When I say that I don’t get hungry during hefty exertions, I should mention that that usually presages hunger pangs hours later. This is a fancy way of saying that I was ready for dinner in Jackson. Elizabeth’s plan had called for riding the gondola over at the Jackson Hole ski area, where a restaurant held happy hours with a view overlooking the mountains and the valley below. Unfortunately, she failed to consider that the gondola would be closed on Saturdays. That not being an option, Michael called various restaurants in the charming town of Jackson to try and get a dinner reservation. The town has 10,000 people, so you would think he wouldn’t have that many options, but this is a tourist town that was in the middle of their peak season. Eventually, he called me back and said that he had heard that StillWest Brewery in Jackson had a not-hours-long wait, although they wouldn’t take reservations. With no better leads available, we all agreed to meet up there.
The drive from Lupine Meadows down to the southern part of the town of Jackson took about a half hour. Along the way, I was treated to the vision of the southern corner of Grand Teton National Park. The mountains gradually grow less “omg” while the valley of Jackson Hole simultaneously narrows, but it is still quite the vision. Teton Park Road returns to US 191 in the little village of Moose, giving a chance to see the Snake River on the other side of the valley. But, I am ashamed to admit, I didn’t notice it very much because I was too busy dealing with all of the messages and notifications that my return to cell signal engendered. Score one for Nolan being too focused on technology. Following that, Elizabeth called her friend Gianna to inform her of our new engagement, which also occupied some of my attention. The only thing I can distinctly recall from driving to Jackson was that I enjoyed the picturesque braided Flat Creek just on the north edge of town, right as the Jackson Hole Valley narrows all the way to its terminus. If I ever get to build my mansion, I’m doing it there.
Jackson Hole was cute, but I have a pretty limited memory of this too. Maybe that’s because of the technology brain filter I’d applied to myself. Maybe it was because I was trying to help my family find the restaurant after naming the brewery incorrectly in the text I sent them. Or maybe I was just already exhausted on Day 3 of our vacation. After all, we had already done so much! Whatever the reason, we took the same main road, Cache Street, all the way from one end of town to the foot of the mountain on the south end of the city. Just off to the left, we found the Stillwest Brewery, a modern two-story structure with abundant seating. Was any available to us? After a brief talk with the hostess, she said she could get us in in about an hour. I could live with that.
I could doubly live with that when I realized what part of Jackson we were in. Specifically, we were right across the street from the Teton Free Bouldering Park, which is exactly what it advertises itself as: a park with free rock climbing walls for the little kids who want to practice bouldering. Little kids and 23-year-olds who may have hiked a long way that day, but still had at least some energy. To my mortification, most of the walls in the little park were too difficult for my admittedly incredibly subpar climbing skills. I had to go to the kiddiest of kiddie walls before I could adequately reach the top. I took little consolation in the fact that Michael also struggled about as much as me, especially since a 6-year-old was schooling us both.
The respite at the park also offered us a chance to sit in a nice shaded grassy area and make a number of long-overdue calls to relatives. Sharing news of engagements turned out to wear on me remarkably fast, but I endured it in the spirit of excited parents and an excited fiancee. I think the issue for me is that I get uncomfortable with people congratulating me, which was basically what I was subjected to on repeat over the course of a half hour. With that said, I did enjoy getting to catch up with aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. And the view, despite the fact the smoke was once again leaking into northwest Wyoming after a blessedly clear day, was sublime.
At our prescribed time, we walked back to the restaurant, where some people (Rich and Taylor, if I recall, the memory is starting to get fuzzy) had been drinking beer in their downstairs garage/bar thing. The StillWest staff did their very best to get us all seated together, but in the end we had to do an adults table and a kids table. I was okay with that. Heck, I was okay with just about anything as long as it meant I could eat some food and drink some beer.
Oh man, did I feast. Taylor and I split the brussels sprouts, and then I had a hot chicken sandwich to myself. There was good vegan fare for Alex and Taylor, and a brie for Michael, and plenty of beer to go around for everyone. Somebody even “anonymously” dropped off a bottle of champagne for Elizabeth and me (it was Pam). Best of all, Michael offered to pick up the tab. I was perfectly willing to let him spend the money so that I didn’t need to. Taylor protested for a while, but acquiesced when I told her that he has his own company and could handle stuff like that. That may have been the funniest part of the meal – Taylor and Michael actually hit it off. He even made a valiant effort to get himself invited to the wedding.
By meal’s end, night had overspread the Wyoming sky. Enough alcohol had been consumed that Michael and I had shared a dance in addition to Elizabeth and myself. I was certainly in no condition to drive, having put away a good chunk of the champagne. Neither was Elizabeth. That left Pam to drive all the way back to Colter Bay while I ripped off one final tweet for the night.
Our first full day in Grand Teton National Park was the stuff of legends.