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Teton Valley lies along Idaho’s south eastern border, just over the Teton Range from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The hills move from rolling to rugged quickly and the land bares big animals and fast little ones. Wide open spaces and big skies make this place feel like summer vacations when I was little, visiting my grandparents in Montana.
I grew up in rural Alaska and find it surprising that I’ve found a home that feels nearly as wild as the one I was raised in. I thought I’d head to the big city when I left on my own. Instead I fell in love with the hills and the farms freckling this corner of Idaho. There is something about these places that draw you in, their quietness, their existence without the bustle.
You shoot an elk around these parts and people congratulate you like you’ve just had a baby. I met a man who moved out here to discover he loved hunting elk more than he loved fighting wildland fire and that was enough to make him stick. We’re still young, still dreamers. But this place is one that makes you want to put down roots, build a barn, and fill a farm house with kiddos you name after your favorite outlaw country singers. For now our little family stays small with the two of us and our pup Cowboy.
I don’t know that there’s anything I love more than fall out here. The air gets sharp, the end of summer harvest is at full tilt, and the freezer begins to be refilled. The valley starts to smell like cold dirt and burning wood stoves. My Levi cutoffs get tucked away and our flannels emerge from the back of the closet. The chainsaw gets pulled from the shed, the wood gets bucked and stacked. We’re busy, but it’s a slow paced kind of busy, still time for wandering these woods. The trees go off and the edges of our little valley turn gold.
When I tell people I live in Driggs, Idaho, they often ask “Why, what’s there?”. I used to say “The Tetons.” Those mountains are why I made the move, but they aren’t the reason I’ve stayed. I’ve stayed because these little farm towns that make up Teton Valley started to feel like home. I love the stillness of main street on a Sunday morning and the collection of farm dogs in the backs of pick up trucks parked out front of the grocery store.
I started bird hunting shortly after I inherited a shotgun from my grandfather. We mostly shoot grouse in these mountains, blues and ruffed. Hunting and fly fishing are things my guy has done all his life. There are two ways to find the best places for both in the valley, find them yourself through lots of trial and error or be favored enough by someone for them to show you.
The Idaho/Wyoming border divides the east half of the valley, but the westside is where we do most of our wandering. It’s underrated and often overshadowed by the draw of the Teton Range. This keeps it sleepy and slow.
Cowboy rides shotgun, driving the backroads in the Chevy. He tries to stick his head out the driver side window. Sometimes I let him crawl onto my lap and rest his chin on the sill. Every old-timer/farmer/hunter gives me a smile and a wave. This place can be inviting and welcoming, but only if you’ve lasted a handful of winters. I think a lot of people take off, looking for a place with a faster pace, maybe even some night life that spans beyond a bluegrass band or two.
In the fall our house smells like waxed canvas, when the tin cloth gets hung up in the entryway. The smell awakens the anticipation for bird hunting like presents under the tree do for Christmas morning. The usual trailheads are chalked full of horse trailers belonging to big game hunters and outfitters. We drive out of the wood passing family farms lit up in the dark, sorting potatoes out front. The conveyor belts sending the harvest up into potato barns.
Old silos, barns and granaries still stand like landmarks. Some people see them as eye sores in these open fields. I see a valley rich in history. This place has one decent coffee shop, with scenes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hung on the wall along with wooden skis. We have two breweries, one distillery and more automotive stores than you’d think we’d need. The pub in Tetonia will let you come in for a drink, but one of the regulars will likely tell you you’re sitting in their seat, if you choose the wrong spot at the bar.
The community is made up of those that have lived and farmed here long enough for the roads to bear their family names and those that have moved here more recently to recreate. It’s a combination of what you might call rednecks and hippies. We fall somewhere in the middle and we’re in it for the long haul.