Daily Life of A Jackson Lake Lodge Wrangler

I wish I could say I’ve been better about posting but I’ve been too busy working and having fun so I don’t feel too guilty. As of tomorrow I will have officially lived in the Tetons for a month — I can’t believe how fast it has flown by.

As promised, I’ll chat a little bit about my daily schedule here at the corrals. I work about ten hours a day every day I work, which is five to six days a week. I definitely didn’t expect to work as much as I do but I enjoy my job immensely and it’s nice to bring in the money.

Our corral has two main fenced in areas, a catch pin, a chute and a pony pin. The back corral is where the horses stay all night. The front corral is where we tie them up during the day, unload guests and feed lunch. The catch pin is for holding horses after rides and in the morning. It is connected to the chute where we saddle, unsaddle and let guests feed treats.

A standard day starts at 5:45 when I’ll wake up, throw on my Western shirt, boot cut jeans, boots, belt and cowgirl hat. I’ve upgraded my outfit quite a bit since I’ve gotten here. At first I didn’t want to invest any money in work clothes but it’s actually fun to dress for the job appropriately.

I get to the corrals around 6:15 and grab coffee before herding the horses into a catch pin and chute. We have fourteen horses at the corral, and we saddle all fourteen in the chute at the beginning of the day. By the time we’ve saddled, fed and tied the herd it’s about 7:00 and we all head to breakfast. On an average day there are three wranglers working.

After breakfast we take out the first ride at 8:00. The horses are saddled all day but we put in their bridles and feed bags right before they go out. We also re-brush them, fly spray, paint hooves, etc. while we wait for the guests. While the 8:00 ride is out we clean the back corral and waters. Horses poop about once every four hours, so you can do the math for how dirty the back corral can be.

Once the 8:00 ride comes in we feed out hay and then go to lunch ourselves. Next up is the 11:45 and while that ride is gone we do most of the other chores like wipe down, sweeping, mopping, cleaning feed bunks etc. We also give pony rides on occasion if we have enough staff. By the time the 11:45 returns right about 2:00 we turn right around to get out our one hour ride of the day at 3:00. While that ride is out we feed out for dinner and finish any extra chores we can fit in — cleaning tack, raking the front corral, bathing horses. The best part of my day is always when we take the halters off the horses from the 3:00 ride and they race to the back corral to eat. It’s nice to see them really move even though they work hard during the day. After we make sure everything is locked up we almost always sit out for some beers.

I suppose that doesn’t sound as exhilarating as I might have hoped but when you have the Tetons in your view all day, there are few things better. Next week I’ll go into more detail about the actual trail rides we take out, what it means to be an interpretive guide and more!

The food continues to be mediocre here. One month of not cooking and I’m going out of my mind just a bit.

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Horses eating dinner in the back corral with Mt. Moran in the background

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Just some more nice shots of the Teets

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Moose spotting at the National Elk Refuge en route to Jackson

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Never enough pictures of this place… this one featuring The Grand, our tallest mountain at 13,770 feet

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The National Park Service and The Grand Tetons — Patchwork Partnership

I can’t believe how fast ten days have flown by here. To say I have been busy is a complete understatement — I wake up at 5:30 nearly every day to work ten to twelve hours at the corral, mostly doing manual labor (cleaning horse poop, feeding out hay, cleaning more poop). I’ve never been one to say no to a party but I’ve been finding myself doing that more and more often, preferring to fall asleep at 9:30 rather than do anything after work. I love that it’s the best fitness regime I’ve ever had and the fact that I’m getting paid to play with horses, but I do wish I had more energy to take advantage of the park.

IMG_0042 Living in a national park has been educational already. Since it’s federally regulated land, seemingly small crimes in other states, such as smoking marijuana, are still felonies here. NPS officers have jurisdiction over the Jackson Lake Lodge, which means they can patrol the employee village as they like. They also hold the lodge amenities to a certain set of rules, like that no one can have a TV in their room, or that we have to safeguard all our hay from foraging elk.

Undoubtedly, NPS has done a fantastic job preserving the park. From what I can understand, people who return to the Tetons see little change to the landscape, which is wonderful considering how stunning the views are. But the park itself has an interesting history compared to others. Originally the park consisted only of the Teton range and the lake at its base. Homesteaders owned the majority of the surrounding land, from Moran to Jackson. Many residents were opposed to its creation or expansion because it meant the government would just take away their property and enact new rules. So instead, John D. Rockefeller decided to take action. He set up the Snake River Land Trust and began buying up the properties surrounding the mountains. By the time he gifted it to the government he had accumulated over 300,000 acres of land to add to the park. At first, FDR, the president at the time, deemed it the Jackson Hole National Monument before that was dissolved and the land added to the park.

Each of these transitions were hotly contested by members of the community. After the creation of the Monument, cattle ranchers actually drove their stock across the land in protest. As part of the deal for turning the land into the park, the government grandfathered in some private properties as well as grazing areas. There are still two private grazing areas in the park, shared by domestic cattle and wild bison.

The history is much more complicated than this but I could go one for pages about the nitpicky details. Rather, it’s just interesting to reflect on how we can look at a beautiful place like the Tetons without considering the strife it created. NPS has continued to take contested actions in the park up to this day, such as reintroducing wolves in 1995. For obvious reasons, cattle ranchers were livid about this decision. Today, the park is considering vaccinating the wolves for Parvo, and the final decision has yet to be determined. Interestingly, many paths at Colter Bay, another GTLC property, have been closed due to new wolf dens. The cohabitation of tourists and wildlife continues to adapt all the time.

This post might seem a little dry, so next time I’ll talk about the corrals and all the fun horses I get to play with! Until then, bon appetit and safe travels (still trying to get over the fact that I won’t have the chance to cook for the next four months).IMG_0041