Heat and haze dominate the start of August. Temperatures this month were hot, rain was minimal and the lack of moisture has left a crispy landscape. Fire danger changed to extreme. Winds brought smoke and haze from northern California making the month predominately smoky.
As I have mentioned before, fire is extremely important in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since it rejuvenates the forest. However, wildfires burn hot and uncontrollable and the extreme heat of wildfires reaches deep in the soil killing all seeds and vegetation. This type of fire leaves a black charred landscape taking quite some time for life to reestablish.
Our valley is sparsely populated due to the protected land. Most fires in our area burn forest and do not threaten homes. It’s hard to watch so many suffer. Big fires last October in California, and this year they started earlier. The new norm? I hope not. We affect the landscape, and fire is a part of nature. As we change the landscape, the behavior of fire changes. The web of life is so intricate. Fortunately, the month ends with cooler temperatures and the first dusting of snow in the mountains.
“Shoot ’em with a Camera” has gained momentum in Jackson Hole. It’s a new group formed by four local women. The goal is to apply and receive Grizzly hunt tags. If chosen, the time will be spent to photograph and not hunt the majestic bears. Local photographer, Tom Mangelson, drew a hunt tag. He’ll have the opportunity to hunt for 10 days. Only one hunter hunts at a time. The current population of Grizzlies has not been hunted in their lifetime. What will change for the great bear? Is it in our best interest to hunt the iconic symbol of Yellowstone and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?
Current Grizzly population is around 700 bears. So far this year, 33 Grizzlies have been killed or found dead. It’s a high mortality year, and the hunting season has yet to begin. A few years ago, I was fortunate to see female 399 and her cubs; their beauty filled us with joy and awe. Here is a link if you want to support their cause — www.shootemwithacamera.com.
August is berry month so tasty treats can be found everywhere. Bears love the Black Hawthorn berries and have closed the iconic Moose-Wilson Road throughout this month. I have enjoyed tasty huckleberry, thimbleberry, serviceberry, chokecherry, gooseberry, and raspberry. Always a small taste to save most berries for wildlife and birds. It is fun to enjoy the bounty of the earth. Do make sure that you properly identify any plant before you eat it.
Yampa grows in abundance in August and would have been collected in great quantity by Native Americans. It’s not a vibrant blossom but a great root with a potato-like taste. Flowers are diminishing, but the landscape starts to dance with the hues of Fall.
Days shorten and the month ends with a crispness in the air. The first snow falls on the Teton Peaks on August 22. Visitation slows as school begins. The valley transitions to the slower pace of Fall with the Fall Arts Festival, perfect outdoor temperatures and the soft light of change.
8/11 Hot and hazy, Glory Bowl — still some good flowers up high: osha, lupine, paintbrush, delphinium
8/12 Highway 22 — bald eagle, osprey, trumpeter swans, smoky haze
8/16 Mail Cabin — cow and calf moose, Indian Paintbrush, monkey flower, sunflower
8/19 Highway 22 — bald eagle on power pole
8/19 Sheep Creek — most flowers gone, grouse whortleberry, honeysuckle, very smoky
8/22 — rain! Nice break from heat, smoke and dust
8/22 — first snow on the Tetons!
8/26 Darby Canyon — ripe thimbleberries, asters, red tail hawk, clark’s nutcracker
8/27 — rainy
If the smoky haze continues, consider a hike near water or in a more protected canyon. Mail Cabin is nice on the west side of Teton Pass and great moose habitat. Darby Canyon is a great fall hike and the trail is less crowded. You can hike towards the wind caves and enjoy this beautiful forest. Grand Teton and Yellowstone will slow down so park trails are always fun. The high country is still accessible so maybe a bigger excursion to Amphitheater Lake or Holly Lake. Fall is a great time to recreate! The perfect daytime temperatures fill you with energy. Enjoy and be safe. Hunting season begins in September so remember to wear orange on forest trails.