Our 2016 Wyoming vacation at the national parks in Yellowstone and Grand Teton began with our arrival at the Jackson Hole Airport. We selected late June and early July for our vacation time so that the weather would be warm enough for an enjoyable trip, but not so hot as to be uncomfortable. In the future we will probably try to travel to Yellowstone and Grand Teton in early June or at the end of the tourist season in the fall, as the trip would probably be slightly improved by cooler weather. We had a number of cool days or cool parts of certain days, but also had many hours under a very hot sun. However, the weather was perfect on our arrival at Jackson Hole at 6:18 pm.
The airport in Jackson Hole is small but nice, welcoming newly arriving passengers with the western ambiance that can be seen throughout the town. Travelers should be aware that there are three car rental companies located within the airport: Avis/Budget, Hertz, and Enterprise. However, other car rental companies have facilities nearby and offer shuttle service from the airport to your rental vehicle. For this trip, we found the best deal on a rental car through Dollar Rent A Car. However, using their service meant we had to take their shuttle to their rental car office that was located about 15 minutes drive away.
Upon arrival, we learned that Dollar Rent A Car had recently been purchased by Budget Rent A Car. In the process of taking over the business, many pre-merger reservations made with Dollar were wiped out of the computer system. Or at least that was the story we were given when the desk clerks could not find our reservation in the computer, despite us having our confirmation number and a printout of our reservation confirmation. Fortunately, they were still able to provide us with a vehicle, a white Toyota Sienna. Both the shuttle driver and the desk clerk we dealt with were very friendly and professional. In addition to the standard upgrades offered on a rental car, Dollar offered us the options of child car safety seats, ice chests, and bear spray (an essential item if you plan to go hiking in Yellowstone or Grand Teton). We brought our own and did not need the upgrades, but it is good to know those are available if needed. Had I known before our trip that the Jackson Hole airport would not let us take bear spray in our checked luggage, I would not have purchased it before the flight and would have rented it from Dollar instead.
While I did not look into the local zoning ordinances, it was rather clear that the buildings in Jackson have to comply with certain architectural design guidelines. The town is beautiful, with wide sidewalks and the atmosphere of a western vacation destination. It appeared there were more people walking on the sidewalks than were driving on the roads, particularly in the Jackson Town Square. Our travel plans included a return to Jackson for the last couple of nights of our trip, so you can learn more about our time there by reading the posts for Days 9, 10, and 11.
Our destination for the evening was an area called Teton Village, which has several hotels, restaurants, and a ski lift. The area is beautiful, and I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to visit in December. Although I am not a skier, staying at this kind of place could make me want to learn.
We had reservations through Hotwire for a room at Alpenhof Lodge, which turned out to be the first setback of our trip. The night manager, whose name I only know as Billy, told us they did not have any rooms available for the night – including the one we had supposedly reserved through Hotwire. He told us that they were already fully booked when Hotwire sold us a room at the Alpenhof Lodge, and that he had notified Hotwire of that fact when the reservation was made. Although Hotwire told him they would find us another room and work it out with us, they never did so. In fact, they emailed us a confirmation of our reservation about a week before our trip. Billy put the blame fully on Hotwire and said that Hotwire sometimes sells room reservations that don’t exist. However, perhaps partly inspired by my wife’s fury over the situation, Billy took it upon himself to call the hotel next door, the Snake River Lodge & Spa, to see if they had any rooms available. He then went a surprising step further and told them to bill the Alpenhof Lodge for our stay at Snake River, and told us he would work out the compensation issue with Hotwire. He also offered us a complimentary breakfast at the Alpenhof Lodge in the morning to help make up for the situation.
Based on Billy”s professionalism and courtesy, I will be booking a reservation at the Alpenhof Lodge for our next trip to Wyoming. While I did not get the opportunity to stay in their rooms on this trip, their willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty to make things right was impressive. I take that as a sign that they take care of the guests in their hotel, and I will certainly reward their courtesy by providing them with my business in the future.
While Snake River Lodge and Spa was not our planned destination for the night, we were very pleased with our stay there and I would love to stay there again. It is a beautiful facility with comfortable rooms and soft beds, a luxury I was soon to learn is not commonly found in the resorts inside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton. The room was a little crowded, but our king-size bed and the queen-size foldout bed for the kids understandably took up a lot of space. My only regret about our stay was that we did not have time to experience their heated salt-water pool.
I must commend the Snake River Lodge on what may seem like an unusual item – toilet paper. Snake River Lodge & Spa provided a good quality name-brand toilet paper, though I’ve forgotten now which one it was. I did not realize it at the time, but I was soon going to miss that toilet paper once we got into the national parks. Every resort we stayed at in Grand Teton and in Yellowstone used a very cheap low-grade toilet paper. I won’t venture any further into TMI territory other than to note that I’ll be bringing my own toilet paper on any future vacation in Yellowstone or Grand Teton. If you are traveling there for the first time, I suggest that you do too.
After getting settled into our room, we walked over to the nearby Mangy Moose Restaurant and Saloon. Although the restaurant was busy, we did not have to wait for a table and we were seated in a comfortable location with a great view of the interior design. The decor is elaborate and eclectic, including an old airplane suspended in the air and a variety of old and antique items all over the walls and room. The tables were big and comfortable with plenty of room for a relaxing dinner.
The menu featured some standard fare as well as a mix of unusual and possibly unique food items. We opted for the grilled watermelon as a starter, which was even better than I anticipated. My wife selected the rainbow trout for her dinner, which was clearly freshly caught. It was seasoned amazingly well, completely deboned, and cooked perfectly. She said it was the best rainbow trout she had ever eaten, and after sampling it I had to agree. If you are a lover of fresh fish, this is a dish you must try.
I went with a slightly heavier meal, choosing the elk bratwurst for my dinner. While it was a completely different taste, it was as amazing as the rainbow trout. It was just spicy enough to be good without being so spicy as to be overwhelming, and it was topped with a sauce that blended perfectly with the flavor. Lovers of good German food should put this on their food bucket list.
An important note for the vacationing parents is that the Mangy Moose does have a kids menu. I didn’t copy down the food choices but they were the standard kids-meal fare. Both of our kids ordered the hamburger and fries, which turned out to be really good (yes, I sampled both). I was impressed that the hamburgers were made with quality meat that had been grilled the way a real hamburger should be, and the fries were perfectly cooked with a crispy outside and soft inside. Based on how well the burgers for the children were prepared, I am confident that the various burgers on the adult menu at Mangy Moose would be very good as well.
Our dinner at the Mangy Moose wound up being the best meal of our entire vacation, with our dinner at Snake River Grill in Jackson near the end of our trip coming in a close second. Nothing we ate during the entire trip at any location in the national parks was remotely as good, with the sole exception of our dinner at The Peaks at Signal Mountain Lodge. Notably, Signal Mountain Lodge is under different management than most of the facilities in the national parks, so this likely explains the difference in food quality.
After our meal, we shopped in the Mangy Moose grocery store as well as in their gift shop. Those visits resulted in a purchase of Howling Wolf Weisse Beer and of a children’s book called Who Pooped in the Woods. This book turned out to be a great purchase, since it enabled my son to identify the animal origin of various piles of poop we encountered during our vacation. He became quite an expert on animal feces during this trip, photographing various piles that he found and comparing them to the illustrations in the book for identification.
Our evening ended with a restful night of sleep on comfortable beds and pillows, the last night we would have that level of luxury until near final days of our trip.