During the late 60s and early 70s I worked in Jackson Hole summers while attending college. Trips from Texas to Wyoming were made complete crossing Togwotee Pass and seeing the road sign as the Tetons first filled my windows from top to bottom. The sign (a cowboy on a bronc) announced, “Howdy Stranger, Welcome to Jackson Hole. The Last of the Old West.”
I worked two summers for the Park Service, rode nightly in the shootout in Jackson as part of the Cache Creek posse and fell in love with Jackson Hole. In 1968, an up and coming singer filled in the entire month of June at the Cowboy Bar, playing to sparse groups at a small stage in back. His name, Kris Kristofferson.
Subsequent years, I worked for the Forest Service, including several summers as the Wilderness Patrolman from a cabin located at Hawk’s Rest in the Teton Wilderness area–the most remote government cabin in the continental U.S.–located within a mile or two of a remote southern boundary of Yellowstone Park near Bridger Lake and the Thoroughfare River, accessible by a long horseback trip. The area included the headwaters of both the Yellowstone and Snake Rivers, and fish and game thrived in the area, but few people visited–mostly trail riders and local guides–many legendary members of the “Old West”, some of whom I was honored to meet and learn from and about.
I know from subsequent trips to Jackson Hole, that a lot has changed. Private land is being bought by millionaires and billionaires. The labor force, once consisting of college students from neighboring states and communities, has transcended to workforces from other countries, primarily Central/South America and Asia. But perhaps the greatest loss is of those local “Old West” giants who share or shared direct ties to early families who homesteaded and built the valley to what it is.
In September, 2017, I journeyed to Jackson Hole for 10 days. I spent 4 nights in a Deluxe View Cabin at Luton’s Teton Cabins; 2 nights at the Canyon Lodge in Yellowstone Park; and 4 more nights at Luton’s in the Deluxe View Cabin. The stay at Luton’s was the highlight of my trip and is the basis of this review.
As others have pointed out the cabins are uncomparably clean, the staff extremely educated, competent and courteous, the kitchen fully stocked for cooking, the water some of the best tasting I have ever had from a faucet (we refilled bought water bottles from the sink, thinking it better water), and the view magnificent. My wife, an avid birder, took hundreds of photos of the birds on the property. Located well north of Jackson, the place was quiet, and away from traffic congestion. Plentiful wildlife was found within easy driving distance, as well as most significant park locations, including some off of the beaten path, like the drive up Pacific Creek toward Two Ocean lake where we observed 2 grizzly bears and several bald eagles. Access to Yellowstone was also most convenient from the north end of Grand Teton Park.
But what made this stay especially worthwhile was getting to know Brad and Joanne Luton. Each day they worked their horses. Their staff reflected their values – with respect and love for their guests. The owners’ ethic was reflected in the cleanliness of the cabins, the same ethic that enabled Brad and family members to construct each cabin by hand, using draft horses to remove dead timber from a burned area, to hone the logs by hand and eventually construct all cabins-like in the old days.I was honored to share a meal with the Lutons and their staff; to talk about some of the old timers we both knew, and to learn of others. Brad’s ancestors homesteaded in the immediate area four generations ago, Joanne’s three generations ago. They know and have known most of those who merited the name for Jackson Hole, “The Last of the Old West”. They are the same living proof. Thanks for a great stay Brad and Joanne, and your seasoned staff.
Happy trails until we meet again!!
Photo one: Female grizzly 399. First spotted by a Luton employee (Karen). Thanks to Jonell, who immediately told the guests where we could possibly find the bear and her cubs.
Photo two: From the front porch of our cabin. Perhaps the most spectacular and intense sunset I have ever seen. Storm clouds and the setting sun breaking through cloud layers behind the Tetons looked as though the mountains were on fire. The fire gradually spreading among the peaks.