight after 10PM as they have a fair amount of tables and seating around the bar and not much standing room. They do not have live music. The Local is a favorite place for locals to meet friends to catch up, celebrate a birthday, bachelorette party or grab a few drinks before heading over to dance at the Cowboy Bar. If you are looking for a quiet place to grab a drink I don’t suggest that you go to the Local on a Friday or Saturday night. The bar tends to be loud and crowded which can be fun or miserable depending on what type of mood you are in. If you want to be social and rub elbows with a bunch of locals it’s a great spot. If you are looking for a romantic spot to grab a drink with you hunny I would suggest heading to a somewhere else, like the Snake River Grill’s bar or Hayden’s Post. Either way, I would definitely pop in to the Local if you are looking for a good nightlife spot when you are in Jackson. You never know who you are going to run into!
I have a photo of Cody Peak framed on the wall of my office. Whenever I need some inspiration I take a moment and ponder the mountain. It is so iconically Jackson and the terrain on it will challenge every fiber of your being. If you have ever skied off of the tram or Sublette chair at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort you have most likely notice the jagged peak to the South. Cody Peak is an extreme skier’s dream. With access just outside of the ski area boundary and a short boot pack, average joes can access terrain that is seen in extreme skiing movies. The peak is not for the faint of heart and I would recommend only for expert skier with extensive backcountry experience. There have been countless avalanches on Cody Peak as well as avalanche-related deaths on the peak. It is out of bounds, therefore you will need to have appropriate avalanche training and gear in order to ski the peak.
Cody Peak has numerous aesthetically pleasing lines. From the open powder field known as the Powder 8s to the extremely steep Pucker Face and narrow couloirs and chutes with names like “Once is Enough”, Cody has tons of skiable terrain. To reach Cody you leave the resort through the upper gate in Rendezvous Bowl and follow a mellow trail along the ridge to the bottom of the boot pack.
The Cody Peak boot pack is the scariest boot pack in the Jackson Hole sidecountry area. Depending on how much snow there is the first part of the boot pack can be more like a rock scramble.. with ski boots on. It’s a heart pounding experience. Plastic soles with no tread on icy rock is not a good combination. This, coupled with the fact that the peak is avalanches-prone means that it isn’t a good choice for early season skiing. The peak is best skied with a lot of snow, when the boot pack is more than likely to be filled in – with the exception of a few spots where you will need to scramble over rock outcroppings. Additionally, the peak is very susceptible to wind. If it is blowing more than 15MPH you most likely will not want to hike Cody, where you will be pummeled by wind during your entire hike.
Once you are above the scramble the hike becomes very mellow. You will hike down the ridge and around the back side of Cody Peak. Once you get to the top of the ridge you will have to make your decision on what you want to ski.
There are 6 lines that you can ski off of the bootpack on Cody Peak. The first line that you will approach is called Pucker Face. It is an extremely steep face with a cliff ban in the middle. From the top all you can see is a roll over, right where the cliff ban is. It’s rather nerve wracking, not particularly knowing where the cliffs are. This face is also very prone to avalanches, so if you are the first one to ski it make sure you do a proper risk assessment.
The next line that you will reach is a bowl called No Shadows. It’s popular entrance is on the skier’s right of the bowl. Next up the ridge is Four Shadows, another steep bowl which is typically plagued by a large cornice on the top. The best way to enter Four Shadows is at the highest part of the bowl on the right hand side. Four Shadows and No Shadows are north facing, which means that they are good options during a drought when all of the southern aspects are baked or frozen. Up past Four Shadows is a north facing chute. Central is a hair raising, narrow no-fall chute with a mandatory air at the bottom. If you can ski it you most likely are a pro skier or should consider changing your career.
From the top of Four Shadows there is a bootpack traverse over to the south side of the peak. The first couloir that you reach is called “Once Is Enough.” With a sketchy entrance, this steep no-fall couloir is one of the most well known lines in the Tetons. You can see the line from the road, it’s the line in the notch of Cody Peak when viewed from the South. It’s a popular line to ski in the spring when the sun warms the snow and creates edgeable corn. If you look into Once and decide that it’s a little much for you, head up the peak further (to the East) and take a look at “Twice Is Nice.” As you can gather from the name of the line, it’s a more mellow option to Once with a nice hanging powder field that narrows into a choke. This steep line is equally fun during the springtime. These lines drop you into No Name Canyon. If you are looking to extend your day, keep right at the exit of both of the couloirs and take the traverse over to No Name.
Last, but not least, are the Powder 8s. This open powder field can be access by either skiing the North facing lines on Cody (Pucker Face, No Shadows, Four Shadows or Central), and then traversing over to the bottom of the bootpack, or by hiking the bottom of the bowl at the base of Cody Peak. The Powder 8 bootpack is relatively short and steep.. I mean, sweet. From the top of the Powder 8s you can ski the powder field or traverse over to No Name Peak or drop into No Name Canyon. The Powder 8’s are popular to lap.
So there you have it. I have skied all of the lines on Cody Peak except for Central and Once. The terrain is heart pumping and exhilarating. It is really amazing to have such challenging terrain just steps outside of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boundary. If you are a serious backcountry skier I definitely recommend fitting a hike up Cody Peak into your trip!
Skiing. That’s the reason that I moved to this valley in 2009. Not for a job, not for a boy, not for my family or friends. Skiing. Skiing was the sole factor in my decision making when I chose Jackson Hole. Which is great until you start getting the itch to do more with your life than just ski and wait tables. But a career – that means giving up skiing, right? Not necessarily. You have to be a little more crafty but you can absolutely still ski on a powder day. You just have to be up at 6AM to do so.
Over the past few years I have become a master of the “dawn patrol.” Dawn patrol is when you ski in the early morning. It means hiking in the dark with a headlamp, seeing sunrises from the bootpack and skiing down in the early morning light. It really is the most gorgeous time of the day. There is also the added benefit that you get first turns on a powder day, when everyone else is still in bed. For those who argue that you can’t be a ski bum and have a career I beg to disagree. I may not be a “bum” because I collect a regular pay check, but I probably get close to the same amount of days a ski bum skis each season. I believe that last year I skied upwards of 70 days. Of course, no lift is turning at 6AM, so all of my morning runs before work are done under my own power, by hiking or skinning to the top of the run.
A local favorite for dawn patrollers is Glory. Located at the top of Teton Pass a steep bootpack takes you to the top of Mount Glory. From the false peak there are a variety of options to ski back to your car which is parked at the top of the pass. The hike to the false peak typically takes about an hour if you are in good shape. Since it is backcountry skiing I always ski with a partner and avalanche gear. I also have taken the Avalanche 1 Safety class. Thankfully, I have some friends who work 9 to 5 and are as crazy as me. We carpool to Teton Pass and then hike and ski Glory or Chivers Ridge, or we drop a car at the bottom and skin out to Avalanche Bowl.
I have had mornings when I can’t feel my fingers or toes because the temperature is below zero. Mornings where I’ve thought that I was going to get blown off of the mountain and no one would find me in the dark. Mornings where I have had to break the bootpack or skin track by post-holing through deep wind drifts and fresh powder. I have had turns so deep that I can’t see where I am going. Turns that make me giggle like a school girl all of the way back to work. It’s mornings like those that can help me get through a particularly challenging day.
In order to be a dawn patroller you have to be motivated. When that alarm goes off at 5:45AM you need to be able to jump out of bed, throw on your ski clothes and go start the car. It probably helps that I am a morning person, but I have never once regretted getting out of bed in the morning. Because if the snow isn’t good, the sunrise is typically spectacular. Or vice versa – with no sunrise it usually means that the skiing is going to be amazing.
When I first moved to Jackson I didn’t think that there could be such a balance between work and play. I thought that I would have to sacrifice what I love doing during the week and just live for the weekends. However, the quality of life in Jackson Hole is incredible. How many people get to say that they skied powder in the early morning and then brought home a decent pay check and progressed their career while doing what they love? All of the early mornings I have spent on Teton Pass or Snow King in town are worth it. The beautiful sunrises, the friendships that I have created with my fellow dawn patrollers, the fresh tracks in deep snow after a storm, all worth it. Then I come and sit at my desk and when things get tough, I think about the morning – the deep snow or sun rays cresting over the Gros Ventres Mountains and how all is right in the world.
Are you looking for some fresh powder days after the storm? Or maybe you are looking to burn off that breakfast burrito that you had this morning. Either way, hiking the Headwall at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is easy and it can be very rewarding! I say easy due to the fact that it is a ski patrolled area, so you aren’t required to have any avalanche awareness and the bookpack(s) are easy to find. Yeah, did you notice that I said bootpacks, plural? There are two ways to hike the Headwall. The first that I am going to describe is the mellow, traditional Headwall hike. The second is the lung crushing, thigh burning “White Spider” hike.
You can reach the traditional bootpack off of the Sublette chairlift or the Tram – so you need to be high up on the mountain. In order to access it you ski down through Tensleep Bowl and take the traverse to the top of the Cirque. The start of the bootpack lies where the traverse ends and the bowl begins. At this point you should take off your skis and either put them over your shoulder or strap them to a backpack. A backpack isn’t necessary and I don’t necessarily recommend one – the hike is short so I don’t mind shouldering my skis but it’s based on personal preference. Both bootpacks close promptly at 2PM so make sure you are on the bootpack before then.
There are some unwritten rules about how to conduct yourself on a bootpack. Actually, there is just one rule. If someone comes up behind you and is clearly hiking faster than you are, step off of the bootpack. You can wait until you find a spot that’s easy to step off onto – a flatter spot or a spot where someone has stepped off before – just don’t wait too long to find a spot (more than 2 minutes). It is common courtesy, so don’t be offended if someone behind you asks you to step off so that they can pass you.
The Headwall hike will take you anywhere from 8 minutes to 20 minutes, depending on what kind of shape you are in and whether you are acclimated to the altitude or not. It is straightforward and gradual. At the top of the bootpack you have a few options on what you can ski. You can either drop right off the nose directly onto the Headwall or into some chutes on the right hand side, or you can traverse over into Casper Bowl or the Crags. The Headwall is a great ski run but it is relatively short. Before you know it you are at the top of the Gondola. If you want a longer run I would suggest heading over into Casper Bowl. A word of caution – cliff bands and hazards are not well marked in hike-to areas such as the Headwall and Casper Bowl. I would suggest that you study the trail map and decide on what to ski instead of blindly following someone’s tracks. There are a fair amount of skiers at JHMR that are comfortable with a 5 or 10 foot drop. Just because there are a fair amount of tracks does not mean that you won’t get “cliffed out,” or stuck above a cliff ban resulting in you having to take off your skis and hike back up the trail a little bit in order to avoid the drop.
If you want some more exercise you can traverse all the way into the Crags with some duck walking. It takes a fair amount of shuffling to get over to the Crags or the far side of Casper Bowl but there are some fun lines over there and it’s a good spot to find powder days after a storm. But once again, study the trail map – it’s hard to get oriented from above.
The White Spider
Do actually enjoy suffering? Do you want to earn two beers at apres? Are you a fan of steep hikes? Are you at the top of the Gondola and don’t have time to make it over to Sublette before the Headwall hike closes at 2PM? If you answered yes to any of these questions then the White Spider is the hike for you. To find the bootpack head to the far end of the lodge at the top of the gondola (away from the gondola). Wrap around the building and head straight back towards the Headwall. You will see a sign that will indicate whether the Headwall, Casper Bowl and Crags are open. This is where the torture begins. The bootpack is straight up, steep and relentless. It does, however, show some mercy about 2/3rds of the way up – you can bail out into Casper Bowl (if it’s open) through a gate. Here you can ski a nice shot down into Casper Bowl. If you continue hiking you will reach the top of the Headwall at it’s intersection with Casper Bowl. You made it! Take a deep breath and enjoy the view and enjoy the anticipation of your hard earned turns.
Hiking the Headwall or White Spider can be very rewarding. The views are breathtaking and oftentimes the skiing is better than the lift access skiing. It’s a fun place to explore and there is some great, challenging terrain that’s accessible in-bounds. Just be sure to bring a bottle of water, a snack and to take your time. Since it isn’t accessible by a lift it takes ski patrol longer to reach you in case something happens. Also, the Headwall, Casper Bowl and Crags aren’t always open, so be sure to check their status by looking at one of the status boards or by asking a mountain host before heading over to the bootpack. Have fun and enjoy the fresh snow!