Forty years ago I married a mountain man. Besides his many hikes on the Muir Trail in California, one of his fondest memories was of snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park, taking photos with his 8×10 view camera. After nearly forty years of marriage and raising four kids, a trip back to the Grand Tetons seemed like a great idea. So when my friend Sue and her husband Mike, co-owners of a gorgeous bed and breakfast resort in Jackson Hole Wyoming (The Bentwood Inn), suggested we visit and include it in a story on the Grand Teton National Park, I thought it would be a perfect place to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. And it was!
The short flight from LAX got us into Salt Lake City before 11:00 am. We set off in our rental Rogue, the perfect size SUV for two, and comfortably headed north from the city, passing vistas of steep and rocky mountains on the east, watching stores and businesses give way to fields and livestock as we neared Idaho. In the open spaces and clean air of Idaho I began to feel a combination of relaxation and excitement about all that is not city.
We had followed Hwy 15 north and turned off at McCammon, taking a slightly longer route, which offered us the chance to see an historical and unique area called Lava Hot Springs. Today people visit to either bathe in mineral pools or play in the waterpark, but centuries ago Native Americans (primarily the Shoshone tribe) based their winter camps by these warm waters.
We continued eastward across the Idaho/Wyoming border and eventually were traveling adjacent the beautiful Snake River. The pools and rapids were abundant and we kept stopping at turnouts for photos and even drove down to a small boat launch where kayakers could enter.
With only a few miles to go before we would sleep, we entered the rustic, yet sophisticated, town of Jackson. Passing spreading ranches and then heading up the road toward Teton Village, the main ski resort, we finally arrived at our destination, off the main road, privately nestled in a majestic grove of old growth Cottonwoods and pine trees.
The Bentwood Inn was built in 1995. It was constructed using massive 200-year-old logs brought in from Yellowstone National Park after the great fire of 1988. The craftsmanship is remarkable and a great room warms and welcomes you as you enter. There are five different bedroom choices, The Indian Paintbrush Room, The Wildflower Room, The Bunkhouse, The Cowboy Room and The Cabin. All feature amenities such as a private fireplace, a comfortable king-sized bed, and in some a window seat for enjoying incredible views. We loved staying in the Indian Paintbrush Room with the little balcony that overlooks a meadow-like backyard.
We dined nearby, at one of two recommended casual establishments within walking distance of the Inn. Due to gusty winds and dropping temperatures we drove to our destination, enjoyed some soup and ale and returned to call it a night. What a lovely surprise when we awoke to find our little balcony looking over a snow-covered yard!
Sunday morning rang in the arrival of the 40th anniversary of our nuptial blessing! After a spectacular breakfast at the inn, we geared up for wind and weather … and photography … and headed for the national park. Passing the ranches again we turned left and entered the charming downtown area of Jackson. The park in the square at the very center of town displays bronze historical statues, photographs with historical information, and arches made of hundreds of antlers adorn each corner entrance. We turned north and headed toward the Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge, and the Wildlife Museum.
Our first stop is the Wildlife Museum, which we nearly missed because its exterior color and texture blend perfectly into the rocky terrain. Outside, you will see bronze statues of running elk, a huge bison, and a tall moose. The museum showcases the tremendous love and appreciation people have for the wildlife in this area. Inside the museum countless paintings depict visions of local weather, terrain and animals. The art and information is so well presented that one almost feels a spiritual reverence to this great place.
Back outside and looking east across the valley (or “Hole” as it was coined by fur trappers in the late 1800’s), the National Elk Refuge stretches for 25,000 acres. It is bordered on the east by the Bridger -Teton National Forest and on the north by the Grand Teton National Park. It was established in 1923 and is home to an average of 7,500 elk. Gazing across this vast, unmolested valley is a mesmerizing experience and it gave me an incredible feeling of being at one with the earth. As the highway proceeds along the west side of the valley, north to the National Park, a very long and smooth bike path provides an exceptional way to experience this grandeur.
Finally we arrived at Grand Teton National Park! It was a lovely crisp and breezy day with snow flurries and heavy intermittent clouds. While we were unable to get photos of mountain peaks, we still enjoyed taking many pictures in the park. Memories of the snowshoeing/photography trip stood out to my husband and he showed me one of his subjects, the little brown Church of the Transfiguration, peacefully sitting in the foreground of the Grand Teton panorama. Nearby, we took some anniversary photos of ourselves at the scenic and famous Jenny Lake.
Driving back toward the main highway we stopped by the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor’s Center. The building is an eco-friendly work of art, compatible with the landscape and brandishing scenic views of the Grand Tetons. The center is infinitely informative with fantastic demonstrations, exhibits, a theater, and a gift shop. One could stay occupied here for hours but our rumbling tummies wouldn’t allow it. Not far away is Dornan’s, a great spot for lunch and spirits and also with one of the best views of the Tetons. We enjoyed soup and ale while watching a lovely snowfall.
Then we headed further north to clearer skies and the top of the park. We photographed big, sparkling blue Jackson Lake, visible all along the west side of the highway. Then there was a spontaneous side trip to the top of Signal Mountain, about 6 miles to the summit, which provided spectacular views looking eastward across the valley. We traveled back along the Snake River, stopping for photographs near the Moulton Ranches. We aimed west and hoped for that great shot where the Grand Tetons would shine forth between cloud formations. But alas, the clouds grew heavy and raindrops began falling, eventually changing to wet snowflakes.
We hurried back to get ready for our special anniversary dinner at the Snake River Grill, in downtown Jackson. Happily we had time to partake of the daily fresh spread of hors d’oeuvres and wine at the Bentwood Inn. The fare was delicious and socializing with other guests in the great room added interest and enjoyment! Then back to town we drove in the lovely late afternoon sun with bright fall-colored leaves garnishing the wet streets and trees. They were ready for us at the Snake River Grill, as reservations are required nearly a week in advance and they do follow up with confirmation! They were aware of our 40th Anniversary and after cocktails and delicious dinners of pork shank and filet mignon, we were presented with a dinner plate decorated with a Happy Anniversary message beautiful written in chocolate on the rim surrounding a decadent chocolate and caramel dipping dessert.
Monday morning offered a time to relax before going shopping. The Bentwood Inn is a great place for leisure, and although it is perfect as a base for ski trips, Yellowstone excursions, and Grand Teton adventures, it is also a wonderful place to just kick back. My husband found a guitar to strum while browsing the small library, and I found the courage to attempt some piano music at the antique baby grand. While the fire crackled and kept the great room warm, a constant supply of homemade chocolate chip cookies, apples, oranges, an extensive selection of teas and, of course, coffee, all made us feel entirely comfortable and at home.
The extraordinary innkeepers at the Bentwood, Bob and Virginia Schrader, provide excellent concierge service and bestow impeccable hospitality and gourmet dining. They prepare all foods fresh daily. The complimentary gourmet breakfast is described by Frommer’s Travel Guide as “hearty and sumptuous”. Homemade sweet breads and seasonal fruit accompany something sizzling on the griddle every day. Evenings bring a selection of wine, cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables, plus other special treats the chefs cook, to be enjoyed in the great room. At least twice weekly the innkeepers offer a four course seasonal dinner prepared exclusively for guests as a lodging enhancement. Innkeepers and chefs Bob and Virginia have backgrounds in law and hospitality and also ran their own luxury inn and restaurant in New Hampshire. Serendipitously, the Schraders and the Bentwood Inn found each other and the combination makes this bed and breakfast a first class resort.
Sustainable tourism is one of the most important aspects of the Bentwood Inn experience. The Inn is committed to a Green Initiative Program, which means that its operations are measured to reduce environmental impact in every area including: water, energy, solid waste, and landscaping and food preparation among others. The Bentwood Inn is proud of having been accepted as a “Platinum GreenLeader” in the TripAdvisor® GreenLeaders™ program. It also can boast a “5 Green Key” rating, the highest possible rating awarded by the prestigious Green Key Global Eco-Rating Program. The Bentwood Inn is constantly implementing green-friendly renovations to improve their efficiency and reduce their overall environmental footprint.
The Bentwood is proud to be a member of “NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC UNIQUE LODGES OF THE WORLD”. National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World is a collection of selectively chosen sustainable lodges that provide guests with not only engaging eco-friendly experiences, but also incredible local adventures in amazing locations.
A crucial and informative part of our trip took place on Monday afternoon. Our friends and owners at The Bentwood scheduled an appointment for us with the GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION. For nearly two hours we sat with Kim Mills (Director of Communicationa & Corporate Relations) and Mark Berry (Vice President) and listened and learned about the real challenges concerning the Grand Teton National Park. The Foundation is made up of a group of hard working, dedicated people who love Grand Teton National Park and who are fighting to protect it. There are very critical issues facing the park today! Please see the sidebars on the following two pages deliniating the initiatives being implemented by the Grand Teton National Park Foundation.
Packing and leaving wasn’t easy. My complaint was that our stay wasn’t long enough. But now that we know so much more about the park and the wonderful Bentwood Inn, I’m sure we will be returning … probably as often as possible. This is a magnificent part of our country and should not be missed by anyone.
Many thanks to Sue Boos and Mike Scharf and all at the Bentwood Inn. And special thanks to Mark Berry and Kim Mills with the Grand Teton National Park Foundation.
4250 Raven Haven Rd,
Wilson, WY 83014
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION INITIATIVES:
KEEPING ALL LAND INSIDE THE PARK FROM PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT!
The State needs to sell trust lands inside of Grand Teton National Park for the appraised value of $46 million to fund Wyoming K-12 education. Governor Matt Mead has set the deadline for sale at December 31, 2016. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has secured half of the funds ($23 million) and the other $23 million is being raised privately through the Grand Teton National Park Foundation (GTNPF) along with the National Park Foundation (NPF). The alternative would be a commercial sale to the highest bidder, who could in turn build anything of commercial value on the land. The consequences of the later would greatly endanger the current primal splendor of the park and impede long established migration patterns for buffalo, elk, moose and pronghorn herds.
GTNPF INITIATIVE : WILDLIFE STUDIES
- Gray Wolf monitoring and research
- Innovative grizzly bear research project including funding bear resistance food storage boxes
- Eliminating stresses on native Yellowstone and Snake River cutthroat trout (fish passage issues, competition with non native fish and warming water temperatures)
- Removal of non-native plants and replacement of native grasses and shrubs
GTNPF INITIATIVE : YOUTH ENGAGEMENT
- The lack of young, diverse people in parks today has been recognized as a need for improvement
- Programs that engage younger generations and diverse communities have been implemented
- Pura Vida is one that provides extensive outdoor learning experiences and leadership training for the Latino community
- The National Park Service Academy introduces diverse college students to career paths within the NPS
- The GTNPF is bringing tribal youth into the park for internships doing preservation work on historical buildings and properties, doing trail work, and learning about NPS careers.
GTNPF INITIATIVE : “INSPIRING JOURNEYS” – A CAMPAIGN FOR JENNY LAKE
- $14 million in private monies through the GTNPF will fund various maintenance issues at Jenny Lake
- Create a complex of trails, bridges and other facilities at Jenny Lake
- A redesigned interpretative plaza similar to the current visitor complex
- Trailhead restoration in backcountry
- Improved west boat dock
- Redesign at Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point