It’s obvious by the constant hum of activity in Teton Valley this summer that the traveling public’s demand for outdoor adventures has been mightily enhanced. If there could ever remotely be a positive effect of this COVID situation, it’s been to encourage people to spend time in the magnificent wide-open spaces afforded here in our grand Yellowstone-Teton region. As one travels about this area, we see license plates from seemingly every state in the union, many pulling RV’s with multiple recreational devices and toys strapped to the top. Yes, it’s bittersweet for sure witnessing this descension of the masses on our valley, as our once “quiet side of the Tetons” is anything but these days. In all honesty though, how could we ever believe that this stunning valley, tucked away in the corner of quaint eastern Idaho, would remain a relative secret in the grand scheme of things. We’re we really naïve enough to believe that this extraordinarily beautiful place would belong to us, and us alone, forever.
My mom always tried to instill in my siblings and I that it’s always best to share, so I keep that thought in mind as I overhear more and more “strangers” cruising the aisles in the grocery store, or local bike shops talking about their recent relocation to Teton Valley. Even though change is difficult on many fronts, I can certainly understand why people are flocking here from towns and cities across the country. It’s simply a terrific place to visit and for many, the chance to put down more permanent roots here in God’s country. Teton Valley has always been full to the brim with terrific people, from the descendants of pioneers who came here eons ago to lay claim to potentially rich and fertile farmland, and others, arrived in drips and drabs over the years, attracted by the lure of the Tetons and all its promise. In this environment, virtually every turn of the season guarantees a new set of opportunities, adventures and outdoor recreation.
What draws many day use and overnight visitors, particularly during the summer months, is the Teton River. This waterway, the undisputed jewel of Teton Valley, is vital for summer fun and while this trout-filled river was not too long ago famous almost exclusively among avid fly fishermen, it now appeals to a wide array of water enthusiasts. The headwaters of the Teton bubbles up from three natural springs at Teton Springs Resort in Victor, Idaho, and this glorious river winds 64 miles through the valley, parallel to the dramatic Teton Mountain Range, which flanks the east side.There are many access points throughout the valley, making outings convenient for wading fishermen, guided fly-fishing excursions and recreational boaters all anxious to sample the Teton. WorldCast Anglers, a preferred vendor for guests staying at Teton Springs Lodge & Spa, or in one of the custom log homes, has an impressive history of guiding on the Teton. Most visitors looking to lure a rainbow or brown trout to the surface too often focus on the Southfork of the Snake, or the Henry’s Fork, but the Teton River should never be overlooked when planning a fishing trip to Teton Springs Resort.
Accessing the Teton River recently from the Bates boat launch, undisputedly the most popular put-in west of Driggs, I actually didn’t spot one person sporting a fishing rod. This was a first. A normal scene at Bates used to be one filled with men and women covered in waders and wide-brimmed fishing hats launching from the dock in drift boats and the occasional raft. Now visitors will often find the parking lot filled to capacity with pick-up trucks and boat trailers stuffed with kayaks, paddle boards, canoes and other devices of various shapes and sizes with coolers of beer, many ingeniously tied to the vessels, and small dogs wearing life jackets. Some of these personal flotation devices, not readily recognizable and obviously created out of recyclable materials, are also now a common sight at rivers edge. Another common sight to the delight of many is spotting a moose on the Teton. We actually had the pleasure of watching a mom and her twins having dinner, oblivious to the enthralled boaters taking a pause to watch.
I was particularly entertained by the various river apparatuses that did indeed seem to come from recyclable materials. We all love to see things repurposed right?! Most of us now use NClose algene water bottles, reusable coffee cups and take our own cloth bags into the grocery stores. And in this mountain environment, Patagonia is what Gucci is to A listers. With their use of using recyclable materials to manufacture their coveted clothing & products, the Patagonia leaders were trailblazers in their ingenious and responsible approach to manufacturing. With a giant nod back in the early 90’s to protecting our planet, they literally turned garbage into treasures utilizing discarded plastic bottles to manufacture their beautiful and functional fleece garments. Their future goal is to use only renewable or recycled material in all their products. And while Patagonia is undoubtedly a tad more pricey than other outdoor clothing options, it is built to last. I simply can’t wear out pieces I bought from this planet loving company 20 years ago.
In addition to enhanced river impacts, this particular summer there has also been an undisputed uptick in bike rentals and sales. Local shop keepers simply can’t keep up with demand. Whether it’s mountain biking on the impressive array of trails at nearby Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, or simply cruising the network of neighborhood streets at Teton Springs, biking has become an activity du jour for many visitors. What local and out-of-town bike enthusiasts have to check out however are the rails-to-trail rides in the Yellowstone-Teton region. From Teton Springs one can easily peddle for a few miles and reach the ultimate in “recycling” effort; the former Union Pacific rail corridor converted to a multi-use walking & biking path that affords panoramic views of farmland, the Big Hole and Teton Mountains. The trail starts in downtown Victor and one can easily handle the 8-mile trek to Driggs and back.
It’s well worth the bikers in the group to rise and shine and also sample the fun and mellow Ashton-Tetonia Trail created in 2010, compliments of Idaho Parks & Recreation. When your home base is indeed Teton Springs Lodge & Spa, chances are you did an early grab-and-go at the Lodge’s Sage Café. Tom’s smoothies and breakfast burritos are scrumptious as well as other snacks perfect for later refueling on the trail. You’ll head north out of Victor and park & unload your bikes in a convenient pull-out off Highway 32 outside the quaint town of Tetonia. The trail occupies an abandoned rail spur once operated by Union Pacific (the Oregon Short Line) and extends 30 miles between Tetonia and Ashton. The trail includes five bridges and restored rail trestles. I recently sampled but a morsel of this trail and the scenery is absolutely lovely with the winding Bitch Creek gleaming in the distance. I’ll be back to tackle more terrain; you simply can’t digest enough of this beauty in one day.
If you haven’t had enough of the rails to trails bike experience, plan an outing on the Warm River trail south of Island Park & east of Ashton. Its neighbor is the old Bear Gulch Ski Area and it’s tantalizingly close to Mesa Falls (another must-do destination!). This railroad bed follows the Warm River and the path wide enough, thank goodness, given the dramatic drop-offs. It’s a fun trek whether you decide to walk or ride. If you look carefully, there are places a few miles or more from the trailhead to access the water so pack your fly rod. The hike down to the river is not for the weak of heart but the trout fishing makes the rock scrambling worthwhile. A good selection of dry flies and good casting technique important here.
Fortunately, Teton Springs Lodge & Spa has a terrific partner to accommodate the biking frenzy with aplomb. Wheel Wranglers makes it painless to rent bikes for everyone in the group with delivery and pick-up services included. After all this exercise, it’s time for a visit to the Stillwaters Spa & Salon at Teton Springs. When you walk into this Spa just the aroma itself tells you you’ve entered a place of peace & tranquility. It’s a refuge if you will, from the outside world and all its woes. Located on the ground floor of the Lodge, the 5,000 square-foot Stillwaters Spa & Salon’s goal is providing its guests complete relaxation and rejuvenation. The spa features a full menu of massage treatment options including deep tissue, sports and injury management, yoga and pregnancy massages. Other treatment favorites include reflexology, aromatherapy, and hot stone treatments.