We drive out of Yellowstone through the south gate. For a few moments, the drive seems, well, boring compared to the visual feast that was before us all day long. But then, the highway bends and offers a glimpse of the peaks that form the Grand Tetons. Jagged mountains that rise a mile high from the ground, like gothic cathedrals reaching skyward.
We check into our cabin — The Willow — at Dornan’s Spur Ranch in Moose, Wyoming. My colleague, John Branch at CNN’s National Desk, recommended we stay there. He worked there once after he fell in love with the Tetons and could not bear to leave. The cabins are rustic but modern. And the best thing is the vast wine shop that rivals any in Atlanta.
Here’s what Dornan’s says about its wine:
“We know what you’re thinking… how did a family of hardscrabble pioneer homesteaders end up operating one of the finest wine shops in the Rocky Mountains?
Like most things around here, the story starts with Granddad (JP Dornan), and his mother(Evelyn). While she was the “official” homesteader, she chose to spend much of her time in sunny California, leaving her son to “prove up” on the property. While traveling back and forth, JP befriended many of the wine families in California, who were then (1930s and 1940s) just getting their businesses started. Their families and our families have remained close over the decades, and enjoying fine wines has become a Dornan family tradition.”
I am in heaven as I buy a bottle of Malbec, get comfortable in the restaurant and watch the sun set behind the Tetons.
The next morning, we begin the day early with a hike at Taggert Lake. Half the trail is still covered in snow. There are places where snow shoes might have been useful. We see a coyote but no bears.
We have lunch at the beautiful Jenny lake Lodge, where everything is just right. Even the butter is artfully carved in the form of a moose.
Jenny Lake is perhaps the most scenic place at the Tetons. Unlike the much smaller Taggert, Jenny is not frozen. The waters shimmer under the shadows of the towering peaks.
Another hike in the afternoon and then the drive back to the lodge. We decide to stop in and see the famed Jackson Hole ski village. On the way, we spot a moose off the highway, camouflaged perfectly in a boggy forested field.
For dinner we head into Jackson for an elegant meal at the Snake River Lodge. They have things like wild boar and elk medallions on the menu. Kevin orders the buffalo pot roast. I try a pork shank cooked in duck confit. How utterly decadent.
Our wiatress, Brandy Borts, says she came to Jackson 15 years ago and never left. My friend, John, will probably understand why, I think. I think it’s beautiful here but I am too much a lover of urban jungles to make a go of it in Wyoming.
Brandy says she loves to ski, can’t get enough of the landscape. So she works hard as a waitress so that she can stay.
Alas, we cannot stay. We have to make our way back to Denver soon.