Heavy rain drops and fast windshield wipers in the Town Square do not bode well for our scheduled painting session at the Jenkins Ranch on August 27th, but Jennifer Hoffman and I decide to meet out there anyway. A few miles out of town in the South Park area, things quiet down as the buildings and houses of town give way to tall cottonwoods along Boyles Hill Road, signaling our entrance into the riparian zone of the Snake River.
On our way into the house, we stop and look at potential places for Jennifer to paint (while trying to ignore the continuing drizzle): a grove of cottonwoods with filtered light, an open meadow with mountain views and cows. We are met at the house by Mike Wardell, longtime valley local and friend of the Jackson Hole Land Trust – an emeritus board member, among many other good things. We go on a walkabout to visit some of his favorite views, and the options in a 20 minute radius are incredible in their diversity and beauty. There is another open meadow with Teton views, blue forget-me-knots lining a spring creek, Blue Crane Creek flowing among the conifers, and a naturally framed view of the Grand, right from his porch. “There isn’t a bad place in Jackson Hole,” Mike comments. “Can you believe this is 10 minutes from the Town Square”? he adds.
Because the rain shows no signs of letting up and Jennifer can’t paint in the rain, we decide to call it an afternoon and return another day. But instead of leaving, we spend another good long while visiting with Mike, listening to the many entertaining stories of characters from the good old days. He has stories about artists, about the first Jackson Hole comp plan, and about the time it took six or seven tries for him and a handful of other Jackson locals (including Kathryn and her mother and brother, when she was just a toddler) to fly back home from Salt Lake City, thanks to planes and snowstorms. This ends up being one of my favorite and enlightening View22s, even though the canvas and pastels don’t ever get unpacked from Jennifer’s car.
Jennifer returned a few days later to set up along Blue Crane Creek, and had an exciting encounter with a bull elk and his harem:
“While I was scoping out a spot to paint along this pretty little spring creek on the Jenkins Ranch, I heard splashing and realized there was a parade of elk cows and calves fording the stream maybe 100 yards away from me. I managed to get my camera out in time to capture a few. In the woods across the creek from me, a bull elk started to bugle repeatedly. I couldn’t see him, but several minutes after the cows and calves had left the creek, as I was shooting pics of the beautiful scenery, he also crossed the water (see the 4th and 5th photo). He was impressive! The bull continued bugling, and I continued photographing him from a good distance as he crossed the field beyond the water. In watching his path, I found his harem, grazing peacefully not far away. It’s so great that this open space has been preserved, so this annual ritual will continue on in the future!
After that excitement, I set up my easel along the creek and enjoyed the damp, moody light from the overcast morning, the continued sounds of elk, and the wonderful smells of approaching autumn. It was a remarkable morning!”