We’ve all had those dreams; the surreal ones in which we have acquired the gift of flight and soar above everything familiar and earthbound. Fly Jackson Hole makes this spectacular sensation a reality among the peaks and valleys of the Tetons as Jackson Hole unfurls below in a way you’ve never seen it before.
On a crisp, bright fall day we climbed aboard their 8-seat Cessna with Fly JH chief pilot Peter Lindell. The Turbo Stationair 8 single engine plane spent previous years on scenic flights in New Zealand and Australia before its arrival in Jackson Hole. Upgraded from prop to tail, the plane now flies a variety of scenic flights over the rugged, breathtaking wilderness surrounding Jackson Hole. We were thrilled to join Peter on one of these flights, and see our beloved valley home from an entirely new perspective.
Settling into the comfort of the plane, we were glad to abandon the chilly breeze on the Jackson Hole Airport tarmac for the warmth of the climate-controlled cabin. There is no such thing as a bad seat on the plane; each one has a window and great view. Smooth tunes from the onboard XM radio greeted us as we slipped on our noise-canceling headphones, and chatted with excitement while Peter readied the plane for takeoff.
Minutes later, we turned onto the open runway. Our exhilaration was palpable as the plane accelerated and lifted into the sky. The wheels lost contact with the pavement, and the sage flats fell away as we floated upward. Banking gradually to the east, we headed for the Gros Ventre mountains. Below us, I saw the little village of Kelly, a burg almost demolished by a massive landslide and flood in 1927. In the northwest corner, I picked out the little school and playground of my youth, edged by the sage fields and cottonwood stands of Grand Teton National Park.
As the plane gently climbed, the Gros Ventre River became a thin, shimmering ribbon. Peter turned us south, and we swept by the snow-crusted summit of the Sleeping Indian. From the valley floor, the formation looks deceptively like a single wall of stone. At 12,000 feet, it was clear that two distinct peaks comprise the iconic mountain. Ridges iced with smooth, clean snow stretched as far as we could see. Teton County is comprised of only 2% private and developable land; from this altitude, it was clear just how much wilderness we have kept wild.
Peter steered us westward, and we peered down at the town of Jackson, pointing out spots we recognized. To the north, Flat Creek twisted through the grasses of the Elk Refuge. Silently, I noted the pools that I knew held some of the biggest cutthroat trout. Familiar waterways from above resembled a living map, inviting memories of summer days of casting flies and peaceful floats through the wild.
As we crossed the valley, Peter was quick to point out interesting spots below, like a ski cabin nestled in a dense grove of pine. He gestured to hills that were only sparsely treed and described the forest fire that ravaged acres almost ten years ago. The landscape below was more than picturesque; it represented the long and complex natural and human history of the valley.
Shifting to the north, we began our approach to the Cathedral Group: the crown jewel of the majestic Teton Range. There is no bad view of the Tetons. From any angle, they are among the most breathtaking peaks in the world. Despite having seen many angles of these peaks nearly daily for decades, this was the most extraordinary view I had ever seen.
Gossamer clouds slid between the crags, and the early evening sun illuminated the cliffs and snowy saddles. Soaring among the peaks was more expansive and astounding than the view from one of their singular summits. Countless white valleys and ridges below looked soft and peaceful, like pillowy folds of a blanket.
North of Mount Moran’s stout apex, the plane began a gentle descent over Jackson Lake, and we saw the runway lights blinking in the distance. Somewhat reluctant to return to the ground, we quietly drank in the last views of the mountains eastern faces as the light faded. Like waking from a dream, we touched down on the valley floor.
Jackson Hole is a special place, whether it is home or a cherished getaway. Whether you have lived among the peaks and rivers for decades, visited its wild wonders many times, or it is your first sojourn to the area, Fly JH will show you Jackson Hole from a perspective you simply cannot get in any other way. You cannot fail to be impressed by these views once reserved for elite mountaineers. No need for ropes and climbing boots; relax, see some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery from a bird’s eye view, and be back in time for lunch.
For more info or to book scenic flights in Jackson Hole click here.
Images © Taylor Glenn