Late last June, I embarked on a midday trip with some friends on our glorious Snake River. The river was flowing fast due to the ongoing effects of the late spring runoff. Jn just the first 4 miles of the trip, we had seen Bald Eagles, Mule Deer, Red-tail Hawks, Mergansers, Ravens, Geese, and some small birds that were too distant for me to identify. The pristine scenery of the river environs combined with stunning views of the Teton range to make yet another wonderful excursion. Our visitors on this day were “neighbors” from Wyoming and Idaho: local folks who all visit the Jackson Hole valley and Grand Teton National Park as frequently as they can. And whenever they’re near Moose, they book a float trip with us. For them, the river is a powerful source of life and shared experience. In short, a source of friendship. …continue reading Friendship on the River
I love the return of spring and its random patterns and awakenings. In spring, the days warm slightly – and then snow slightly – and then warm slightly, but despite the season’s see-sawing nature, we start to see the return of the flowers, insects, and animals that have been missing or were merely occupied with survival during the endless winter.
The last bit of snow left my yard just two days ago. But the worms were brave, and emerged earlier. I saw the first worms of spring two weeks back and just so you know, I had to rescue some from certain sidewalk death. Fortunately I had the assistance of a handful of 6th graders to help out. Funny how having an adult do something as “silly” as helping a worm makes it OK for kids to do it, too. Worms do have their uses, and their presence harkened the return of the first robins. …continue reading Random patterns
I just saw the last day of summer. I know what you’re thinking: it’s the Equinox – so didn’t we all just see it? That’s true, but if you work outdoors like I do, you don’t need a calendar to tell you when the seasons change. You just have to read the signs.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve observed the slow transition of the forest underbrush from abundant green to rustling, crunchy brown. I’ve seen the first splashes of yellow appear on a the scattered Aspens and Cottonwoods along the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park. And I’m waiting for the snow line to appear on the high peaks, and slowly descend to the valley floor with each new storm.
I’ve noticed the disappearance of the neighborhood’s Uinta ground squirrels; their mid-August vanishing act always catches me by a surprise. The annual elk rut has commenced – and many human visitors to Grand Teton and Yellowstone find themselves participating in this bewildering dance. Hunters start replacing mountain bikers and hikers in the backcountry, and the pace of life in the town of Jackson slows down.
When I was in high school many years ago, the local environmental education program offered some great courses to help students see, imagine and create connections between the classroom and the great outdoors: Art and Nature, Nature and Literature, and Nature and Photography. I remember taking a Nature and Photography one winter and delighting in the contrasts between shadow and light as I tried to capture drift lines, silhouettes, and the subtleties of the snowy landscape. Those early days at the Teton Science School were adventurous and illuminating, and many of us who passed through its wooded gates have moved on to careers in science, ecology and the outdoor industry. It part of the reason why I chose the river-guiding life 35 years ago – and why I’m still guiding today.
I was recently reminded of these formative experiences at the Teton Science School when I chanced across an advert for a master filmmaking class put on by the great documentarian Werner Herzog. Herzog’s required reading: The Peregrine, by J.A. Baker. Herzog talked about The Peregrine as the only book you’d need to become a great filmmaker. I’m always on the prowl for illuminating reading, and a huge fan of Herzog’s films, so I ran down to our local independent bookstore (The Country Bookshelf in historic downtown Bozeman) and grabbed a copy. If you are in Jackson, try the Valley Bookstore, or order a copy. …continue reading Nature and Literature
Families are important. Vacations are important. Our National Parks are important. And taking our families on vacations to National Parks might be the most important thing we do. As a culture, Americans enjoy a “love/hate” relationship with our jobs. We value hard work and industry to the point that we as individuals feel diminished when we step away from gainful employment. For some, there is a perceived threat that our value as an employee drops when we take a break and a co-worker does not. It’s a dilemma – but there is scientific evidence that taking time off to recharge and rest helps us approach our work with energy, efficiency and creativity.
And it’s not just vacations we need. We also can help recover from the demands of work by spending time outdoors, preferably in a natural setting. Over the last few years, studies have shown that something as simple as a walk in the woods can improve memory and performance. Time spent in forest settings improves mental and physical energy, relieves stress and reduces inflammation. When woodland walkers return to work, they feel better, perform better, and even exhibit calm during their commutes. …continue reading The Greatest American Invention