I grew up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which many locals will tell you is the most beautiful place on earth. The best place. The only place to be. In fact, when I announced several years ago that I was abandoning the mountains of Wyoming for the skyscrapers of New York City, I was treated alternately like a traitor and a fool.
Jackson Hole is loved fiercely by both natives and by transplants who were lured to its pristine outdoors. There's a lot to love. In this valley surrounded by breathtaking mountain ranges, only 3 percent of the land is privately owned. The rest is federal or state-managed, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the second largest in the lower 48. It is a haven for outdoor sport enthusiasts, especially skiers, and anyone who enjoys pleasant surroundings.
Jackson, the area's main town (Jackson Hole is the name of the larger valley, not a specific town) is home to just over 10,000 people, and the surrounding county brings the area's population to around 22,000. It is small enough that if you don't know someone, you at least know somebody who knows somebody who knows them.
As a Jackson Hole native, part of me wants everyone to know how singular my hometown is, and wants them to see it. But another part of me couldn't help but feel a bit possessive, and even jealous, when each year several million tourists descended upon us. And that's not even counting the ultra-wealthy (and some celebrity) vacation home owners. It wasn't that I didn't want people to visit. I simply resented the fact that all these people seemed to think of our town as theirs. They sweep in every year as if they own the place, and in a sense, they do—Jackson Hole's economy is dependent on them. That reality can be a harsh one when people are treating your home like it's Disney World.