I am a nervous flyer and not the biggest fan of heights. I am also prone to motion sickness. So when my boss texted me at 8:30 a.m. last Friday and asked if I could take a scenic flight with Fly Jackson Hole at 10 a.m. and write about the experience, my instinct was to shout: “No way!” Instead I texted back a chirpy, “Sure!” Less than 45 minutes later I was on my way to the Jackson Hole Airport, telling myself: “Mind over matter, mind over matter.”
Peter Lindell, owner of Fly Jackson Hole, greeted me at the Jackson Hole Aviation terminal with a warm and reassuring smile, as if he could spot a reluctant flyer from a thousand miles away. Gail and Chris, a visiting couple from Florida, would be my traveling companions for the flight and they were excited to have a local joining them on this adventure.
Peter informed me the flight would be Fly Jackson Hole’s 90-minute “The Grand” tour. “Oh dear Lord,” I cried inside. “Ninety minutes? How will I be able to hold it together for that long? This poor couple having to endure me probably freaking out for over an hour!”
Gail was on crutches, her left foot encased in a medical boot. Just 24 hours earlier, on her first day in Jackson Hole, she had broken her ankle by accidentally stepping in a gopher hole while on a hike in Grand Teton National Park. Since hiking was no longer going to be an option on her week-long vacation (only a handful of trails in the park are wheelchair accessible), taking this scenic flight would be a way for her to see the Tetons and the valley from a higher perspective. Talk about making lemonade out of a lemon! I liked her immediately.
I tried to appear brave as we walked outside onto the tarmac towards the small, jaunty Cessna waiting there for us to board, but I was shaking inside. Was this aircraft safe? How seasoned was the pilot, Dave? Would there be enough air sickness bags? Would it look bad if I made a run for it now?
Gail and Chris posed for a photo with Dave—as did I—before climbing into the six-seater craft. Well, eight seats, including the pilot and co-pilot seats. I immediately uploaded the photo of me and Dave onto Facebook and also texted it to my fiancé so if anything happened to me, people would know why. I felt ridiculous being so nervous and briefly morbid.
And naturally, being the most anxious, wouldn’t you know I would be the person seated in the co-pilot position? “Of course,” I thought, breathing deeply as I settled into my seat. But Dave was calm and kind and double-checked to make sure we were all properly seat-belted and the doors and windows were securely locked. We all put on our aviation headsets so we could communicate during the flight. Dave started going through a thorough inspection of the airplane’s mechanics and navigation systems and communicating with what I assume was air traffic control, and I began to relax.
As if on cue, my fiancé responded to my photo text: “Tell Dave I say hi,” it read. What?! It turns out he and Dave used to work together. I then felt my apprehension melt away; I was in safer hands than I had just thought. A Jackson Hole resident for 40 years, Dave has been a pilot for 30, logging more than 8,000 hours flying time in diverse terrain. Impressive!
Once airborne, my fear of flying and heights vanished into the bright blue sky we were travelling through. Looking down and around at this magnificent place that I call home was magical. “The Grand” tour was beyond grand—it was amazing to the nth degree!
It was hands down the most awe-inspiring, serene and emotional way to see the Tetons and the whole of the "Hole."
It literally brought me to tears of gratitude and awe as we flew by the Grand Teton and the Cathedral Group, seemingly close enough to touch the rocky spines of the most iconic peaks in the country. Gail admitted she, too, welled up as we flew over and across the Teton Range.
Dave was fun and very knowledgeable about the area and the vistas we were flying over. In addition to the mighty Tetons, we were afforded views of the winding Snake River, Victor and Driggs, Idaho, and the top of Grand Targhee Mountain Resort, Teton Pass, the town of Jackson and Snow King Mountain (from a most unique perspective!), as well as the Gros Ventre mountains.
Seeing Jackson Hole from a bird's eye view is a most special way to eyeball it and Grand Teton National Park in all their splendor. I was breathless with wonder and Gail and Chris were beyond dumbstruck by what they, too, were seeing and experiencing. They have been on a number of scenic tours by air around the country, and said this was the best one ever.
If seeing Jackson Hole via a scenic flight isn’t on your bucket list, it should be; it is an item worth checking off said list. You have to treat yourself and your family to this Grand Tour when you visit Jackson Hole. It’s educational and inspiring.
I feel forever changed by the experience and am so glad I didn’t accidentally, on purpose, ignore my boss’s text. I might have missed the opportunity to take in the entirety of this postcard called Jackson Hole.