July brings the heat of summer, endless meadows of blooming flowers, and hazy skies from Western fires. Anglers fish the Snake River. Wildlife are most visible at dawn and dusk as afternoon temperatures reach the high eighties. Life pulses in our valley with playtime in the mountains, cocktails on the deck, evening music, the annual fair, summer markets, and peak visitation to the parks. With so many options and sunny days, the month of July is idyllic.
Peak flower bloom occurs in July. It’s the month that you can find blossoms at all elevations. Berries mature in the valley, and alpine blossoms shine in the morning light at 10,000 feet. It’s the time when flowers can be found in every nook and cranny and every phase of growth. Mother Nature creates the best meadows with a mix of color and variety. You get caught in the beauty as the miles slip away. With over 1,000 species of flowering plants, you stop in awe and just gaze at the mosaic of color.
Sadly, three moose have been killed on Highway 390/Teton Village Road during this past month. You might see the memorial as you turn onto the village road from Highway 22. Both a cow moose and calf were killed in the fading light. It is hard to see animals as the sun sets. A few days ago, a separate female moose charged into the roadway. Something must have spooked her, and the driver didn’t have a chance to avoid the collision. An overpass is planned for this part of the roadway. It’s an ongoing problem and always so hard when life is lost. Moose populations continue to decline so road accidents are a variable that tip the scale to the negative.
As the month began, smoke from Western fires brought the summer haze to the valley. Fire is important in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since low humidity and the dry climate won’t decompose or break down fallen timber. Fire is needed to rejuvenate the forest. I recently walked in a burned area. The fire occurred during the summer of 2016 and now the forest is thriving! The hollyhock, the asters, the fireweed, and the Evert’s thistle are so abundant that you can’t even count the number of blossoms. You can see the health within this forest and the positive effects of fire and the nutrients left by the burn.
That said, wildfires are a different issue, and the heat and dryness of the West needs to be acknowledged and decisions made to accept climate change and the new behavior of fire. No big fires are close to Jackson Hole, but fire danger has increased to high in Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Last weekend we had to put out a neglected campfire. Sadly, many fires are caused by negligence. We put the fire out and left a note. Hope they are more careful in the future.
Acknowledgment means we have to begin to make changes to protect the Earth and all species. It’s a sad day when you have to bring in water and food to thousands of dying wild horses as described in this article — Severe drought currently threatens wild horses in the West
As humans and intelligent beings, our decisions affect so many. I wish that we could be mindful of the Earth and all inhabitants. I hope the horses survive. Losing species will affect us all in ways that we can’t imagine. As Chief Seattle said in 1854- “This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
7/3 — haze in valley due to area fires
7/6 Fall Creek Road — newborn moose calf and healthy looking cow, deer fawn and doe
7/7 Snake River — American white pelican, osprey, numerous ducks: chicks and adults
7/11 Coal Creek — cow parsnip, sunflower, lupine, columbine, elderberry, gentian, sorrel, Indian paintbrush, parrot’s beak lousewort, monkey flower, penstemon
7/14 Fred’s Mountain — sticky geranium, osha, lupine, hellebore, penstemon, red tail hawk, black bear
7/15 Highway 22/Teton Pass — young female mule deer, young bull moose with velvet on its antlers
7/16- Flat Creek — belted kingfisher
7/16 — hard rain in town for over an hour
7/17 — hard rain early then bluebird day
7/21 Glory Bowl — penstemon, sunflower, osha, lupine, delphinium, whitebark pine cones, clark’s nutcracker, Indian Paintbrush, scarlet gilia, day overcast and cool
7/22 Jackson Lake — white pelicans
7/23 South of town — trumpeter swans and cygnets, young swans
7/25 smoky valley
7/28 Shoal Falls/Swift Creek — (burned area in 2016) holly hock, aster, Indian Paintbrush, bedstraw, Evert’s thistle, sunflower, scarlet gilia, fireweed, Oregon-grape, bistort, spirea, berries: grouse whortleberry and huckleberry, woodpeckers
7/29 Togwotee — Indian Paintbrush, elephant head, penstemon, lupine, pedicularis, mountain dandelion, bistort
Anywhere outside will share beautiful flowers. You really can’t go wrong at any location this time of year. It’s rather fun to have so many options for activity. I really enjoyed hiking near Swift Creek/Shoal Falls down near Granite Hot Springs. It’s a burned area that is thriving with new life. The flowers are more abundant than ever. Endless fields of blossoms. Nutritional byproducts of fire, nitrogen, and phosphorous make meadows thrive.
To reach the trailhead, you drive south out of town, continue on 191/189 toward Pinedale. You will see the left turn about 11 miles down the Hoback Canyon. Turn onto the gravel road and drive about 8 miles to the bridge over Granite Creek. Park at the trailhead near Swift Creek. You walk up the creek and bear left to head in a southeast direction. You can walk a bit over five miles to reach an overlook of Shoal Falls or just a few miles up the trail to see the highline of the Gros Ventre Mountain Range and the beautiful flowers. Have fun and be prepared.