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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Day 31: Cottonwood Creek off Jenny Lake (7/5/15)

Cottonwood Creek off Jenny Lake.

Today I was supposed to take a day off. It started with the oil light going off on the van. Thinking I needed to replace it immediately, I drove into Jackson Hole to find their auto store closed (Sunday). The road into Jackson is actually part of the park, or borders it. So I played tourist and stopped at every overlook on my way back to the main park. This is when some real magical learning took place in regards to my project. On Friday, I believe, I drove to the Cathedral Group, because the park ranger I spoke to at Colter Bay thought these mountains were the three Tetons in Moran's painting. So I knew I had to do some reevaluating and more ranger talking today to figure out where I was going with the rest of my time in the Tetons (hence, day off). So anyway, I get to this sign and it talks about French Canadian trappers calling the mountains "Les Trois Tetons," or "The Three Breasts." (They must have been lonely trappers...) The three are Grand, Middle, and South Tetons. So I thought huh, these are clearly the three Tetons in Moran's painting The Three Tetons, not the Cathedral group.

Several interpretive signs talks about the geology of the area...these mountains are actually the youngest in the Rocky Mountain range. Crazy! These can't be baby mountains! There is so much geological history here. I'm all about learning...but I can't seem to wrap my head around or visualize a glacier carving through a lanscape or the earths crust pushing up to form mountains. I think I'd have to watch a little Bill Nye to really grasp the magnitude of how these geological features were created.

One interpretive sign had a photo of Thomas Moran on it and I totally recognized him from a considerable distance. Proud nerd right here. The sign talked about how Mount Moran was named after him (and some other mountains were named after other people). There was a great quote by him about the Tetons: "the Tetons...loomed up grandly against the sky. From this point it is perhaps the finest pictorial range in the United States or ever." It happened again at another interpretive sign - it featured one of his paintings that I was open to in my Thomas Moran Bible. Moran used field sketches from his second trip to the area in 1879 and William Henry Jackson's photographs to create his large paintings of the Tetons.

Another cool learning moment was visiting the same spot Ansel Adams took a very famous photograph in 1942 of the Snake River and Tetons. He is part of the visual history of western parks and played an important role in establishing the Tetons as a national park. It didn't become a park until quite long after Yellowstone. John D Rockefeller Jr. bought up the land in the area and donated it all to the National Park Service. (What an incredible philanthropist!) So during all that or before the National Park Service hired Adams in 1941 to capture nature as exemplified by the national parks. I don't know much about photography or photographers, but Ansel Adams is definitely my favorite. The images of him standing on top of his car to get the perfect shot are just the coolest. I've been holding onto a fantastic Ansel Adams quote for a while and now is the perfect time to include it:

Contemplating the flow of life and of change through living things, each of them tied to a cloud, stone, and sunlight, we make new discoveries about ourselves. To record and interpret these qualities for others, to brighten the drab moods of cities, and build high horizons of the spirit on the edge of the plain and desert - these are some of the many obligations of art.

Ah, the ever growing and changing obligations of art! I love the visual imagery that comes to mind when he says "build[ing] high horizons of the spirit" - it makes artmaking sound magical.

After my tour of the Tetons I went to Jenny Lake and spoke with a knowledgable ranger and asked him my more specific questions. Like, are there any views with a lake or creek in front? Where can I see this mountain from farther away? Are there any hikes that get me a good view of x, y, z, etc. Also, at the interpretive sign dedicated to Moran, I learned that his Three Tetons were the eastern/Idaho side of the Tetons. The Ranger confirmed this and found another documentation of it in his history book. Which makes sense, if Moran and the expedition were coming from Yellowstone. So then I was committed to driving the two hours around the range to the other side of the mountain, knowing he really did see it from the other side. I don't believe he or Bierstadt ever saw/painted the eastern side of the mountain, which is a damn shame because it's so intensely beautiful.

It had been raining on and off all day, but when I was done at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center it had cleared up a bit. I decided to walk along a little path since I'd been sitting in my car most of the day. I saw a perfect view of the mountains, trees, and a creek that felt reminiscent of two vertical Moran paintings of the Tetons. So I stopped and painted a little 5x7inch piece and it felt so good! I can do a 5x7 in a little over an hour, so there's a bit more instant gratification than with the bigger paintings. I had to finish quickly because I could SEE the rain coming down the mountain towards me. I scrambled to pack up and sprint to my car, barely in time as it poured soon after my car door closed. Here's to hoping for some clearer weather as I take on the Tetons with my new and improved painting plan.

Wait, is that Thomas Moran on the far right??
Totally is! Mount Moran's namesake.
Low hanging clouds today.
Teton Glacier and Moraine
Middle Teton Glacier and black diabase dike.
I think the Three Tetons are in there somewhere...a Grand, Middle, and South Tetons.
What a NERD!
Chillin like a villain.
Same spot Ansel Adams took his very famous photograph of the Tetons and Snake River.
Ansel Adam's photograph and travel set-up. I don't know much about photographers in history...but he's my favorite.
Yours Truly in front of the Snake River and Tetons.
I have millions of mountain pictures I could post...
Rain in the Tetons.
Jenny Lake with more rain coming.
Cottonwood Creek off Jenny Lake.
Kind of approximates Thomas Moran's Solitude. But, I think this was actually done near a Lake Solitude.
Yes, more cloud pics.
Yes, more cloud pics.
Not sorry about it. Look how many shades of blue and gray!
Time to pack up and get the heck out of here!




  1. Dibs on the little 5x7!! It is so beautiful, and just the right size for me! Plus, I have been there 😀

  2. Beautiful blog, Emily! You paint your words and visa versa! When you write I can picture vividly what you are describing!
    Love, mom