The summer season for Wildlife Expeditions has been filled with many great adventures. Wildlife Expeditions' participants have been privileged to witness many of nature’s most spectacular events. Earlier in the summer the Jackson Hole Pronghorn herd returned to the valley almost five weeks later than normal. Some of the Pronghorn gave birth during the migration, others as soon as the hit the valley floor. Recently, near Jackson Lake Lodge a displaced grizzly cub was adopted by a distantly related adult female grizzly. These are just some of the examples of nature’s unique splendor.
While returning from Yellowstone last week I witnessed one of the rites of autumn that always amazes me, yet rarely am I ready for. That is the colorful show of fall foliage. For the last eight years I have been fortunate to lead Elk Bugling, Wolf and Bear expeditions. As the name implies this is an autumn program. The summer season never really seems over and then all of the sudden the leaves have changed color. Year after year, my first glimpse of fall foliage is found near Flagg Ranch. Yet again, on an eighty degree afternoon while in route back to town I rounded a bend in the road to witness the first golden aspens of 2011.
The seasonal change in the deciduous trees and shrubs of Jackson Hole is absolutely amazing. Fall foliage of western Wyoming may pale in comparison to New England. However, there is a truly unique opportunity to see one of North America’s largest organisms, the Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). Quaking Aspen sexually reproduce through seed typically after a fire event. More often, we see the result of asexual reproduction through the process of cloning. During the autumn season you can see distinct clones from a distance simply by observing the color difference in the foliage. Jackson Hole has a variety of successional states of Aspen groves. You may see old growth Aspen along the Moose-Wilson Road with signs of heavy browsing. Near the Kelly Campus of Teton Science Schools there are Aspen groves that have regenerated as a result of the Hunter Fire of 1988 and the Row Fire of 1994. These Aspen groves are great examples of natures’ beautiful palette.
You do not have to be in the middle of a herd of bison or elk to enjoy this spectacular autumn rite. Simply look in any direction and you find fall is around the corner. The hills surrounding Jackson Hole will put forward this dramatic display over the next several weeks.
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