Local Color in Yellowstone Teton-Territory
Three locals from the west side of the Tetons share their favorite trails, sights and why they love where they live.
Hunter and Co-Owner of Chinker Chicks
Whenn Kim Mills first moved to Driggs, Idaho, in the shadow of the breathtaking Teton range 15 years ago, she lived in her horse trailer at the top of Fox Creek.
But the Pennsylvania native quickly fell in love with the area, bought land and built a house where she and her husband are raising their son.
“In Teton Valley, we have an incredible sense of community and unlimited access to the mountains and rivers,” Mills says. “Horseback riding, hunting, fishing and snowmobiling are just a few of the activities to “wow” you. Those things “wow” me over and over again.”
And then there are the normal daily happenings that anywhere else would be extraordinary. Take, for instance, the day she met her business partner Greta Procious, co-owner of Chinker Chicks.
Mills was driving to a rock quarry in Wyoming when a mountain lion jumped in front of her truck and dashed into the forest. After her shift ended, she pulled off the road to track the lion. Along the trail, she ran into Procious a Montana transplant, who was also tracking the lion. The two hit it off. Before long, the duo launched Chinker Chicks, offering high-quality services to seal joints of log cabins and homes.
“Chinking and being self-employed also allows us to volunteer on the board of HAPI Trails horse rescue that helps abandoned, abused and neglected horses,” she says.
It’s on the back of a horse that Mills recommends travelers explore her neck of the woods with local outfitters like Linn Canyon Ranch. But there’s one animal Mills carries through the forest herself: elk. As a bow hunter, she lives for elk hunting season.
“As a mom and hunter, I am proud to provide mountain-raised organic lean meat for our family,” she says.
Why She Loves Victor: I have lived in between Victor and Driggs Idaho for about 15 years. I started out here living in my horse trailer at the top of Fox Creek. I loved this area so much that I planted roots by buying land and building a house.
I feel truly grateful and fortunate to call this area home. My husband and I feel this is a great place to raise a family.
Realized Her Dream: When I moved here, I worked at a rock quarry in Wyoming. I met Greta Procious while I was trying to find a mountain lion that had jumped in front of my dump truck that day. We met up in the mountains, and we got to talking about a big chinking project she had lined up at the Rockefeller Ranch in Teton Village that was being moved out of Grand Teton National Park.
She needed someone to help her work on those cabins and I took her up on her offer. When we started working there together, I was on the phone with my dad trying to come up with my business name because I was a subcontractor to OnSite Management in Jackson. Greta’s business was called Maverick Creations. My dad started rattling off names and he came up with Chinker Chicks, offering services to seal joints of log cabins and homes. It stuck.
You really never know what you will be doing for employment. My undergrad work was focused around pre-veterinary medicine and animal science. I love animals, but I ran out of money to continue my veterinary degree after receiving my BS. I have managed farms, feed stores and used to work in the paving and chip seal industry on a road crew.
Working in the construction industry specializing in chinking is unique. We are good at what we do and focus on performing the best we can to set us apart from our competitors that run crews. We are all about quality control over our finished product. People like to hire people who really care about what they are doing. Chinking and being self-employed also allows us to volunteer on the board of HAPI Trails horse rescue that helps abandoned, abused and neglected horses.
Favorite Area Activity: I prefer to access our local trails on horseback which is a unique experience. There are local outfitters such as the Linn Canyon Ranch that offer guided horseback trips. You may want to consider scheduling if you are passing through the Valley.
Why She Loves Bowhunting: I started bowhunting in my twenties. I have also hunted with rifles and shotguns, but I prefer to hunt with my bow. Elk season is truly a special time for me and I have a hard time thinking about anything else when I am not in the mountains. Hiking with a pack full of gear trying to find elk is an incredible experience that you can’t even explain. You become one with nature. An elk bugle (the sound bull elk make) is exhilarating and magical, especially when my typical shots are less than 20 yards. As a mom and hunter, I am proud to provide mountain-raised organic lean meat for our family and I am completely responsible for my actions. I have humanely harvested an animal with respect and honor, gotten it off the mountain and processed it at home with my family.
Where She Brings Out-of-Town Guests: My husband and I typically take out of town people to one of the three greatest fly-fishing rivers in our area. The South Fork of the Snake River, the Teton or the Henry’s Fork are great options. Whether or not they love to fish like we do, there is such a special atmosphere on the river. Fishing brings me to my “happy place” where nothing else matters except for the fly rod in your hand and the chance of landing a big brown trout. Visitors that don’t fish can certainly enjoy the sound of the water, the sunshine and the wildlife, such as eagles and moose, which always makes for a great day.
Best Unique Experience for Travelers: Besides getting a Huckleberry shake at the Emporium in Victor, travelers can stop at the GeoTourism Center in Driggs to learn about the history and culture in Teton Valley. Plus, there is a picture of me when we used to do skijoring (a horse pulling a skier).
Co-Founder, Grand Teton Brewing Co.
Why He Loves Victor: I moved to Wilson, Wyo., the fall of 1983 and now live over Teton Pass in Victor, Idaho. I enjoy the small town feel of the area where I can catch up with friends while shopping at the local grocery store.
Realized His Dream: My brother, Ernie, and I started Otto Brothers’ Brewing Co. in 1988 which later was renamed Grand Teton Brewing Co. as we started selling our products more regionally. I ran the company for 20 years and sold the company to a local family in 2009.
Favorite Bike Ride: Single track at Grand Targhee
Go-To Grand Teton Brewing Beer: Sweetgrass APA
Best Area Hiking Trail: The Teton Canyon Trail is where I go to get the best view of the Grand. Climbing Table Mountain gives you an outstanding view.
Where He Brings Out-of-Town Guests in the Summer: I usually take the Moose-Wilson Road up into Grand Teton National Park and look for bears and moose along the way.
Kara Hidalgo and Daniel Hidalgo
Co-founders of Idaho Art Lab in St. Anthony and instructors at Yellowstone Forever Institute
Why They Love Teton: We live in the little town of Teton. Daniel’s family is from this area, his great grandfather was one of the original homesteaders. As professional artists, being close to Yellowstone and Teton national parks is very beneficial. We are instructors for Yellowstone Forever Institute, and Daniel has been a guest artist in Yellowstone selling his art for 15 years.
Realized Their Dream: We started the Idaho Art Lab in 2011 because we wanted our community to have access to art. Rural areas often times don’t have the resources or opportunities of larger cities but art is for everyone. We live here. We want there to be art here. The Idaho Art Lab is Idaho’s largest visual art maker space and offers classes and workshops in over 20 different mediums.
The Idaho Art Lab is in St. Anthony because it is the county seat and largest city in Fremont county. Although 3,500 is not much of a population, our impact is all along the Upper Snake River Valley.
We like St. Anthony for the Idaho Art lab because it is a spring board to some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in Idaho. 60 minutes in any direction will yield something different yet wonderful to behold. There are sand dunes, the Tetons, Yellowstone, Island park or world class fishing.
Favorite Art Medium: We are lucky at the Idaho Art Lab because we have access to so many different forms of expression. Plein air painting (painting outside) is our current favorite. It has the challenge of representational art, with the speed of a sketch all the while dealing with changing light and the elements. One of the Idaho Art Lab projects is Plein air in the parks, where we lead artist retreats in some of our state and national parks, like Craters of the moon, Harriman state park and Yellowstone.
What Visitors Can Do at The Idaho Art Lab: It has many drop-in activities, like ready-to-paint pottery and a gallery to peruse but plan to spend some time here. Good art takes time. We also have many workshops to choose from but it is best to schedule ahead and make us one of your destination stops.
Favorite Thing to Do Beyond Art: Our favorite thing to do outside the Lab is camping. There are so many places to go. Idaho has more public lands than any other state in the Lower 48, so finding a good camping spot is easy.
Best Hiking Trail: One of our favorite hiking trails is in Chester Wetlands at the Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area. The trails are for hikers and horseback only. There are easy hikes that go around the ponds, or more adventurous hikes up the valley. The SCWMA is a critical nesting area for migrating birds, so it is closed part of the year but it is a bird watchers paradise.
Where He Brings Out-of-Town Guests in the Summer: Most of our out of town guest have one thing on their mind. Yellowstone National Park. St. Anthony is close enough that a day trip is possible. We make many trips in to the park each year, and every time we have seen something new. Yellowstone is definitely the must-do, but this area has so much more to offer you should definitely take the time to explore.
Best Unique Experience for Travelers: For a unique experience, travelers should stop at the Riverside Ru-inn. It is part of our historic downtown at the main intersection. In the past it was a hotel, a bank and a bar. The building is currently under renovation, however part of it is open as a bed and breakfast. There are mosaics, murals and reclaimed construction, it is the perfect photo backdrop for your group of family.
Learn more about the Yellowstone-Teton Territory that includes towns like St. Anthony, Driggs, Ashton, Rigby, Rexburg and more at www.yellowstoneteton.org.