Wilson’s parents made him travel before he committed to becoming the fifth generation to work Teton Valley’s Double Diamond Bar Ranch.
// By Molly Absolon
Gabe Wilson and his sisters—in middle and elementary school at the time—hooked two cream-colored draft horses to a sleigh full of hay, and, in the dark, headed up the hillside behind their barn in Alta, on the western side of the Tetons. The blueish-white snow reflected enough starlight to allow them to see sheep scattered around the fields. Gabe drove, while his sisters tossed hay to the animals.
By the time the Wilson kids got to school at 8 a.m, they’d already worked for hours. But that was typical; as soon as they could walk, each started helping out on the family farm. “I learned from a very young age that when you put effort or labor into something, it brings deeper meaning to the experience,” says Wilson, who turns 29 in August.
Wilson remembers his childhood fondly. He enjoyed working outside with his parents and siblings: four younger sisters and a younger brother. He learned to drive horses sitting in his father’s lap and was in charge of checking the ranch’s gopher traps—set to get rid of the pesky rodents that can damage irrigation systems and wipe out gardens—by the time he was eight years old. In elementary school, he had his own egg business to earn pocket money. He raised animals for 4-H and, at 11, was put in charge of moving irrigation pipe. Rather than being turned off by the work, he loved it and dreamed of living on the farm and raising his own family the same way he was raised. “Some of the kids I grew up with couldn’t wait to get out of here,” Wilson says. “Not me. I always wanted to be here. I was taught to appreciate this place and the value of work from a very young age. Nature was our TV. We were always outside, working, playing. I have a deep love for the beauty here.”
Wilson says he might have never left Teton Valley and the family’s 160-acre Double Diamond Bar Ranch, but his parents insisted he do some traveling. They wanted to make sure he really wanted to stay before he made that commitment. “My parents’ desire for me to see the world was really for me not to feel pressured to come back to the ranch,” Wilson says. “They wanted me to have experiences outside of Teton Valley, and whether that was in other states or countries, it didn’t really matter so long as I gained understanding and purpose for what I wanted to do and who I wanted to become.”
In high school, travel for sports and with his Scout troop took him around the region, and he also undertook a short mission in Croatia for his church. He did a second mission in Daejeon, South Korea, from 2015 to 2017 and then returned to the U.S. to attend Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg. “I learned and experienced cultures that are unique during my travels,” Wilson says. “I met amazing people, some of whom I still keep in touch with. I learned to speak [Korean], and to love all sorts of different foods, from live octopus to kimchi. The octopus took some getting used to. It crawls around, and you have to eat it just like that.” As interesting as South Korea was, “Through it all, I knew I wanted to come back to my home,” he says. “I missed the mountains, the outdoors, the hiking, the horse riding, sleigh rides, and ranch work. And I missed being with my family and doing all those activities with them.”
Now, recently married, Wilson is once again on the farm, part of the fifth generation of the Wilson family that has lived there since their patriarch homesteaded the place in the 1890s. The family continues many old farming traditions on the property. They grow hay and barley, and raise sheep, chicken, and horses. The farm looks much as it has for decades, but the area around it is changing.
These days, according to LandSearch.com, the average price for homes in Alta is more than $3 million, with raw land selling for between $70,000 and $300,000 per acre. For many farmers in the area, the allure of that money makes it hard to stay in agriculture. But the Wilsons are committed to preserving their heritage. They want to keep the ranch open for wildlife and agriculture, and to protect its views of the Grand Teton and Teton Canyon. Finding a way to monetize those goals has been Gabe’s latest venture. He’s working on an MBA online and helping his family look for creative strategies that will allow them to protect their property and still make a living. Thery recently created a wedding venue (shown above). “A wedding industry professional put the idea in our minds,” he says. “They said they’d heard we had a beautiful place and that it could be a good business for us.”
During Wilson’s mission in Korea, his host mother wanted to help him celebrate his birthday the way he did at home by cooking his favorite meal, which was his mother, Dana’s, crockpot lasagna. His host mom spent hours following Dana’s recipe, and then, to make it extra special, added shrimp. Wilson says the shrimp were an interesting addition but he appreciated the effort she made to make him feel at home. We recommend Dana Wilson’s original recipe, sans shrimp.
Dana Wilson’sCrockpot Lasagna
1–2 lbs. hamburger
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
8–12 wide lasagna noodles
16 oz. cottage cheese
16 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce
Shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, or mixed Italian cheeses)
Water (enough to cover lasagna layers in crockpot)
Brown hamburger with Italian seasonings. Spray crockpot with oil or cooking spray. Place a layer of noodles in the bottom of the crockpot, followed by a layer of burger, then cottage cheese, then spaghetti sauce, and then shredded cheese—that’s one layer. Repeat until you get to the top (two or three layers) of the crockpot. Pour water to cover the lasagna. Cook on low for five hours.
Gabe Talks About Four Fav Adventures
“There is so much diversity on the hike up to Table Rock (aka Table Mountain). You have wide open spaces with wildflowers, and I think there is no other place where you can see the Grand (Teton) as up close and personal as from Table’s summit (shown above). It’s looming right in front of you.”
Round-trip, Table Mountain is a 12-mile hike with 4,100 feet of vertical gain. Start at the Teton Canyon Trailhead in Alta, Wyoming, on the west slope of the Tetons.
“We rotate and float different sections of the Teton River south of Idaho Highway 33 (ed. note—north of this, the river has significant whitewater). I just sit in a tube and enjoy the scenery and my family and friends. There are several put-ins on the Teton River between Driggs and Tetonia.
“Going up Teton Canyon on a horse is a completely different experience than hiking up it. The terrain is the same as it is when you hike up Teton Canyon on your way to Table Rock, but when I’m with my horse, I’m sensing and seeing things that [it] is seeing.” Start at the Teton Canyon Trailhead.
“The first time I climbed the Grand Teton was with my dad, and I was 13 or 14. We did it again last summer, and it was my wife’s first time. We do a family climbing trip in the Tetons every summer; I don’t have a favorite summit because they’re all different. What I like about it is coming to know each mountain. I’ve never really believed in ‘conquering’ mountains; you just come to know them, and they’re different every time.” Exum Mountain Guides and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides do multiday guided trips up the Grand Teton and other peaks in the range. JH