Up the Gros Ventre
July 22, a perfect summer afternoon for an excursion to the Red Rock Ranch, a very special and uniquely beautiful guest ranch property that is accessed via a (challenging) U.S. Forest Service Road. Today, I will have the fun of being in the company of Leslie Steen of JH Land Trust and View22 artists Lee Riddell and Travis Walker. The Gros Ventre River and its drainage is full of Wyoming history that adds so much to the natural beauty of the area.
My first trip to the Gros Ventre was on Thanksgiving Day, 1967 – but that’s another story. It has been years since I have been as far up the valley as Crystal Creek and the fabulous Red Rock Ranch through which it flows. To get there, the trip unfolds in unexpected gorgeous geology – lakes dammed by the largest rockslide ever, steep hillsides covered with varieties of vegetation, and most striking of all, the sudden vista of bright RED hills. And I mean that they are really, really red! Not much at all has changed since 1967 – including the state of the road.
The Ranch is a now a preserved wide vista between mountains of striking color, reds, ochres, greens, dark blues of deep pine forests, and distant ridges in warm and purple greys. The valley itself is carpeted with hayflelds in shades of brilliant greens – and is bisected by Crystal Creek, a treasured native cutthroat trout fishery.
What to paint? What to paint? There are endless choices – and time is limited! There are wonderful log ranch buildings and barns, the creek that has been enhanced for trout habitat and health, the vistas everywhere are calling my art senses. I opt for the big vista of the valley, fields and distant ranch buildings – and set up my easel adjacent to David MacKenzie’s front deck that encompasses the view.
What joy! Ignoring biting bugs, strengthening breeze and changing shadows on the hills I spend a glorious two hours “lifting some color from the landscape” and laying it down on a canvas board.
The MacKenzie family has owned and operated Red Rock Ranch since the mid 1970s – and began preserving this glorious place with the Jackson Hole Land Trust in 2001 – most recently protecting 153 new acres in 2012. Now, nearly three quarters of the 640-acre ranch has been forever protected by conservation easements donated by the MacKenzie family. As our hosts, they invite us to Happy Hour with some of their guests, and invite us to return to paint whenever we can!
It was a perfect afternoon, a glorious place and for me personally, a chance to revisit many memories of earlier times in Jackson Hole.
– Kay Northup