GET OUT: LSR offers indoor and outdoor adventures

By on May 26, 2015
Great views of Phelps Lake are easily accessible from a mile walk through Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Great views of Phelps Lake are easily accessible from a mile walk through Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The rain has made itself at home here in the valley. Walking through town, I spot many locals huddled in their coats running from coffee shops to work in hopes of respite from the ridiculously long — sometimes torrential — downpours. While I’m no weather forecaster, it seems like the clouds are here to stay, at least for the long-term forecast. This may seem heart wrenching, even downright hopeless, for those mountain exercise junkies who are now growing excruciatingly pale, but there is still life to be had.

Meandering walks and wet weather activities are still available. While it may take some motivation to leave the house, it is still possible to have a glorious time. One unique yet accessible rainy day excursion can be found just a few miles south of Moose, at the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, also known as the LSR.

This beautiful place’s appeal is different than many places I have ever been. Nestled on the Moose-Wilson Road, this land, previously known at the JY Ranch, is comprised of about 1,000 acres. Donated in 2001, the space served as a getaway for his family.  When there’s a downpour, exploring the LSR visitor center is well worth it. The interactive structure offers many educational opportunities for the eyes, ears and mind.

One major highlight of this structure is the sound room — a small room located in the corner of the building with an amazing sound system recording of the outdoors. I realize it may sound odd to listen to the sounds of nature inside of an actual building, but unless you have experienced it yourself, don’t judge. Rain, thunderstorms, birds and other creatures of the forest chirp away while you sit comfortably soaking it in. Where else can you listen to a thunderstorm knowing you won’t get struck by lightning or end up completely soaked and in a dire situation? For those wanting to spend more time soaking in the beauty of the forest during the rainstorm without a tent, make your way to a library. In the library, many historical books are available for reading in the well-lit lounge with comfortable chairs. These books tell the tales of the people before us, when a good day was simply drying one’s feet out by the fire and making bread (a happy trade for current Netflix marathons if you ask me). The staff also has a wealth of knowledge and can assist you with any questions you may have about the place.

If the rain changes from a downpour to a drizzle, make your way out to the uniquely concocted trail system at the preserve. From here, you can travel anywhere from a few hundred yards to the full jaunt around Phelps Lake.  One path that is truly underrated is the Aspen Ridge Trail. This 2.5 mile trail travels by a creek, through aspens and along a ridge offering unique views of Open Canyon. This trail is so pleasant some consider it to be a time warp. The continual ups and downs of mini-hills may seem unpleasantly steep until you arrive at the top. I think more large mammals travel here than humans, but who am I to judge?

Another wonderful jaunt in this area is the Boulder Ridge Trail. This too is seemingly endless for it’s short 1.3 miles and offers a little-known piece of history. Has anyone ever found a tombstone in the Tetons? From Phelps Lake, take the trail about a tenth of a mile, and keep an eye peeled to your left for a visible grave amongst small pine trees. This grave was the site of the original homesteader, David Spalding, who later gave his rights to the land to Louis Joy and Struthers Burt. Legend has it that Spalding requested to be buried on this land as part of the trade of the JY Ranch, but I wonder if he knew that his gravesite would be one of the rare tombstones located in Grand Teton National Park.

After visiting this place multiple times, I feel so grateful to enjoy this land that was donated to the Park Service. The selfish part in me wishes it would have been given to me, but doesn’t everyone? But public land is for all of us. I am always happy to enjoy the rain or stay dry at the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve. Be it a long hike or a short jaunt, this place has it all. Beware that the parking lot only holds 50 spaces to keep the solitary and natural feel of the place, so early arrival may be essential on busy days.

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