Winter has ended

Barker-Ewing, Wildlife

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The Tetons in Spring

The long winter seems to have finally ended. (Except for the ongoing snowstorms and freezing temperatures so typical of “springtime in the Rockies.”) My wife and I have just returned from a cross-country ski around our local golf course, and the signs of spring are everywhere. Just since last weekend, we’ve noticed so many changes: in the light, in the clouds, in the quality of the snow cover, and in the number and type of creatures around us. We are lucky to spend lots of time in the outdoors, and to witness the many small miracles that occur around us in each season of the year.

My summers guiding for Barker-Ewing are marked by these repeating wonders: tree leaves bud, grow, turn color, and drop; antlers grow from velvet buds to hardened forked branches that are later shed; birds wing their way northward from the southern reaches of their ranges, arrive, mate, nest, raise their broods, and fly away south again; plants grow, bloom, mature, wither, and fade back into the ground from which they sprung. In this way, we river-dwellers track the days, weeks, months, seasons and years. …continue reading Winter has ended

The 21st of August

Barker-Ewing, Jackson Hole, National Parks, Wildlife

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Eclipse Sunset

The 21st of August was a truly magical day in a valley that has its fair share of magical days. We see glorious sunsets, bitter cold blizzards, gale force winds, towering thunderstorms, majestic mountains, spectacular views of the nighttime skies, and a wide variety of wildlife and bird life. In short, it’s perfect here. And by what feels like dumb luck (though is actually due to the patterns of planetary motion), Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park won the cosmic lottery and were in the path of totality for the total solar eclipse of 2017.

Eclipse Totality

I’ve seen pictures of total eclipses through the years, and have heard about people who, having gazed upon the sun’s corona, make valiant efforts to see it again. And now it all makes sense. Totality was one of the most beautiful and peaceful phenomena I have witnessed in my first 56 years. In person, it defied rationality, and left me with a bewildered child-like longing for more. …continue reading The 21st of August

Long Hikes, Short Hikes, Birds, and Squirrels

Barker-Ewing, Hiking & Climbing, Jackson Hole, National Parks, Wildlife

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Marmot at Phelps Lake is one way of seeing squirrels.

Like many destination resort communities, Jackson Hole has its share of trophy homes, five-star restaurants and Range Rovers. But what makes this place a destination in the first place? Grand Teton National Park, mountains that look like mountains, world class skiing in the winter, abundant wildlife, wild and scenic rivers. And the folks who live here year round really know how to enjoy these amenities. From professional ski bums to recreation enthusiasts, Jackson is full of people who have logged their 10,000 hours in all four seasons. They climb up and ski down our biggest peaks, bike or ski the entire circumference of the valley, run rivers in the morning and run marathons in the afternoon. I know one local gal who, at age 103, still straps on her skis every winter!

Jackson Hole is a land of extremes populated by extreme athletes. But there is plenty of room in this valley for those of us who don’t care to push ourselves quite so hard. Perhaps we’ve allowed our level of fitness to taper slightly as we’ve aged, or we’ve devoted big chunks of time to other pursuits (like kids and commuting.) We might start our outdoor season with a short hike to Taggart Lake. Or a slightly longer walk to Phelps Lake. We put in time on the trails – just not at the Olympic level. …continue reading Long Hikes, Short Hikes, Birds, and Squirrels

Migration Time

Barker-Ewing, Rafting, Wildlife

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Last weekend at my home in Bozeman, I was startled to awareness by a distinct clattering that reminded me of summer afternoons on the Snake River. Except much, much louder. Entranced, I listened for a moment, wandered to the backyard, and gazed skyward for the source. Turns out the cacophonous clattering was emanating from a large flock of at least 60 Sandhill Cranes. They wheeled above me in giant circles, calling out in unison while rising higher and higher into the sky. I was mesmerized. Though I’ve often seen Sandhill Cranes along the Snake River, I’ve never seen more than five or six at a time. And here I was, seeing dozens and dozens, right in the middle of town. It was migration time.

Sandhill Cranes have many distinct vocalizations, but the one we most commonly associate with these majestic birds is that trademark squeaky clatter. The Cornell Bird Guide tells us that the tone is derived within the bird’s long trachea, which serves to lower the pitch of the vocalization and creates multi-layered overtones. To hear such an enormous flock calling out together was a truly memorable experience.

…continue reading Migration Time

Birds of Jackson Hole

Barker-Ewing, Environment, Jackson Hole, Wildlife

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Black Capped Chickadee on a snow bank.A respectful “hats off” to the multitude of birds and animals that stick it out in frigid Jackson Hole for our long, long winters. And some of Grand Teton National Park’s heartiest winter residents are also the cutest. The chickadee has stick-to-it-iveness and cuteness in spades!

Here in Jackson Hole we have two varieties of chickadee: we enjoy seeing both Black-Capped and Mountain Chickadees on our forest ski trails, by our suburban feeders, and along the Snake River.

During the summer months it’s easy to hear the chickadee’s distinctive call, a two-tone whistle that sounds a bit like “fee bee.” It is easy to imitate, even for a novice whistler like myself, and I used the “fee bee” whistle for years to call the kids in from the yard, or locate them in a crowded store.

Mike Y., who guided for Barker-Ewing all through 70s and 80s, used the “fee bee” to communicate with his young daughter, too. One day, while she sat patiently waiting for daddy to return to the boathouse, a flock of chickadees flew overhead with a chorus of “fee bee” whistles. That little girl jumped up and ran off down the driveway, yelling “Daddy, where are you?” Poor thing: her daddy was still an hour away on the river! It took quite a bit of explaining when we brought her back to the boathouse: she thought that “fee bee” was her dad’s distinctive call, and didn’t realize that he had appropriated it from a chickadee. …continue reading Birds of Jackson Hole