December has been quite a month with big snow storms and then warms enough to rain. The month ended with an arctic front; low of minus 25 and a high of 2 degrees. Over 175 inches of snow has fallen at 9000 feet. Accumulation is half of average for the year. Winter just started so looks like a great season to come.
The solstice was December 21 and a very short day at a latitude of 43 degrees north. More daylight will now reach the northern hemisphere but change comes slowly to our valley. The hours of darkness will dominate the month of January but we innately know that more light returns each day.
The arctic air and frigid temperatures makes me contemplate winter adaptations and the awareness of gratitude to have heat and home. Cold days can be more bearable in such a dry climate. No humidity means low moisture so the feel of bitterness isn’t in the air. We don’t experience the cutting coldness, the bitterness of weather found in the midwest and southern states. Snowshoeing is a great activity since we keep ourselves moving.
What about the animals and the birds that live outdoors in our small valley? Powdery snow is an amazing insulator. Lots of oxygen found in light snow allows it to insulate quite well. It works like a down coat, a coat of feathers and oxygen.
All animals bed down in the snow. The small weasels sleep in the snow. They burrow to a depth to stay at constant temperature so they don’t shiver. As we tour along, we see moose beds where they nestled for warmth. Down logs offer protection when enveloped by snow. Once we have 6-8 inches of snow on the ground, the ground remains around freezing so 30-32 degrees.
Ambient air temperature may plummet but the ground remains insulated. The blanket of snow gives the animals warmth. Animals wintering in Jackson adapt to live in this snowy, cold environment or they don’t survive.
The year ends with Wyoming Game and Fish reporting an increase in population size for both Mule Deer and Pronghorn. This increase is equated to our wet summer and more grasses. The department is projecting that 2015 might delist the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act and more wolf management is required in the state as the battle continues.
Here’s to a peaceful and joyous New Year. Align with nature, breathe and feel the rejuvenation of your spirit. Happy New Year!
What’s in the woods
12/4- rain in valley, snow in mountains
12/6- Snake River- cow moose walking on gravel bar
12/7-bald eagle in osprey nest along Highway 22
12/7- sunny and warm
12/8- seven trumpeter swans flying over East Gros Ventre butte
12/11-Flat Creek- male and female mallards, muskrat, magpies, chickadee
12/18- wolf tracks in Grand Teton Park
12/20- young bull moose in town
12/21- solstice!, winter storm
12/23- fish creek, Wilson- belted kingfisher
12/24- grand Teton- mule deer near gros ventre river
12/27- Teton Pines- two moose
12/29-frigid, cold front- below zero
12/30- bluebird day- 13 below with a high of 2 degrees
12/31- gros ventre river- three moose, bald eagle
Willow Creek south of Jackson is a great place to tour. Its dog friendly and you can easily snowshoe or cross-country. You drive 4 miles south of Hoback and turn right at the big moose statue. You drive about a mile to summer trailhead on a snow packed road. You can just tour up the road or make it more of a challenge by going in the woods. It’s usually quite peaceful. You can tour as far as you want. Have fun and be safe.