While we received many answers for our wildflower photos, Charlotte LaGrone is our winner! Congratulations to Charlotte, who won a float trip for two! Thank you to all who participated. More trivia to come!
Nature greets the arrival of spring as enthusiastically as we do, and celebrates it with a festival of color. Even Grand Teton’s sub-zero winters and blinding snowstorms eventually yield to the pink earthly stars of the Spring Beauty, and gigantic yellow flowering Arrowleaf Balsam Root. Soon thereafter Lupine, Camas, Larkspur, Oregon Grape, and Yellow Violets paint the spectrum of a land rainbow that banishes the memory of winter’s monotone grays and whites.
Armed with what seems to be pounds of wildflower field guides and plant books in our packs, my wife and I hike off to destinations like Taggart and Phelps Lake, Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, Pilgrim Creek, Antelope Flats, Heron Pond and Swan Lake, eagerly awaiting colorful surprises along the route. Never disappointed, referring to our guides along the way, spring is a wonderful time to visit the backcountry.
We appreciate wildflowers for their beauty and trumpeting the arrival of spring. We may also consider them as chronicles of time and place. They tell a fascinating story, acting as interpreters of the natural world they inhabit. Grand Teton’s geologic past shaped a varied landscape, where a series of transformations culminated in various ecological systems that support the wildflowers we admire today. Our population of flowers reveal ancient tales of the landscape dating back millions of years and provide us with lessons in geology, climate, wildlife biology, fire history, and an array of other scientific information.
As always, collecting specimens of animals, trees, minerals, or archeological artifacts are strictly prohibited in all National Parks and Monuments. Collecting wildflowers are equally protected. So, study the plants where they grow, take home photographs and memories, but leave them to display their brief beauty for the enjoyment of those who will follow.
Posted from Don’s Corner, Photographs by Don Wells
Do you know what these wildflowers are? Please leave us a comment and let us know! If your answers are correct you could be eligible to win a prize from Grand Teton Lodge Company!
We have been receiving your answers! Keep them coming, at the end of the week we will enter all the correct answers into a drawing. Thanks for your participation!
“I love everything about the job. Being outside, the plants, the physical labor, making everything look nice,” said Paula Sharpe, Grand Teton Lodge Company (GTLC) Grounds Crew member. Sharpe joined GTLC 11 year ago and has greatly contributed to the outdoor appearance of our lodges.
For the last six years, Sharpe has been charting noxious weed growth on propety. “I figured if I left we don’t have documentation, so I made maps of each area,” said Sharpe, a licensed herbicide technician. Every year she documents the weed she is targeting and whether it has increased or decreased. “Someone can come along after me and know where to find these weeds.”
As for Sharpe, this information is all in her head. She has the ability to go over to Colter Bay Village and show you exactly where one weed grows. “I figured no one else would be able to do that, so you can just open map books and say, ‘oh yah, Dalmatian Toadflax grows here, better check that out.’” Comparing the charts from over the years, Sharpe has noticed a difference, with noxious weeds on the decline. The Grounds Crew also documents every ounce of chemical-use, as it all must be approved by the Park Service.
Arriving at 7:30am, Sharpe plants and maintains 68 containers of flowers. She waters and feeds the plants, which also happen to be a favorite meal of the Whistle Pig. “Right now I am cleaning up the West Terrace. Pruning everything back and getting it ready for the wedding next week, I want it to look really nice.”
Up keeping Jenny Lake Lodge, Jackson Lake Lodge, Colter Bay Village and Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis can be quite the endeavor. Still, the Grounds Crew continues to meet its goals. One goal has been to restore a man-made trail to its original habitat. “When we first started there were trails that went all the way to the bottom area at Jackson Lake Lodge. People had walked down there and killed all the vegetation, thinking it was a trail,” said Sharpe. “Then it rained and everything washed away, so the trail was deep.” The crew filled in this area leading down to Willow Flats and closed all the trails, reverting guests to the designated paved paths. With time all the vegetation has grown back.
Sharpe makes an apparent difference at GTLC. Gardening is something that yields rewarding results. “Every year I gather the seeds from the native wildflowers and throw them out there and if you come back later you will see a lot of these wildflowers are growing,” declared Sharpe. “It’s just exciting, to know that I had a hand in that.”
Exuding a genuine enthusiasm for her work, Sharpe stated, “I do this because I enjoy it. People come by and say don’t work too hard. I’m not working, I’m playing.”
Springtime in Grand Teton National Park brings a sense of rejuvenation to Jackson Hole. Wildlife are coming out of hibernation and raising their young. The snow is beginning to melt, revealing silvery-green big leaf sagebrush growing on the valley floor. Narrow leaf cottonwood and willows thrive along the Snake River and in marshes. Wildflowers, such as the bright yellow glacier lily and the deep purple sky pilot, paint the alpine zone with color. The world is alive and active once again.
As temperatures start to rise in the valley, flora begins to grow near the roads first, bringing wildlife to feed closer to cars and other vehicles.
On a late Sunday afternoon, I am driving from Signal Mountain to Jackson Lake Lodge. A couple is standing alongside the road photographing in the direction of the Tetons. Thinking they are just capturing the mountains on a cloudless day, I continue to drive past. It isn’t until I glance at the roadside that I realize why the couple stopped. At Jackson Lake Junction, a cow moose (female) and her calf are grazing on the shoulder of the road. A perfect moment for a family photo.
The National Park Service (NPS) “Mammal-Finding Guide” offers a few precautions for wildlife viewing and photography:
“Maintain a safe distance of at least 300 feet from large animals such as bears, bison, moose and elk. Do not position yourself between an adult and its offspring. Females with young are especially defensive. Repeated encounters with people have cumulative effects including stress and behavior changes, such as an avoidance of an essential feeding area after frequent approach by people.”
Not wanting my subjects to flee the scene, the photo opportunity calls for a 75-300mm lens. This allows me to witness the behavior of the moose without the influence of my immediate presence. I snap a few (well, maybe 30) shots as the pair munch on their dinner of willows, a moose diet staple.
Following NPS advice brings me to this conclusion: better photos and happy moose.