Finally, after a most unpleasant spring, the 2020 Float Season is here! Our crew has spent the last several weeks working on our boats, trailers, and vehicles to make sure everything is ship-shape and ready for action, and scouting the best routes down the Snake River. And at last, Grand Teton National Park is open and the time for action has arrived! An unexpected bonus of the season’s low visitor numbers is that the valley is much quieter – so bird and animal sightings are up.
The Covid-19 closures have felt like banishments. We haven’t been able to do all the things we like to do when we like to do them. I work as an educator during the winter, and haven’t seen my students for eight weeks – and the online classroom is a poor substitute for human contact.
But there were some unexpected silver linings.
In our rural community, we can play outside and socially distance fairly easily. So, we go on hikes and bike rides, and occasionally encounter like-minded folks with whom to lament our shared experience. And sometimes, we get to see things that might not exist in other, more “normal,” circumstances.
On the trails near my house, I discovered that some local children had logged out of their online learning portals and burst outdoors in a frenzy of old-school play. The whimsical structure they created is an example of what I fondly remember as “playing stick.” Definitely a win for the kids to experience this rewarding, analog activity.
And all around me, a riot of birdsong. It took a few journeys into the hills to realize that, in the absence of air traffic, everything sounded different. On one afternoon hike, I passed a couple of large pine trees that were making the most melodious racket. I stopped, watched, listened, and discovered a flock of Evening Grosbeaks that were competing for nesting space and mating privileges. My wife and I stood in wonder, enjoying their symphony.
Amid the hardship and sadness created by the Covid 19 pandemic, there are still moments of beauty to be found in the outdoors. So if you get a chance to make it to Grand Teton National Park this year, you will definitely find it beautiful, but perhaps in a different or unexpected way.