The month of December begins with white peaks and a brown valley. The warm temperatures in November melted the valley snowpack so the month starts with biking and hiking at 6400 feet. By the third week, the Solstice brought winter back to Jackson Hole and over a foot of snow fell in the mountains and the valley landscape changed.
Due to the low snow pack, elk are active and moving. Outside the town of Jackson, the National Elk Refuge is a lonely stretch of land as the elk forage elsewhere. Herds have been seen in Wilson, along the Teton Village Road, near the Snake River and north in Grand Teton Park. After the deep snow of last winter, I imagine they fill their bellies with the memory of what might come: deep snow, cold temperatures and cutting wind.
December is the Jackson Hole Christmas Bird Count and occurred on December 16, 2017. It is a citizen science project. Local residents visit various habitats to document all winged specimens that are seen. This year 60 people joined the count. The mild start to winter offered great sightings as people documented the different species and the number of birds. The results are shared with Audubon and occurs throughout the US so check your local community to participate. The count began in 1901 and fuels important science and conservation work.
Two of my winter favorites are Trumpeter Swans and Rough-legged Hawks. Both of these species fly south to Jackson to winter. The hawks arrive from the Arctic and the swans from Canada. Watching the swans soar over town is a thrilling part of this season. This December, the elusive Eastern Blue Jay visits my feeders but not on December 16. I imagine that one was counted in the valley and included in the Christmas Bird Count.
As the light returns to the northern hemisphere, all creatures align. The Solstice occurred on December 21, 2017. May we take this energy of light to be better stewards for the environment. May we see our imprint on the earth and speak for all creatures, great and small. May we fill our hearts with compassion. From a place of wisdom, may we see how we get caught and learn to stay aware and balanced. May all beings be peaceful and free. This is my wish for 2018. #naturefirst
Compassion led the charge to rescue a herd of cow elk that fell through the ice on the Palisades Reservoir. Females with calves were crossing the ice when they broke through into the frigid water. Local residents saw the struggling elk and ran to help with whatever they could find. Working with shovels, tow straps, and rope, volunteers pulled them out. All 15 elk were saved. Yeah! Check out the complete article: https://buckrail.com/drowning-elk-saved-passersby/.
January starts clear and cold. Winter has begun. Old Man Winter will breathe his frigid breath and our valley will be held tight within his grasp for the next couple of months.
What’s in the woods
12/3- winter storm
12/4- birdfeeder- eastern blue jay!, clark’s nutcracker, house sparrow, red-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee
12/7- trumpeter swans on flat creek- elk refuge
12/7- three bull elk along refuge fence
12/10- Trumpeter swan flying over Wilson, WY
12/20- Fall Creek Road- herd of cow elk- about 100
12/22- Teton Village Road- mature bald eagle
12/23- winter storm dumps over a foot of snow in the mountains
12/23- Taggert Lake- mature bald eagle flies over group
12/26- Highway 22- herd of elk
12/28- Teton Village Road- red tail hawk, rough-legged hawk, immature eagle
12/30- 40 degrees in the valley
This weekend, on January 7, is the free Nordic day at Turpin Meadows. Come try some new gear, ride a fat bike and enjoy Turpin Meadows. Check it out: http://blog.jhnordic.com/. It’s the second annual and lots of fun. Also, JH Nordic is a great resource for local cross-country ski conditions, tour options and much more!
With a slow start to winter in the Jackson Hole valley, Teton Canyon in Alta, Wyoming is a great option. As we wait for the valley to turn white, you might want to drive over Teton Pass to Alta, Wyoming to ski the 13K in Teton Canyon. It’s a wonderful ski! Check out conditions and grooming schedule- at the Teton Valley Trails and Pathways web site. https://tvtap.org/nordic-grooming/ Photo of the waterfall was taken at the end of the groomed trail in Teton Canyon. If you continue to tour into the canyon, you will come to this view within a few hundred feet. There is usually a skier trail so just follow and look to your left or north. Have fun!