Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Teton Sunshine

The sun finally came out over the weekend, and temperatures climbed above freezing around Driggs and Jackson. So, Joanne and I decided to take advantage and go ride our bikes through Grand Teton National Park. It's the perfect window of opportunity, because the park roads are plowed but it's not yet open to motorized traffic.

There were several hundred others like us out there on Sunday - many with kids and dogs - walking, rollerblading, riding bikes and enjoying a perfect spring day in the glow of the Tetons. Smiles were ubiquitous, scenery was phenomenal, and it was one of those rare days when life is literally perfect.

It's one thing to tour Teton Park in a car, like a couple million people do each year. It's quite another experience to tour it while pedaling a bike, especially without any traffic to worry about. The senses are infinitely more in tune with sights, sounds, smells, and gentle breezes, plus the speed is perfect to truly take it all in without getting bored. We covered 40 miles in all, and it could not have been any better. I can also safely say it'll be a while before all that snow melts.

Other regional recreation was coming to life with the weekend sunshine, too. Anglers were testing their lines on the South Fork of the Snake River, near Swan Valley, Idaho. One sight I never tire of seeing is a father fishing with his son. It just kind of boils all of life's chaos and complexity down to one simple moment, one simple act, and memories that last a lifetime for both.

The South Fork, as it is commonly called, begins at Palisades Dam and is a 64-mile long world-class Cutthroat Trout fishery. It comprises the largest continuous Cottonwood ecosystem in the state of Idaho, and is a mellow-looking river that packs a deceptively strong current. It really comes to life with driftboat fishing in June, as that allows access to the numerous gravel bars and roadless areas, as well as about 4,000 fish per mile. Osprey and Bald Eagles are also numerous. In all, it's a terrific scene and lends a great dimension to Eastern Idaho.

A couple of days later, we were back to this. The spring furniture doesn't know if it should stay or go. At least we had a weekend's worth of warmth and sunshine, and hopefully that will soon become the norm. Birds are waiting to sing, and horses need to be ridden.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Winter in April

I have to admire the tenacity of this year's winter, hanging on and refusing to go away, seemingly addicted to the spotlight now. After 13 years in Teton Valley, I have a theory (high pressure, low pressure, El Nino and La Nina be dammed): there's a point where weather in the mountains simply feeds off itself.

If a winter is low on snow into January, the weather just never picks up the energy it needs to produce significant snowfall. Conversely, in years like this one, once a few good storms roll in during December and January it just builds and builds. Next thing you know it's nearly the middle of April, you're still driving in blizzards, and you still have three-feet of snow in your yard. Enough!

It's been a long winter for humans, and even longer for wildlife. On outings the past few weeks, I've seen more deer and elk carcasses than I care to remember. Most appear to have been dragged down by wolves and coyotes, frankly, but others have just succumbed to time and the elements. We're all ready for spring.

Another negative consequence to such an intense, long winter is the delayed planting of crops by local Teton Valley farmers. The growing season around here is dangerously short, even in normal years. Last year at this time, fields were all melted off and planting had begun. This year, we're still several weeks away from that, at best. If winter comes early next fall (no!), it will be a lost farming season.

When all else fails, just get out there and do something. We took Bridger on a good snow bike ride last Sunday, and the weather was almost nice at times. Oh yeah...Dad: Happy 70th!!