Summer weather got me thinking about water bottles and something I once wrote.
“Who would’ve ever predicted that everyone, everywhere would have a water bottle — reminiscent of a baby’s feeding bottle — always at hand? Not me, that’s certain.
“On the trail, in the car, at the movies, in the classroom or lecture hall, at home, on the ski slope, on the picnic beach, strapped to the bicycle, tucked in backpack or hung on the belt.
“Ubiquitous. Even on baby carriages, where they seem most comfortable.
“In this milieu it seems almost unthinkable that Meg and I once got caught without water for so long we pretty much went bonkers. In our defense, let me say we’d been lulled into a false sense of comfort back at a time when it was OK to drink the waters in high mountain creeks. We carried a cup and entertained no further consideration. This was before giardia lurked in every teaspoon of sparkling stream — and when streams trickled throughout the summer.
“So, on a promising summer day eons ago, we hiked up Death Canyon Trail in Grand Teton National Park to look at rocks, at sky, at wildlife, at wildflowers, at our park. We expected a hot day; we got a HOT day. By early afternoon somewhere above a patch of extraordinarily tall horse mint, we were anxious to find water.
“There was none to be found. Or, that we could find.
“I know now we weren’t thinking clearly. We were suffering from dehydration, which affected our ability to reason. There may indeed have been water nearby — I can’t doubt it — but we found only dry watersheds.
“We did know enough to seek shade and then to head downslope. Death Canyon seemed more aptly named with each passing quarter-hour. Talk about hot. Broiling. Fierce. All-encompassing. Hot rocks, radiating from below, from the sides, and for all we could tell, above. Debilitating heat.
“A stroll had become, in our minds — our febrile minds — a death march. Feeble jokes to that effect were exceedingly transparent. We were in a hot oven being roasted. Alone. Nobody else had been silly enough to subject himself to this trail on this day.
“Near the end, Meg crawled under an overhang and curled up in the shade, announcing that it had been nice knowing me and all that, but she was going to remain there forever. So long, kid. The only argument she responded favorably to was that our cocker spaniel was waiting for us on the valley floor. Needed us, depended on us. We had to get down. For her.
“We slowly stumbled down to the parking lot, drank from the big jug we once thought was too cumbersome to carry, petted the puppy, recovered. Cooled off by the time evening came. Hydrated before dark. Unfried our brains. Figger’d we might wait until cooler weather to take that particular trail again. Brought a canteen. Learned a couple of things.
“And, back then, bounced back. On another trail in a couple of days. With water.”
— From “Valley So Sweet,”
with a few updates
Field Notes: This week Flat Creek, just north of town, yielded about 100 mallards and American widgeon, six gadwall, 10 ring-necked ducks, all in eclipse plumage, Bernie McHugh reported.
Susan Marsh reported kinglets in her yard produced three chicks, still begging for food but flying; crows produced a family of four. A warbling vireo was seen singing this week along with a house finch.
Deb Patla saw two ibises Thursday on the Jackson Lake shoreline, and a renewed spate of broad-tailed hummingbirds in the past few days at the feeders.
The warm weather is stimulating rapid development of amphibian tadpoles; many are sprouting legs and emerging from shrinking wetlands.
Frances Clark has seen young moose, house wrens, robins and white-crowned sparrows in Wilson. Above Ski Lake she watched two curious gray jays while ground squirrels and a marmot gave out alarm calls as two red-tailed hawks circled above. Bison are in rut. Wildflowers full out at high elevations.
Bette Caesar reported a rather rare scarlet tanager July 25 northeast of Kelly. The most recent Wyoming Game and Fish bird checklist, which includes Jackson Hole birds that have seldom been reported, lists scarlet tanager.
Jim Stanford must have spent July 28 floating on the Snake River, because he reported otters in the river, a swimming tree squirrel and his first sighting of a mountain lion swimming the river. In over 200 river trips this was Jim’s first sighting of a mountain lion. Jim also reported mountain bluebirds, western tanagers and bald eagles.
Claudia Gillette observed a ferruginous hawk July 29 over Cottonwood Park.
This week Franz Camenzind saw three bears on the Phelps Lake Trail. All three were munching on huckleberries and vegetation and were very well-behaved, as were the other hikers on the trail.
Franz also reported a chubby marmot and a sleek-looking young lady deer. On the Snow King-Wilson Canyon hike the flowers are in full bloom and a long-tailed weasel made an appearance.