June brought sunny days, dry trails, blooming flowers, young birds and much more. Nature seems to dance in June. Dance in all Her glory. When you are fortunate to visit the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem at this time of year, you witness the thrill of life.
The flowers can’t seem to bloom fast enough. Once the snow melts, buttercup, spring beauty and yellowbell lily emerge. When you see these blossoms, you can look closely for less common favorites such as steershead, orogenia, clematis, and calypso orchid. As temperatures warm and the soil dries, the mosaic of blossoms truly begins and trails highlight certain species. Granted light, moisture and soil determine where plants bloom so certain flowers showcase in certain spots. They stand there saying “Look at me in all my glory! This is my strip of trail and I am here!”
You see new plants at each turn. The balsamroot corner leads way to the flax corner, to the scarlet gilia corner, to the silky phacelia and the pallet of nature dances with purple, yellow, and red. She dots in some white with valerian root, lilies, and yarrow. The pallet sways in the wind and find yourself smiling at the beauty. You then look for some of the unique ones, the ones that are rarer, more hidden like the leopard lily and the striped and spotted coral root.
I take my older dog, my dear friend Shelby, on a walk to water and see the clasp-leaf twisted lily! As I look around the stream bed, I see brook saxifrage, nettle, cow parsnip and the start of monkey flower. Each adventure shares blossoms so all you have to do is get out and hike.
With over 1000 species of flowers in the montane zone, there is lots to see. The montane zone is easiest described as mountainous regions or biogeographic zone of moist, cool upland slope below timberline and dominated by coniferous forests and Aspens. In Jackson Hole, it is the zone where you leave the valley, the sage flat and riparian areas, and climb up the mountain to the sub-alpine zone, about 8500 feet.
Granted beautiful flowers mean beautiful bugs. After guiding for 27 years in this area, one gets used to the beloved flying creatures. They do get bad at times which is a good time to practice awareness. Everything has a role in the natural world so beautiful bugs help create beautiful flowers. It is also a good time to wear long pants and long sleeves. Today is rainy so all the blessed blooms are getting watered. Bloom time is directly affected by heat, moisture and wind.
Summer began on June 20. Since Jackson is 43 degrees north in latitude, the solstice means long days of light. We have about 15 hours of light at that time of the year. It is described as a climax in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since everything is growing and maturing. Young eagles spread their wings in the nest as they await the next fish. Young magpies are lured out of the nest to practice the art of flying. Since their tail feathers aren’t fully developed, they hop up trees as the adults squawk overhead. I even saw a young junco with a parent. You could clearly identify this young bird since I saw the streaks of white on the adult tail feathers and then a quick burst of white on the short tail of the juvenile. So precious!
This particular June 20 has sadness around it since that was the day that the famous grizzly, 399, lost her cub. This spring, she emerged from the den with one new cub. She is the iconic grizzly since she is a great mother, rears her young near populated areas in Grand Teton Park, and has successfully mothered 16 cubs. She is believed to be 20 which is old for a grizzly. This bear makes national news and sadly her cub was struck by a car on June 20. Any death to a young one is tragic so hopefully will be used as a tool for driver awareness and slower speeds.
Of her 16 cubs, more than half have died due to run-ins with humans or other bears. The great bear is getting delisted from the Endangered Species Act. Might be time to write your elected official to be heard in the West.
Enjoy the beauty of summer. It doesn’t last long around here. Happy hiking and go see the flowers!
What’s in the woods
6/3- Star Valley, WY- sandhill cranes and chicks, bald eagle, northern harrier, meadowlark, mountain bluebird, American white pelican
6/4 Bear River- king snake, garder snake, swallowtail butterflies
6/5- Snake River- serviceberry, osprey, white pelican, scarlet gilia, lupine, bluebird day
6/6- pollen thick in the air in the Jackson Hole valley
6/8- Flat Creek- flock of Cedar Waxwings
6/9- Jackson- young magpies learning to fly
6/11-Atherton Creek- weird sound/ probably mountain lion and cubs, lots of flowers- silky phacelia, flax, groundsel, bitterbrush, chokecherry, scarlet gilia, vetch, larkspur, geranium, bistort, valerian, evening primrose, leopard lily, pronghorn antelope, turkey vulture, red tail hawk
6/17- cotton in the air
6/18- Grizzly Lake- elderberry, stonecrop, penstemen, geranium, dandelions, lots of limber pine cones
6/19- old pass road- scarlet gilia, flax, geranium, striped coralroot, clasp leaf twisted stalk
6/20- start of summer- bluebird day
6/25-Munger- blooming roses
6/27- Mt Elly- sugarbush, penstemon, columbine, anemone, patches of snow
Flowers are amazing so just pick a trail and go. They will be best around 8000-9000 feet. Hiking the ridge walk on top of Teton Pass is a great excursion. You drive to the top of Teton Pass, Highway 22, and walk south out the ridge. You continue through mixed meadows and coniferous forests to the overlook of the Snake River Range and the descent to Black Canyon. The hike is 3.0 miles round trip and gains about 600 feet in elevation. The trail is a bit edgy so not ideal if you are afraid of hikes. Have fun and be prepared.