3.25.2015

Road Tripping: Jackson Hole & the St. Anthony Sand Dunes

My last post highlighted some of my recent ski adventures. In non-snow related activities, here's what's been going on....

Teton mountain backdrop
I am certain that if the name was changed to "Teton View Sand Dunes" they would sky-rocket in popularity!


Mike and I headed to Jackson Hole for some free music. It is never a question, when you head to Jackson in the winter you go backcountry skiing. However, with this year's crazy weather and questionable snow conditions, I wasn't expecting good skiing. As our trip approached and we began to pack, we weighed out our options for activities. Would the skiing be worth the time? Would it be good weather for other activities? In the end, given the weather and the little time we had there, we opted to leave the skis at home. It was weird, and in some ways just seemed plain wrong, to head to Jackson in winter without skis but that is was the best decision given what we had to deal with.  I'm still a bit traumatized when I think about it but I'm glad we made the decision we did. No skiing gave us more time for visiting with friends, strolling around town and up Saddle Butte, shopping, lounging, and other in-town activities. Very fun.

Hippies & cowboys agree upon
One thing hippies & cowboys agree upon:
Robert Earl Keen rocks!
Back to the music...For the past few years, the ski resort has been having a free concert series towards the end of the ski season and this was the second year we went. It was a not-to-be-missed-event as Robert Earl Keen, one of my favorites, was headlining the first night and played downtown on the square. This was very cool in a few ways. Outdoor music in the middle of town is always fun but the fact that it happened where it did made it even more special. I recall from my days in Jackson that except for the summer shoot-out, the town never shut down the street for anything. I don't know what it took to make this happen but it was a great setting and nice to see people in the streets enjoying music together.
Robert Earl Keen, Jackson Hole Rendezvous 2015
Robert Earl Keen. I was swooning!
Michael Franti & Spearhead headed the second night and while they never disappoint, his whole schtick is growing kind of old. How many times can "put your hands up in the air!" and "put your arm around someone you love"? While I like the good vibes he promotes, it get kind of old by the end of the show. Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys closed the show. Musically, I was looking forward to hearing a genre I don't usually listen to, and the nostalgia of a band that brought be back to my teenage years got me excited. On this note it was sadly disappointing. I have never seen anything of the sort with turn-tables and live mixing but it ended up being nothing more than a bunch of thumping. Quite literally just thumping. We took the early bus back to town.

St. Anthony Sand Dunes, Idaho
Sand, sand, & more sand

On our way to Jackson, we stopped at the Saint Anthony Sand Dunes.  I had been there almost 20 years ago and had wanted to go back. It is only about a 20-30 minutes out of the way and seeing as it was still early in the season, it was a good time to avoid the motorized bikes and dune buggies that frequent the dunes in the summer.

I have fond memories of visiting sand dunes in New England as a child and as an adult, it always stuck me how cool it was to visit dunes so far away from the ocean. Additionally, the movie Napoleon Dynamite rekindled my interest in sand dunes, the St. Anthony Sand Dunes in particular. There is a scene in the movie where the grandmother goes to the sand dunes. Seeing as the film takes place in Preston, Idaho these have got to be the sand dunes they are referring to. If you're a big fan of the movie, you have to go. We didn't rent a dune buggie nor did we break our coccyx as the grandmother did in the film, but we did enjoy the dunes.

Skiing St. Anthony Sand Dunes, Idaho
Year-round skiing on the dunes
While the dunes weren't huge, they were quite expansive. It was neat to see sand, sand, and more sand for a long way. Coupled with the mountains in the backdrop, it was not what one would expect to see in Idaho. I was captivated by the beauty, tranquility, and the monotony of the dunes, but what also struck me was the similarity to skiing and snow. Wind effected ridgelines were beginning to form small cornices. Sand sluffed as we walked along steep sections. Mother nature had worked some of the sand into "bowls" similar to those we ski. We were not the only people who were thinking of skiing as evidenced by these two snowboarders we saw on a far-off ridge. We watched as they dropped into the slope and unfortunately for them, it was barely steep enough to make turns. Coincidentally, we found out via the all-knowing Facebook, this was my friend Ted and his son Ian. Crazy!

I'd highly recommend a stop at the St. Anthony Sand Dunes. Pair it with your trip to Jackson Hole and you can't go wrong!