May. The spring of 2011 will remain in the record books. Over 12 feet of snow covers the mountains and additional accumulation is predicted. Water content is 185% of average and spring temperatures will determine the potential for floods. We have received over 700 inches of snow this season.
The avalanche hazard and weather forecast has been reinstated. Wet snow avalanches are probable as temperatures warm and risk increases. Forecast can be found at www.jhavalanche.org. Warming temperatures throughout the day will greatly increase avalanche potential so backcountry users should be cautious.
The month has been mainly cool with continual moisture. The cool temperatures delayed spring plant growth so many animals are still close to town. Migration has begun and cool, wintry weather will determine the distance the animals travel. A small herd of cow elk were still on the National Elk Refuge in mid-May. At this time of the season, animals look a bit rough as they begin to shed their winter coat.
Spring blooms can be found and a bit of sun will make them burst forth in all their glory. Josies Ridge on Snow King has meadows of Pasque flower. It is a showy spring bloom with purple leaves and yellow stamens. South facing slopes are a great place to look for new blossoms.
Aspens have started to produce leaves and cottonwoods will soon follow. The valley has taken on the green hue of summer.
The recent land slide in the Snake River Canyon quickly reminded us of the last big winter, 1996-97, and the Dog Creek slide which closed the road for six weeks. The new slide, the Double Draw slide, has deposited 35,000 cubic yards of debris on the highway. A higher creek feeds water into the slide path so sediment continues to sluff and slide. Fortunately, highway 26/89 is now open. This highway gives access to whitewater rafting, the commute to work for those who live in Alpine,Wyoming, and our main highway for larger trucks.
Numerous slides are being monitored in the area and various forest service roads and campgrounds are closed. If you are planning to visit this spring, I would check for updates. Warmer temperatures are predicted mid-week so we will now turn our attention to the potential of flooding as the snow pack begins to melt.
Parks are open but the snow depth is making access a challenge. We must be bear aware since park staff has been unable to get on many trails to check for bear activity. Bears will feed on winter kill carcasses, and they are very protective of their food source. Losing 40% of body fat during winter sleep would make anyone cranky.
All this moisture will make for a great hiking season and the flowers will be amazing! It’s a great year to consider a visit.