Excursion

Derek Stal rides the trails in Horseshoe Canyon, in the Big Hole Mountains west of Driggs.

Two weekends ago — that weekend of absolutely perfect fall weather and crystalline blue skies — my fiance and I took our first corona-times vacation. We went to Teton Valley. It was amazing, and not only because it was our first vacation in more than a year. Less than an hour’s drive from downtown Jackson, Teton Valley feels not quite like another planet, but perhaps an alternate universe. Things over there are familiar — you hike, mountain bike, run, and/or SUP surrounded by mountains and restaurants are short-staffed — but also very different — the whole valley has two stoplights and crowds are non-existent.

Whether you’re looking for a day away from Jackson Hole or a week, let me recommend Teton Valley, Idaho. Here are just a few of the things you can do there.

Biking Horseshoe Canyon

Mountain biking is one of three activities on “Dina’s List of Death Sports.” I reached a point in my mountain biking career where I was getting hurt more often than not. I actually swore the sport off three weeks before breaking my collarbone while doing it in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Because mountain biking in Morocco seemed super cool, I had made an exception. It was eight years post-collarbone-breakage until I made another exception. This exception did not result in a broken bone that required surgery to re-assemble, and I had quite a bit of fun while doing it, so it was the start of my return to mountain biking. So I’m now again a mountain biker … but only on trails that do not have rocks and roots.

This means I mountain bike about three times a year. Horseshoe Canyon, in the Big Hole Mountains west of downtown Driggs, has been the site of two of my mountain bike rides in the last year. (The third was on the beginner and intermediate trails at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s bike park.) The Channel Lock Trail in Horseshoe Canyon might be the single best stretch of trail in the entire universe — buttery and flowy. Just try not to giggle while riding it. Connect Bovine Bliss to Sodbuster to Southbound to Channel Lock for a stupidly fun 9-mile ride with about 1,300 vertical feet of ascent.

Something to eat

This was actually the one thing I was greatly disappointed in. Friday, Sept. 24, marked my seventh time trying to eat at Chiang Mai in Victor. A year ago Victor friends sent me a link to the Chiang Mai menu so that they could get my fiance Derek and me takeout from there before we all met up for the 5Point Film Festival at The Spud Drive-in. But the restaurant was closed unexpectedly because of a family emergency and that has been the case four additional times I’ve tried to get takeout there since.

As a human, I respect the restaurant’s commitment to staff and family; as a pork belly and fried chicken fanatic — the menu includes marinated pork belly and Khao Man Gai (fried chicken with a garlic ginger sauce), I can’t help but be distraught. Three times I’ve tried to get Chaing Mai takeout and failed, it was my fault; I forget it is closed Saturdays and Sundays.

But this time I thought I’d finally get lucky. Driving back to Victor from Horseshoe Canyon, Derek called Chiang Mai, and it went right to a voicemail inbox that said the restaurant was closed that night due to a family issue.

I swear I wasn’t crying as I asked Derek to pull up the menu for the gastropub Citizen 33. Fish and chips weren’t pork belly, but Citizen 33’s take on them was perfectly lovely.

I brunched at Butter three mornings in a row. I expected the biscuits and gravy would be my favorite, but it was the Italian breakfast sandwich (with added bacon) that I ate twice.

There were also meals gotten to-go from Warbirds — a high-end restaurant inside a hangar at the Driggs Airport with crispy ginger chicken dumplings as an appetizer — and Pizzeria Alpino, which does pizzas and pastas inspired by trattorias in the Italian Alps and Dolomites. I would have preferred the pizza with a thinner crust, but the kick in the spicy sausage topping made up for this.

Hiking Pole Canyon

I remember seeing the sign on Idaho Highway 31 pointing to Pole Canyon the first time I drove from Jackson to Idaho Falls, back in 1997. It wasn’t until this vacation that I finally turned off the highway and went to the canyon though. A dirt road ends at a trailhead from which a trail climbs up about 1,700 vertical feet to a ridge in a little more than 3 miles. From the ridge the trail actually continues — in two directions — but since I knew I was riding Horseshoe Canyon that afternoon and also wanted to get to the Teton Valley Farmers Market (sadly, the last one was Oct. 1) — the ridge was my turnaround point.

This was fine because I was able to find a log in the sun to sit on and eat my Italian Breakfast Sandwich from Butter while taking in sweeping views of Teton Valley, and in the distance to the north, the Tetons.

Dina writes an Excursion a couple times each month during the summer. Reach her via columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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