“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark
Setting our tents up in the back garden of Snake River, we had arrived in Jackson Hole. With no expectations, we headed into the town for our first glimpse of the apparently infamous town.
Huddled between mountains, the cowboy-come-ski town sits inside a valley and is based around an idyllic square in the centre of town, outlined by four antler arches sat on every corner – marking the town as cowboy territory. Horse-drawn wagons chug their way past us; spurs, bolo ties and oversized hats leading the way through the bustling town.
As one corner of the square began to get increasingly busy, we shuffled along with the crowd, eager to get a glimpse of whatever they were waiting for.
Strutting down the street in his cowboy boots, a man dressed in almost obnoxious cowboy clothing, raises a gun above his head and shoots into the sky with no warning.
Several people scream and almost collapse (myself included).
Soon realising, this was all part of a town-production, the tension eases and we watch a snippet of a traditional cowboy shoot-out, set in the middle of the town of Jackson Hole! I’d advise checking out the times of these shows and make sure you’re in town for one, as it really does sum up what Jackson Hole is all about, and gives you a little taste of the culture around here!
We headed to a classic American BBQ restaurant for dinner, most of the group were excited at the prospect of having some ribs or steak, but there were three of us on the trip who were vegetarians, who as you can probably figure, weren’t too thrilled about going to a BBQ joint.However, one surprisingly delicious grilled cheese sandwich later, we headed for our next taste of cowboy country – the rodeo!
We were all so happy we’d managed to blag tickets to the rodeo and they were only $12 (don’t quote me on that), we headed to our seats, a few of us grabbed a beer before sitting down ready to enjoy the show.
I didn’t know what to expect from a rodeo – but I certainly wasn’t expecting what we experienced! The initial rodeo was the standard cowboys on bulls, trying to stay on for as long as possible, which is what I had expected really. They get given an overall score based on technique and how long they can physically stay on, whilst they blast music over the speakers, getting the crowd pumped up (Americans love rodeo). This part of the rodeo was really entertaining, despite me mainly watching through the gaps between my fingers, as I was so afraid of the cowboys getting stomped on.
After the bull-riding section was over, spirits were high, beers were flowing, and we were really getting into the spirit of the rodeo!
However, the next part of the rodeo was not for me. As a vegetarian and an animal-lover, I was already feeling conflicted about going to the rodeo but decided it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’d kick myself if I didn’t at least let myself experience it and make up my own mind about how I felt about it.
The next stage of the rodeo was the focus of two men on horseback, trying to round up the bull, the overall aim being to lasso the bull around the legs, pulling his feet together and tipping him onto his back.
Personally, I do not support this and really felt this was animal cruelty, so I decided to just look down and avoided this section completely as it made me really uncomfortable. However, I don’t feel like it ruined my evening at all; I still enjoyed the rodeo, but it’s not something I would feel comfortable going to see again.If you are unsure of whether or not to go to the rodeo, I’d definitely educate yourself a little more on how these things work and how the animals are treated – if you can bring yourself to do it, it is an amazing experience and something I will forever associate with Jackson Hole.
In terms of the rodeo schedule, in my opinion, they really had saved the best ’til last. The final section of the show involved children ageing from 2-12, and had various games for them to do. It was so cute to see tiny cowboys and cowgirls, but to be honest I thought it was a little bit of an anti-climax.
Just as I thought the kid’s section was over, Skrillex – Bangarang belted out over the speakers, and a TWO YEAR OLD CHILD, exploded from the sides of the arena, sat on top of a SHEEP.
The two year old was bull-riding, but on a SHEEP.
He was sheep-riding.
I would easily class this moment as one of the top 10 funniest/most shocking moments of my life. But I guess that’s just a normal evening in Wyoming for the Americans! This is a definite trip to add to your list if you’re in the Jackson Hole area!
Stomach’s full of laughter and beer, we headed back to the town centre with one destination in mind; Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.
Upon entering the bar, I was in love.
The smell of whiskey greets you as soon as you step in the room, stools made of horse-saddles line the bar, mahogany adoring every corner of the building, a country band strumming banjos, guitars and fiddles in the corner of the room whilst couples twirl their way across the dance floor.
It was worlds away from a bar in the UK.
There were no sloppy drunks in the corner of the dance floor, and no huddled groups of guys eyeing up the women; everyone was genuinely just really friendly and having a good time! The one thing that made me feel slightly out of my comfort zone, but was the thing I loved the most about this place, was the dancing! No awkward guys shuffling their feet across the floor and girls slut-dropping; everyone was either paired up with their partner in a complex routine they both knew perfectly, full of twirling and men catching the women inches above the floor, or were part of a line-dancing routine – it was SO much better than a Saturday night in Nottingham!
Quite a few drinks later, we all found ourselves mingling with the locals, who were really interested in the whole ‘Trek America’ concept, and especially interested in our British accents. After some terrible accent-impersonations, I was dragged to the dance floor by a middle-aged cowboy who literally lifted me off the ground and swung me around his hips in an elaborate cowboy dance move with no warning. I’m hoping it looked pretty cool, but I can guarantee I looked like a limp rag doll being chucked around the dance floor.
I decided to make a sneaky exit and thrust one of the other trekkers in the cowboy’s direction as I made my escape.
I looked over my shoulder and saw that he had indeed captured his next victim.
We piled into a couple of ‘cabs’ around 3am and headed back to camp. One of the spare sleeping bags had been left outside on one of the tables when we had unloaded the van, and it was slightly disconcerting to find that it had a light layer of frost over it! We realised the next day that it had actually been -3 degrees when we’d got in! Luckily we had our alcohol blankets on so none of us really felt the cold and managed to sleep!
Awaking mid-morning with bleary-eyed and several sore heads, we headed back into Jackson Hole town center to explore!
Feeling very hungover at this point, we had one thing on our minds; food.
We ended up finding this amazing place called Merry Piglets – a Mexican restaurant, decorated as a tikki bar (what a great combo). Despite the bizarre combination of Hawaii and Mexico, the food was insane! One of the things I really love about America is the food portions; it’s like they want to feed you up!
Upon sitting down at our table we were given a mountain of tortilla chips with two different types of salsa, free of course! And when you’re done they fill them up again without even asking!
My kind of place.
By the time our food arrived, my hunger had ebbed away due to my huge consumption of tortilla chips, and was left speechless as they lay out the biggest burrito I have ever seen in front of me. With more tortilla chips on the side!
I’m sure there should be a warning with food that size; no human could consume that for lunch!
We spent the rest of the afternoon meandering through the town, dipping into the occasional ‘candy’ store for free samples, and rummaging through cute craft shops for souvenirs.
Leaving our beloved cowboy town behind us, we headed back to camp for BBQ and beers before a big drive day to Nevada in the morning!