I think of Munger Mountain as something of a gravitational force around which my life has seemed to orbit since moving to Jackson Hole. I initially noticed the south valley landmark my first summer while working for an artist in Rafter J. Later I moved to Red Top Meadows and explored the sprawling mountain’s western slope. For the past 15 years, I’ve been nestled in at its southeastern-most edge in Hoback Junction. I have hiked and biked on it, studied, sketched, and painted it for nearly 20 years. I have come to know Munger Mountain like a dependable and familiar friend.
But I don’t know it like Bill Resor and his family do. While planning the location from which I would paint the Land Trust easement areas, I got to talk with Bill, who helped protect critical parcels of land on the mountain’s northern slope. He has been exploring the mountain since he was a child, as his father and grandfather did. Bill helped me to understand just where the conserved parcels are located and why they are so important. Looking at Munger Mountain when heading south from Jackson, there is a pronounced gully that curves down from the highest point on the mountain. It begins as three individual runoff channels that join to form a deep curving draw, depositing snow melt and rainwater into the Snake River directly below.
This drainage, known as Don’s Draw, is lush with willows, aspen stands, chokecherry, and other vegetation – an oasis of green in a sea of sagebrush. The land at the top of the draw is managed by the Forest Service. The heavily timbered land at the base of the draw, where bald eagles have nested for generations, has been protected for many years by the Land Trust and the Resor family. Recently, the Land Trust and Resor family have partnered to protect the land that connects these two areas – which would protect an important migration corridor and vital habitat for mule deer and elk, not to mention many other bird and mammal species. The project is nearing completion this fall, and I could hear the pride in Bill’s voice as he described to me how special this spot is to him and his family.
On my scheduled painting day, I set up in another of my favorite painting locations: South Park Wildlife Management Area, just across the river from the Munger easements. It was a hot, dry afternoon, but a bit of a breeze kept the bugs at bay. I was joined by JHLT Board Member, Jill Baldauf, her enthusiastic dog Cody, and her delightful father, Tom, an artist himself for over 50 years. It can be a bit intimidating to paint in front of another artist, but I had no need to worry. Tom and I had great fun talking about art, materials, plein air painting, and his envy-inducing description of his studio with doors that slide up to become open air! It was such a treat to show him how I work in pastel and to share the joy I get from being out in nature making art. And it was Tom’s birthday as well! I felt very lucky that I got to spend some of it with him.
All too soon, the Baldauf clan had to leave. I stayed a bit longer to get a little more work done and was treated to a great blue heron flying by, a couple ospreys whistling overhead, and a group of kids working their way down Flat Creek learning to fly fish. I am so glad that this beautiful view of Munger Mountain will continue to be here, not just for me to paint but for everyone to enjoy.