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Memories of Jackson Hole

Mormon Row - Scenery
The Barns on Mormon Row, north of Jackson Wyoming are the most photographed barns in the world.

Jackson Hole, as some will call the Jackson Wyoming region, has turned into a mecca for the disproportionately wealthy. The billionaires are crowding out the millionaires. Once this was a cowboy town, full of cowboy charm and the pioneer spirit. Its charm and appeal come now from a different root, but there’s still a lot to like about this place.

My first visit to Jackson was in November 2001. I signed up for a week long seminar called “Photography At The Summit” and drove there from San Diego via a leisurely trip up the west coast around the Olympic Peninsula. I then headed east, following the Columbia and Snake Rivers to Jackson. I got a room at the hotel where I knew the faculty was staying (all but Tom Mangelsen, who lives in Jackson). I was new to serious photography, but my interest in nature photography was strong. Rooming where the faculty stayed gave me a chance to meet these amazing people every morning at breakfast and appreciate their experiences, while learning a little about who they were as people. My memories of Bill Epperidge’s company is something I’ll always treasure. 

Yellow-Headed Blackbird - Xanthocephalus xanthocephalusEach day started by reviewing our previous work, followed by an afternoon attempting to execute the council the staff offered. The following morning started with a fresh review on what we’d attempted the previous day. On the final day, two of the staff sat with each student and made suggestions about how we might move forward in a more focused manner. I was blessed by the wise offerings of George Olson and David Alan Harvey, who counseled me that a “general” nature photography path might not serve me as well as a specialty path. They liked the work I’d done with birds and suggested it could be a good choice. The advise resonated with me like a clear bell, and I’m grateful to them for putting me on my present path. You can read more about this event on my Bio Page.

It took me 14 years to return to the valley. It was in May of 2015, during my big Intermountain West expedition, when my good pal Rick invited me to stay with him at his sister’s cabin a few miles north of town. I’d already been on the road for two weeks when Rick left Poway and drove solo to Jackson. We spent a little over a week enjoying our stay. My friend loves exploring art galleries and museums as much as I do chasing birds and other subjects in nature. So while I spent my days exploring the valley, Rick snooped through Jackson looking for treasure of a different kind.

I’m certain my exploration of the region didn’t uncover all the best places to find its birds and wildlife, but two places I liked a lot were the Visitor Center at the north end of town, and an up-slope woods off the Moose-Wilson Road.

Much of the bottom land in the Jackson Valley is marshy, and the Jackson Visitor Center is at the edge of one such marsh. Here waterfowl and other birds thrive. Spring in Jackson is a productive time for meeting baby Canada Geese. Along many nearby water-ways, new families wandered in their little packs. The grass parkland at the visitor center was one such place. But watch your step, or you’ll be tracking organic fertilizer back to your car.

The other location I found enjoyable here was north-east of town along a spur road running west from the Moose-Wilson Road. I read it was possible to find Black-Backed Woodpeckers near Whitegrass Ranch Road, and went there to explore the possibilities. These birds seek burned or beetle killed stands of trees, I failed to locate the Black-Backs, but I was pleased to find American Three-Toed Woodpeckers and Williamson’s Sapsuckers there. Meetings with Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and Townsend’s Solitaires made the trips here especially rewarding.

The gallery below captures some of my favorite moments here.

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