Photos courtesy of Tammy Christel, Jackson Hole Art Blog
The Ladd family has protected some very special and crucial wildlife habitat at the base of the Teton range. I was lucky enough to be invited there to paint in early October. Accompanied by my friends Bill Sawczuk and Tammy Christel of the Jackson Hole Art Blog, I set out on an afternoon exploration. One thing I enjoy about visiting these tucked-away spots is getting to see the sites through the property owners’ eyes. People who live with the land see its intimacies as well as its grandeur. Beedee Ladd directed us to a sage-filled clearing through a dense stand of aspens and chokecherry brush. The meadow is dotted with large glacial erratics – rocks deposited by receding glaciers hundreds of thousands of years ago! From this vantage point, we were treated to views clear across the Jackson Hole valley all the way to the Gros Ventres and the Sleeping Indian. Cottonwoods and aspens were still showing off their autumn finery, and the Snake River wound in and out of the distant trees like a tiny blue thread. The sun peeked in and out of chilly clouds, turning the scene from subtle to dazzling and back again.
Wanting to scope out all potential painting spots, Tammy and I forged on through a second stand of trees while Bill examined the views from the first meadow. Suddenly, a bull elk bugled. Tammy and I froze. It sounded like it was right next to us! In fact, it was at the edge of the meadow we’d just left, in Bill’s full view, following the tree line up the ridge with some cows just yards from where we all stood. Tammy and I couldn’t see them, but we could feel the vibrations of his bugling in our chests. It was a primal experience. The thought came to me that this moment had played out hundreds of times before, at countless moments throughout the history of our valley, and I was here experiencing it. It felt timeless. Protected open spaces also protect these moments – not just for us to experience, but for wildness to continue.
After that goosebump-inducing incident, we finally settled into a lovely spot and got to work. What started as a chilly, windy afternoon mellowed into a sunkissed, calm, breezy evening. The beautiful view and great company made time pass quickly, and all too soon the sinking sun told us it was time to pack up. But not before recording some amazing things in paint and pastel. It was a special afternoon I know none of us will soon forget!