It almost seems inappropriate this year to be talking about having spring fever — you know, the fever that follows the cabin fever that we’ve had all winter.
This year those fevers are taking a backseat to the coronavirus. My normal advice for curing your spring fever is to get out of town. This year my advice is the opposite: Put up with one fever to avoid getting another.
This is the time of year when the weather in Jackson Hole has us longing to head south, go to the desert, go to a beach, be somewhere warmer, sunnier and snow-free.
This spring the situation warrants making an adjustment in our attitude rather than our latitude.
Marching into spring
Spring looked like it was going to make an early entrance around Jackson Hole. You could say March came in like a lamb, then roared like a lion about mid-month.
We had temperatures in the 40s for daytime highs, maxing out at 53 degrees in town on March 6. Plenty of sunny days and breezy conditions combined to melt snow around the valley at a steady pace. It was really starting to look and feel like spring had sprung.
But a record snowfall on March 15 changed the look of everything back to winter for a few days. That’s also about the same time the coronavirus changed our outlook on everything.
Despite any big celebratory gatherings, spring officially did arrive last week. The vernal equinox — the exact moment when the sun was directly over the equator, thus illuminating the entire disk of the globe evenly — occurred at precisely 9:49 p.m. Thursday.
With the equinox comes equal days and equal nights, roughly 12 hours of each. In Jackson the day that occurred was March 17, with precisely 12 hours between sunrise and sunset.
From now until the solstice in June we’ll see the length of daylight increasing. We’ll be adding almost three minutes a day this week. By April 1 our day will be 45 minutes longer than it was on that equinox. That should cheer you up a little, right?
Compare the length of day now to what we had back in December, barely nine hours to work with on the winter solstice.
The sun is also now rising due east and setting due west. Perhaps bringing more sun rays through more windows of your house, more than it did during the middle of winter when the sun was rising in the southeastern sky and setting on the southwestern horizon.
The height of the sun in the sky, the angle it reaches above the horizon at noontime, is also much greater this time of year. In the last three months the sun’s height above the horizon at noontime has more than doubled.
The sun was at its minimal angle of 23 degrees above the horizon in late December. It is now than more 47 degrees above the horizon here in late March. That means the solar radiation we are receiving now is more intense, so don’t forget the sunscreen as you begin to expose more of your flesh.
Spring in Jackson Hole is often referred to as the mud-season. Years ago it was also known as the “offseason,” and town was really quiet. Think of this spring as being more like an old-fashioned offseason, when restaurants and bars and many businesses closed for a month or two, before the start of the summer tourist season.
We can still get outside for fresh air. Jackson Holers are a resilient bunch, but we need our outdoor activities. Preferably, ones we can do alone or at least spread out, like ski-touring, bicycling, kayaking, long walks on Elk Refuge Road or the bike paths. Rugby scrums not recommended this spring.
The weather will dictate which of these we can do. You just need to be ready to switch from shorts and T-shirts to puffy jackets and ski pants on any given day. That’s just the way it is. That’s why we usually try and get out of here this time of year, to get someplace the weather is more consistent.
Stay put — and enjoy it
I know everyone in Jackson is itchy to head south, especially with the shortened ski season. Please be patient. Just like with a big storm, this too will blow over.
Hope that soon we’ll be back to normal and seeking treatment for our spring fever, together.