August has been a cool month with haze from western fires. The high temperature on August 5 was only 61 degrees. Temperatures have been perfect with a few rainy days. Some storms arrived with strong winds and rain. As the month draws to a close locals report the “feel” of fall in the air as days shorten and temperatures cool.
Flowers continue but month dominated by berries. Fireweed, a member of the evening-primrose family, dots the hillsides. It’s a late summer plant and is one of the first species to bloom after fire.
Berries hang heavy on the branch bringing bears to forage on the Moose-Wilson road. Hawthorn berries are a favorite. Thimbleberry and serviceberry are also both abundant. I haven’t seen many ripe raspberries or huckleberries. We have had a wet season and plants like optimal conditions. It’s probably been too wet for some species.
You can’t beat a drive down the Moose-Wilson Road at this time of year. It’s directly north of Teton Village, Highway 390. One trip down the road shared three bears, two moose and elk. Make sure to stay away from the animals or the road will be closed for human safety.
You can easily see the effects of too much water if you look at the Cottonwood trees along the Snake River. Local tree expert, Ben Reed, says they are basically waterlogged and can’t evaporate all the water they have received. This is why the leaves are turning brown. It’s just too much moisture for the tree.
The hot topic seems to be haze and the lack of clear views. Fortunately, the end of the month and a bit of rain cleared the skies so our iconic views have returned. The thick smoky haze reminded me of 1988 when over 800,000 acres burned in Yellowstone.
Not seeing the mountains is disappointing, but the devastation of 1.5 million acres burning in the West is HUGE. Each summer our government spends over 1.5 billion dollars fighting fires. The fact that Olympic National Park, a rain forest, is burning in Washington clearly speaks volumes to me. We must acknowledge climate change as a nation and the world and start steps to change our habits. Our livelihood depends on it.
Fortunately, we have had a wet summer. This is good news because the government fire resources are so tapped that a new fire in the West would be really hard to fight with limited personnel. Most of our local firefighters are elsewhere lending a hand.
Mating season is right around the corner for most of the large animals. It’s time for wildlife viewing and listening to the elk bugle. Fall colors lure us up the trail. Ski passes have been bought. What fun!
What’s in the woods
8/6- Granite Creek- female mule deer and two fawns, cow moose
8/13-phillips pass- mint, fireweed, lupine, four moose
8/14- old pass road- thimbleberries, monkshood
8/15- Stewarts Draw- bluebell, aster, monkey flower, clark’s nutcrackers, bear scat, grouse whortleberries
8/17-Wilson, WY- cow moose
8/19- Fall Creek Road- immature eagle, turkey vulture, coyote
8/20- valley extremely smoky due to western fires
8/21- moose-wilson road- black bears feeding on berry bushes, bull moose
8/22- valley continues to be smoky
8/26- day of rain, clears out smoke
8/27- coal creek- ripe serviceberry, gooseberry and thimbleberry, valley foggy in AM
8/29- Wilson, WY- pair of sandhill cranes soaring, mature and immature bald eagle
A challenging hike is up Glory Bowl and down to Ski Lake. This trip does require some route finding skill so do your research. You have to shuttle a car but you can’t beat the climb up Glory with the rewarding views on top. You leave a car at the Ski Lake trailhead on Highway 22 then drive to the top of Teton Pass. Start climbing the 1600 feet up Glory. Once on top, you hike out the ridge until you drop into Horseshoe Bowl to Ski Lake. Total distance is about 5.5 miles. For an easier option, try Ski Lake or Phillips Pass. Hiking is awesome right now with cool temperatures, start of fall colors and no bugs! Have fun and take bear spray.