July has been spectacular! It started with 90 degree temperatures and everyone fretted about the heat of summer then the weather pattern changed. The month has been dominated by afternoon showers and perfect temperatures with warm days and cool nights. Truly paradise!
Ideal conditions make flowers thrive! Meadows overflow with brilliance. The mosaic of color amazes me. Mother Nature mixes the purple of larkspur with the white of osha and fiery red of paintbrush. You stop in awe and just look. Cool and wet conditions have kept the bugs tolerable. It’s a great year so get out and play!!
Our local paper, Planet Jackson Hole, wrote a great article about Grizzly Bears in early July. Renowned bear expert, Dr. David Mattson, came to town to speak about the great bear. His studies have found their diets are changing and they came to North America over 50,000 years ago! They travelled an ice bridge and the melting glaciers trapped them. In the early 1800’s, grizzlies were abundant in the western US.
He describes the Yellowstone grizzly as a unique bear due to its’ diet. Historically, they fed on nuts, trout and cut worm moths but recent studies show a predominately meat diet. Dr David Mattson states: “The first point to be made about the diet of Yellowstone grizzly is it is altogether unique for any grizzly in the world. In the past, say the mid-70s to early-2000s, grizzlies got a vast majority of their protein from white bark pine, elk and cutthroat trout. Moths came into their diet in the mid-80s. But since the early-2000s, virtually all cone-producing white bark pine have been eliminated by beetle. Cutthroat trout have been decimated by changing stream flows, rising temperatures and illegally-introduced lake trout.”
With fewer nuts and trout, bears eat more meat to get needed protein. They lose 40% of body fat during winter hibernation so spend the summer months busy feeding. Hard to say if that will work with Wyoming ranchers; bears don’t distinguish their food source. Hopefully, balance will continue to be reached so bears can roam to fulfill their needs and live with people and livestock.
With slow reproduction success, delisting the bear from the Endangered Species Act could be a travesty. It’s an issue that deserves attention. Grizzly bears are an indicator species so their survival directly relates to the health of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Protecting the great bear will benefit us all.
Enjoy peak summer. Great time to hike, play in the water, listen to music and relish in the beauty of the Tetons!
What’s in the woods
7/4- snake river- osprey, bald eagle, red tail hawk
7/5- old pass road- holly hock, cow parsnip, sunflower, lupine, larkspur, monkshood, rainy and cool
7/11- south leigh canyon- osha, geranium, groundsel, gentian, parrot’s beak, scarlet gilia
7/14- bull moose and bald eagle on Teton Village Road
7/16- highway 22- ermine crosses road
7/20-elk refuge- immature and mature bald eagle
7/28- munger- female blue grouse with chicks, family of harriers
Around 9500 feet the flowers are still amazing and berries are maturing lower in elevation. Any hike is perfect at this time of the year. One of my favorite canyons is Cascade in Grand Teton Park. Most visitors go to Hidden Falls, but don’t take the time to walk further up the canyon. Once you reach Inspiration Point, most of your climbing is finished for the next couple of miles. It is a beautiful canyon with shade and lots of water. You really can walk at far as you want it is so pretty, but either the forks of the canyon or Lake Solitude are great destinations. Huckleberry bushes lure you up the trail.
A great place to explore near the town of Wilson is Ski Lake. You drive part way up Teton Pass and you will see the trailhead on your right. You can park here and walk to the lake (five miles round trip and about 1000 feet elevation gain) or this is the start of the Teton Crest Trail so you can also hike west to Coal Creek or north to Teton Village. These are both long hikes so be prepared and don’t forget your bear spray. Have fun!