Oh, the signs of spring. Squadrons of Geese are winging northward, stopping briefly in our valley to rest and recharge before continuing on to their summer roosts in Canada. Flocks of Sandhill Cranes entertain us with their distinctive clacking calls as they return from warm southern states. Pronghorn and Mule Deer make their way into Grand Teton National Park from scrub deserts south of Jackson, along ancient routes that represent the longest seasonal migrations in the lower 48. There are smaller migrations too: for the past ten springs I’ve watched an ant colony migrate from a hill on the south side of my house to a new destination just 100 feet north – only to return in the Fall.
Trees are budding a vibrant green, wildflowers are emerging in a riot of color, and we’re surrounded by a cacophony of birdsong. Our river guides are also on the move: they’ve made their way northward to Moose from their winter jobs at Teton Village, and are now happily guiding passengers down the most beautiful stretch of river in Wyoming. Barker-Ewing Float Trips is open for the 2021 season!
Another sign of spring: the return of the “skipping stones.” We’ve seen these stones underfoot when we arrived to conduct our early season scouting trips. They’re smooth and flat – unlike our valley’s ubiquitous round river cobbles – and they fit nicely in the palm of your hand. They only appear for a limited time: once the float season ends in late September, we won’t see them again until spring runoff in May. Thirty years ago, in one of my first outings as a river guide, I watched two veteran river runners, Al Klagge and Greg Dimler, as they competed to see who could skip a stone across the Snake River. During high water, the river is flowing close to 10 miles an hour – and at our launchsite, it’s nearly 200 yards across – so this isn’t like skipping rocks on a lake. The competition was fierce, but in the interest of group harmony, Al and Greg declared it a tie. I spent the rest of that season trying to skip a stone over to the opposite bank, watching helplessly as every stone I let loose ended up at the bottom of the river.