2022-05-04&05 First Days In Jackson Hole

Bighorn Sheep - Ovis canadensis
I began my first full day in the Jackson Hole region with a tour of the southern end of the valley. Close to the town of Jackson Wyoming, the National Elk Reserve holds potential for interesting encounters, like this herd of Bighorn Sheep. I didn’t see the large males on this tour, but the Ewes and young sheep were very cooperative.
Cinnamon Teal - Spatula cyanoptera
Competition among male Cinnamon Teals can be intense at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center.
Uinta Ground Squirrel - Urocitellus armatus
Uinta Ground Squirrels at the National Elk Reserve are active for a few months between March and mid-August.

I drove away from Payette Idaho yesterday late in the morning after tending to the RV’s holding tanks and having breakfast with my good friend, Art. Contrary to my usual preference, I stuck to the freeway and 280 miles later, I pulled into a rest area at Coldwater Idaho for the night. I was tired, but I managed enough energy to finish my blog about “Burns Again”. I find it a rare situation when I don’t have a backlog of stories and pictures to prepare.

My projects on the RV prevented me from gathering more images during my stay in Payette. I’m happy to have finished with the coach’s battery charging system. I doubled the charging capacity from 60 amps to 120 amps, and I added a fan to force cabin air into the chamber where the chargers live. The chargers generate heat, and I’d hoped to add a second fan to exhaust the warm air, but after inspecting the coach’s cabinets, there didn’t seem to be any place I could mount it. I decided there was enough air passage into the area under the dining bench, where air could disperse on its own.

I had tentatively assigned myself one more project that I ultimately decided to shelve for later. I needed to draw the line on my upgrades, or I’d never get on the road in time to meet my friend Joe in Wyoming.

My Coldwater campsite was less than 3 hours from Pocatello, where I had breakfast Thursday morning. My reservation at the Gros Ventre Campground didn’t start until noon Friday, so I had time to explore Gray’s Lake National Wildlife Refuge on my way to Jackson Wyoming. I was blessed with mostly sunny skies Wednesday morning, and the weather liars were saying there should be several days of nice weather before the next storm system drops down from the Gulf of Alaska.

My detour past Gray’s Lake turned out to be a bust. The country was beautiful, but the reserve wasn’t suitable for explorations by road. Without this location to take up some of my time, I reached Jackson a day earlier than I’d planned.

The starter battery in my RV had been showing signs of weakness since I started my way up the Oregon coast. Today, it failed to start the engine, and I had to use the coach batteries to get going. This is pretty easy, because a switch is provided on the RV dash to temporarily connect the two battery systems. Driving in to Jackson, I found a Dodge dealership and I stopped to see about a new battery. Unfortunately, the battery I needed was on backorder, but the man at the counter looked online and saw the local NAPA Auto Parts store had several in stock. It was only about three miles further in my direction of travel (north). It took me about 40 minutes to replace the battery, and get back on the road.

With two nights’ stay in Jackson to sort out, I stopped at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center to ask for suggestions about places I might boondock. The staff was very helpful and marked up some maps with potential places I might try. I left the Visitor Center to explore the areas suggested, but I stopped first at the Gros Ventre Campground, where I had a reservation beginning on Friday. The space I’d reserved was available, and the staff let me pay for two more nights, thus removing all the drama of finding a place to park for the next two nights.

Wednesday’s drive sent me into a different time zone. I had to set my mental clock ahead an hour to get into rhythm with the sun-cycles. By the time I broke camp, the sun had climbed higher than I’d hoped. I thought it would be fun to get the first light on the Tetons. But by the time I found myself in position to get my shot, the angle of the sun had lost its golden hue.

I had breakfast Thursday morning at Bubba’s, a joint I’ve enjoyed during past visits here. My plan for this morning is to return to the Visitor Center and capture images of the birds I saw Wednesday afternoon, but had no time to shoot. It makes sense to explore the south end of the valley today, then spend time at the northern end when Joe arrives on Friday.

I ventured out to the roads east of Jackson after my meal and met a large herd of female and young Bighorn Sheep. There must have been some minerals on the roadway, because the sheep were hesitant to remove themselves from the dirt road even when vehicles passed by. All the animals were shedding clumps of their winter coats, which made them look rather scruffy. I couldn’t help but think how the bird’s nests would benefit from the fur that would be scattered through the sage and grasslands.

I spent Friday in camp processing the images I’d collected during my first days in the region. The stormy weather that settled into the valley Thursday night, made my decision to get caught up with my blog an easy one. There is the added advantage of beginning my adventures with Joe with an uncluttered agenda.

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