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Jackson Hole’s final outlaws

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By Forrest McCarthy

Paul Petzoldt was 16 years old in 1924 when he first climbed the Grand Teton, wearing cowboy boots. A farm kid from Idaho, Petzoldt became one of America’s most influential mountaineers, eventually founding the National Outdoor Leadership School. He was intrepid, robust and virtually fearless; yet one thing frightened him – Jack Dornan.

Originally from Philadelphia, Dornan’s mother Evelyn homesteaded a property at the base of the Teton Range in 1916, and he joined her there in 1920. After struggling for several years growing cabbage and potatoes, Dornan found a better living trucking supplies from Salt Lake City to Jackson, including illegal whiskey.

In the fall of 1930, he hired Petzoldt to truck “supplies” from Salt Lake City to Jackson’s Hole. After a whiskey run in November, Petzoldt appeared back at Dornan’s empty handed, claiming he’d been hijacked, the contraband stolen. Dornan dismissed the lie and allegedly threatened Petzoldt with a butcher knife.

Petzoldt later confessed in his book, Teton Tales, that he hadn’t been hijacked, and instead abandoned the whiskey near Kemmerer, Wyoming, for fear of being arrested. The full story will likely never be known, but regardless, the incident bankrupted Dornan’s trucking business.

In 1934, after prohibition, Dornan turned the homestead into a convenience store, gas station and beer parlor. Following World War II, the establishment expanded into a full-service bar and restaurant – one Petzoldt would never set foot in. Jack Dornan was known to sport a six-shooter on his hip.

Continuing in the tradition of fine spirits, Dornan’s Spur Ranch Bar today has an impressive selection of wine and liquor year round, in addition to an assortment of pizza, pastas and salads. The adjacent Moose Trading Post and Deli offers sandwiches and various healthy trail snacks.

With the best Teton Range vistas in the Jackson Hole Valley, this is the perfect spot to admire the ephemeral signature of a day’s adventure – ski tracks gracefully adorning long slopes of powder snow. And when the sun sets behind the bar, backlighting the Tetons in soft alpenglow, it’s clear why Evelyn and Jack Dornan chose it nearly a century ago.


Winter in Grand Teton National Park

Suggested adventures

Skate ski the groomed road to Jenny Lake

Snowshoe or cross-country ski along the marked trail to Bradley Lake

Backcountry ski or snowboard Maverick, 25 Short or Shadow Peak

Watch wildlife from the Moose-Wilson Road

Dornan’s details

Location: Moose, near GTNP’s south entrance

Winter Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., December – March

This story was first published in the winter 2013/2014 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.

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