It’s 2:30pm on a Thursday. I am sitting at Miller Park in downtown Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as I write this watching the locals go about their business; the tourists passing through on their way to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The weather is how I like it, unpredictable. The day starting out sunny and warm, but now it is beginning to cool off, and the sky is getting moody, threatening to rain on everyone. I’ve been in Jackson for two days now and have yet to see any wildlife, one of the things I loved about living here.
It’s been over three years since David, and I left Jackson, and I can’t help but feel a tinge of nostalgia for this mountain town I use to call home.
Are my feelings of nostalgia for Jackson or for something else?
David and I lived in Jackson for over a decade. First in a house North of town, with the Teton Mountains an unobstructed view out our bedroom and living room windows. Our final years were spent in a house in East Jackson, in an area called Cache Creek.
Jackson has been a home of sorts to me my whole life. My Mom’s side of the family where some of the first settlers, American Pioneers, in both Teton Valley, Wyoming and Teton Valley, Idaho. I spent many of my summers in Jackson and the National Parks. It was familiar, it was home.
After David and I officially made Jackson our home, after living in Boise, Idaho and Salt Lake City, Utah, we would hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point near Jenny’s Lake regularly. On the trails, we would see a few other people, smile and wave, and we would all continue on our way. It is no longer a quiet and peaceful trail in Grand Teton National Park.
If you hike these trails today, you will experience a steady stream of people, a single file herd if you will. You wouldn’t dare stop for fear of getting trampled by the line of people behind you.
Jackson used to be home to me. It was a place of comfort, and I enjoyed living here… until I didn’t. So, what changed?
Everything, if I am honest.
Prices started going up, rent, food, etc.… Most of our friends moved away, but we made new friends as more and more people began moving to the area. Shortly before we left, you would find more jobs in the paper, then there were housing options, that is still a significant issue today. The final straw was when the quality of my career took a severe nose dive, but more on that another time.
We started seeing more dead animals on the side of the road compared to the live ones. A day drive through Yellowstone National Park wasn’t as easy as it uses to be with traffic continuing to get worse, I’m talking bumper to bumper. Gone are the days of venturing into the forest for peace and quiet, or as John Muir said: “to lose your mind and find your soul.”
You might still lose your mind, but to find your soul, you have to be willing to go farther into the backcountry than most tourists and locals. That takes some serious preparation and not for a quick detox after a rough day at work.
Jackson was changing. It was time to move on… so we did. We sold most of our belongings, purchased a 5th wheel travel trailer, and started traveling. Life has been great, but something is missing.
For me, home encompasses more than the walls that surround me on a more permanent foundation. Home is the feeling of familiarity, comfort, community. Going out with your friends after work or on a Friday night to enjoy all your local haunts.
It can be hard to describe, but you know the feeling you get when you return… home.
That is what I am missing. That is what I am longing for, and it took this trip to Jackson for me to realize it. David and I will never stop traveling. We will likely always feel the need to explore the world, but perhaps the life of a vagabond is not for me. It’s time to find our home.
Jackson will always hold a special place in my heart, but it is no longer the Jackson I remember from my childhood. It is not even the Jackson I remember from three years ago when we left. It is an echo of its past, trying to preserve its history, but bursting with new and modern life that will eventually swallow it up.
It will maintain its beauty, you can’t erase the Tetons and tourism will continue to grow with the hotels and wildlife tours overbooked, but at what cost to the locals and the local wildlife?
Visiting Jackson now, for work or to visit family and friends, gives me severe anxiety. No longer do I feel like I am returning home. Now I only feel nostalgia for those moments from the past. And here I sit ruminating on how much this valley has changed.
Jackson is my “once upon a time,” but it is not my “happily ever after.” That is what David and I are on a quest to find.