Jackson Hole, A Bittersweet Visit

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Oxbow Bend, Teton National Park

In the 90’s we lived in Salt Lake City and we would make the trek to Jackson Hole on a regular basis for camping.  We spent most of our time tent camping in the Gros Ventre area.  You can imagine the shock when we drove into Jackson Hole, 25 years later, and saw how much it had grown.  It didn’t feel like the little cowboy town whose streets I remember wandering all those years ago.  We never did make it back to the Gros Ventre area-the intersection where we would have turned was always backed up due to construction of a round-about .  It’s probably best we didn’t drive back there, I like to remember the area with the horses running through the fields of the ranches; the antelope splashing through the creek at midnight while we tried to sleep; and all the hikes we made with our dogs.

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Oxbow Bend, Teton National Park
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Our view at Granite Creek

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The first stop we made, even before we explored Jackson Hole, was Granite Creek.  We knew there was a National Forest Campground there, but we also knew that there was plenty of dispersed camping along the creek and it’s bluffs.  It’s a beautiful area, the road a little narrow in spots, and a little wash board in others, but totally drivable without 4×4.  I wouldn’t try to maneuver a Class A, although we saw several hunters hauling large horse trailers heading up to higher elevations.

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We found a site that several vehicles in front of us drove right by.  We couldn’t believe our luck, it was on a bluff overlooking the creek and had a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains.  We set up camp and settled in for what we hoped would be a 14 day stay.

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We enjoyed four days of blue skies and sunshine.

And then we spotted the smoke . We knew as soon as we saw the clouds that a forest fire was blazing somewhere over the ridge from us.  We just didn’t know how far away it was from the ridge.  We went up the road a little and picked up wifi and discovered it was about 5-8 miles away .  For the past 4 days the winds had been pretty consistent so we decided not to chance it .  We packed up and headed towards Jackson. We later found out the fire had been caused by an abandoned warming fire-it destroyed 55 homes and 57,000+ acres. Folks please make sure you always drown your fire-don’t assume it will burn out on it’s own.

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We discovered Granite Falls, about 5 miles up the road from our campsite.  There are also Hot Springs about 3/4 mile beyond the water falls

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After taking a quick tour through Jackson Hole, refueling and re-stocking at Smith’s grocery store we headed out towards Upper Teton View dispersed camping.  Everything we read stated it was one of the best views of the Tetons.

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Definitely the best views of the Tetons !

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There is plenty of room for dispersed camping, and if you are lucky, like we were, you can snag one of the spots right on the bluff overlooking the Tetons.  We sat for hours just staring out at the beauty of Tetons.  And most nights the sunsets were spectacular, building up to a grand finale, like fireworks.

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We used the Upper Teton camping area as our base for exploring the Tetons. We wanted to camp at Jenny Lake, but it was outrageously jam packed, so we were especially grateful for the lack of crowds at the Upper Teton area.

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When we arrived at Oxbow Bend on this gorgeous morning there were about 15 cars and 2 huge tourist buses.  People were all over the pull outs and climbing down the hills to get close to the water.  I felt like a stealth ninja, trying to avoid the people in my shots and trying not to tip them off to my spot. Success, no people popping up from the bushes in front of me.

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The Fall colors were incredible.  And I was so happy to have the puffy clouds creating some pretty nice lighting.

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New friends-Mark from Miami along with little Ben and his mom and dad from Slovenia

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When we finally left Jackson and the Tetons we headed towards a dispersed camping area that lay between the Tetons and Yellowstone-Grassy Lake.  We drove the length of the road to Grassy Lake-a beautiful drive.  We ended up back at the campground we originally spotted before we drove out to the lake. Campground #1.  What happened at this campground changed our trip in a way we never imagined.

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Such a beautiful spot, it brings such sadness to me now, don’t think we could ever return
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Grassy Lake Campground #1
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Grassy Lake Campground #1

We were sitting around after dinner playing with Hailey.  We tossed her a stick, she caught it and then when we weren’t looking we heard her yelp. When we looked over she was limping back to us very slowly and basically collapsed at our feet.  We checked her paw and her leg and we could tell from her whimpering that something had happened-we thought maybe she hit one of the hidden boulders while catching the stick and either had a fracture or sprain.  From the way she was able to move we figured a sprain. So we used her doggie bed to lift her into the camper. The entire way back to Jackson she was doing this little jerky movement with her body-it was obvious the pain was worse.

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Sweet dreams my little sweet pea

We found Jackson Animal Hospital, they used a little doggie carrier and took her into the back for X-rays and an examination.  We started praying that it was just a sprain, but we were prepared for a broken bone. We never expected the Dr. Carleton, the vet, to come out and tell us she had bone cancer-advanced and very painful.  Dr. Carleton felt she had 3-4weeks to live.  We were in shock, absolute freaking shock.  It felt like a horrible nightmare.

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Her favorites, being in the water and chasing sticks

Dr. Carleton recommended we not put her through any further pain.  Taking her home would be extremely painful for her, even with medication. So we decided to have her put to sleep.  I still can’t write about it without crying my eyes out. When they gave us our time with her in the room, I don’t think I will ever forget the feel of her warm tongue licking my hand and fingers; her soft long ears that she loved having rubbed and that soft furry part under her neck that she loved having massaged. She was my little sweetie pie.  When Jim would go to bed at night, he would hear me talking to her about my day and her day.

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She knew when I was happy and she knew when I just needed her to sit quietly by and listen to me and let me hug her to pieces. I know everyone says it ,but she really was the best dog we ever had. She was smart and learned to cha cha with me to that silly tune “Every body loves to cha cha cha.  She learned how to do the roundie roundie-which meant going through my legs and circling each one . She loved everyone, especially little children.  When small children approached her she would immediately roll over on her back and let them rub her little belly-they all loved her and giggled and laughed when petting her-she loved them to pieces.

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Hailey traveled the country and loved every minute of it

When we left the vet’s office we immediately returned to Upper Teton View.  We spent two days locked inside our camper, crying and mourning our loss.  It’s been less than 2 months since we said goodbye to our little sweet-pea but it still feels raw, like it happened yesterday.

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Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born.

Mary Oliver

I’m sorry I ended this with a sad story.  The good that has come out of this – we adopted a rescue dog from Santa Fe Humane Society-KitKat Ballou, also known as KitKatmandu. We both sometimes slip up and call her Hailey.  But that doesn’t surprise me- I believe that Hailey led us to little KitKat.  She’s been part of our family since October 13th. We love her dearly.  She was definitely abused and mistreated in her previous life.  She’s getting used to being loved unconditionally and we are getting used to doggie training-more to come on our little KitKat.

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KitKat in Moab
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KitKat testing her limits !

Happy Trails my friends, Happy Tails to those of you with furry companions and safe travels…

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Every night the colors of the sunset over the Tetons surprised us

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16 thoughts on “Jackson Hole, A Bittersweet Visit

  1. Mary

    We had to put our camping buddy, Toby, down September 25th. Probably Mast Cell cancer. We will most likely be ready for a new rescue in the spring, but our hearts still need time to heal. (Plus, we have a 21-year-old cat who has “requested” she be an only child for the remaining weeks or days of her life.) I am so very sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thank you Mary. I’m so sorry for your loss too. We didn’t think we were ready for another doggie so soon after Hailey but neither of us could bear the thought of going home to an empty house-it was a very good decision for us. And KitKat took to camping-she loves it

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  2. John Agricola

    Sandy…I’ve been shedding tears as I’ve read about your losing Hailey. Those dear, precious years of unconditional love. I pray you have many years ahead of building that unbreakable bond of love with Kit Kat. Our little traveling companion Rider is across the room from me, laying on his back giving me an upside-down gaze. I know that, like you, we are giving him the very best life we can…full of love, and full of adventure.

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  3. So sorry for your loss. We lost our beloved Joey three days into our trip home from Alaska. He died Sept 4 in Fort St John BC. after a sudden illness. We traveled home alone with very heavy hearts. Barb and Doug Mercer.

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    1. Oh Barb & Doug, I’m so sorry, it’s such a feeling of helplessness. And to be away from home when something like this happens-it makes you feel adrift in a world of bewilderment-I have always believed that our furry family members understand us far more than we understand them-I’m certain that Joey knew how much he was loved.

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  4. Barb

    As the owners of three little rescue dogs, all acquired after our 16 yr old Max passed, we can totally relate. My sincere sadness for you. Even though we adjusted, there’s still a place in our hearts for Maxie. He loved camping & we are now planning a trip with our tribe of 3 so hope they will too. Good luck with Kit Kat & peace.

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