September began with sunny skies and warm days. Afternoon temperatures reached 60 to 70 degrees with chilly nights. By the third week, weather changed and snow accumulated in the high country. The month ended with snow on the mountain peaks and a hard frost in the valley. Fall has begun.
In Jackson Hole, you will find Cottonwoods along the river bottoms aglow with a golden hue and Aspen leaves shimmering a mix of yellow and orange on the hillsides. Choose your day’s activity based on the weather. Lots of great options, and if the weather is unsettled, it’s a great time to look for wildlife.
When leaves fall from the trees, we call the season Fall. Technically, Fall began on September 23, 2019 with the Autumnal Equinox — equal hours of day and night. Locally, the Aspen and Cottonwoods turn shades of yellow and many of the bushes turn red.
Our mosaic of color is magnificent but differs from the deciduous trees in the Eastern U.S. (we lack Sugar Maples here in Jackson Hole). In this valley, reds are not as common so Fall hues dance between yellow, orange, auburn, brown, rust with a mix of red. Berries offer an additional brightness to the forest and often a tasty treat (be sure to identify which ones are safe to ingest).
Fall also means mating season for most of the larger animals. Bull Elk bugle to attract females and stake territories. They gather harems of females. Moose vocalize with a guttural grunt and spend time with one or two females. Dawn and dusk offer the best time to look and listen.
All this wildlife activity makes Fall a great time of the year for a wildlife drive. The change in weather prompts wildlife migration to winter territories so be alert while driving as animals are on the move.
If you are a resident of Wyoming, Fall also means hunting. Hunting is managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and is permitted on private and public lands, excluding Yellowstone National Park, with the appropriate license. The land is numbered and split into hunt areas. Quota depends on the species, gender and current population. All species (excluding Grizzly Bears who are on the Endangered Species List) are hunted. Hunting is a primary way to control animal populations and promote healthy habitat density.
The first hunting season in Wyoming was established in 1882. Hunting has been a large revenue source for the state of Wyoming, attracting hunters from all over the world seeking Elk, Moose, Black Bear, Mountain Lion and Wolf.
“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”
― Robert Frost
The season of Fall gives us the opportunity to reflect on impermanence. Everything changes and the cycle of nature makes this apparent. The natural world stays present in each moment. None of us will last forever. We can learn from nature and reflect on change. Nature teaches us to find joy in this moment and help us soften our grip on this life.
What’s in the woods
9/1 – Snake River float from Pritchard to East Table: bluebird day, four Bald Eagles, Osprey, Raven, Merganser
9/2 – Taylor Mountain: Penstemon, Aster, Yarrow, Indian Paintbrush, red leaves on Fireweed
9/7 – Boulder Creek, Wind River Range: tasty Thimbleberry, Oregon Grape, Raspberry, Chokecherry, Mule Deer, Turkey Vultures, Clark’s Nutcracker, chipmunks
9/8 – weather changes, feels like Fall
9/11 – fresh snow in the Tetons
9/12 – South Leigh: female Harrier, Clark’s Nutrcracker, cold in the mountains with highs in the 40’s
9/13 – drive to Salt Lake, UT: Sandhill Cranes, two groups of American White Pelicans in formation flying south
9/15 – Mormon Row, Grand Teton Park- herd of bison near historical homes, bluebird day
9/18 – Wilson, WY- elk bugling
9/25 – Weather changes, snow in the mountains
9/26 – Moose Wilson Road- elk, moose, black bear
9/27 – Snake River Bridge, Wilson- herd of cow elk
9/29 – Wilson, WY- female moose, two calves and young bull. Young bull was frisky and female wanted nothing to do with it.
9/30 – fresh snow in the Tetons. Bear, deer and bull elk on Moose-Wilson Road.
Go play in the Aspens. The cold temperatures will halt the color change so get out soon! Some of my favorites would be the north side of Cache Creek/ Putt Putt Trail, Shadow Mountain in the Gros Ventre Range, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve in Grand Teton Park, and the Aspen Trail in the Tetons at the base of Darby Canyon. Remember it’s hunting season, so wearing orange is recommended. Bears will also be more active this time of year.
Enjoy this wonderful season! It’s a great time to play and also to relax with a good book as the weather continues to change.