In late May the first motorhomes start their long migration from warmer climates to the scenic roads of Jackson, Wyoming. The arrival of motorhomes of larger sizes and more elaborate plumage is one of the first signs that summer has arrived in Jackson Hole. The motorhome migration is closely aligned with the sprouting of construction projects along our roadways. These construction projects are characterized by orange cones and yellow cranes of various shapes and sizes. The motorhomes and cranes flourish in our mountain ecosystem throughout the summer. These iconic summer guests also bring with them congestion and long, stressful commutes.
However, those among us who choose to park our vehicles for the summer may not even notice these summer patterns. We are focused, instead, on cranes of a different feather.
Photo Credit: Charlie Reinertsen
Sandhill cranes are another valley guest in the summer, and for a few weeks this past July four Sandhill cranes greeted all alternative commuters traveling to the Jackson Campus of Teton Science Schools along the pathway next to Boyles Hill. The Sandhill cranes offered a natural juxtaposition to their yellow crane cousins holding up traffic on Highway 22 just a few hundred yards beyond. They represent one example of the connections to nature and place that emerge when we choose to commute by bike. Motivated by Friends of Pathways’ Commuter Choice Challenge and the sustainability initiative at Teton Science Schools, many staff members choose to commute by bike to work, to run errands, and to attend social gatherings instead of using their cars. Commuting by bike allows for a connected commute: traffic cones are replaced by sunrises, and stress is replaced by exercise. Between June 1 and August 22, 2015 Teton Science Schools has, as a whole, made 600 bike commutes totaling over 7,000 miles and saving more than 340 gallons of gas. These connected commutes also reduce carbon dioxide emissions, add to a healthy lifestyle, and save money. They also lead to premier parking – the bike stand right outside our office door – and provide great opportunities to reflect on work and life in a stress-free setting.
Over the next few months, bike commuters will trade windshield scraping for gloves and cool mountain mornings. They will witness osprey fledging and aspens and cottonwoods painting the valley countless shades of yellow and orange. They will bike by migrating moose and elk. As our days slowly get shorter, they will be guided to and from work by the light of the moon. We encourage you to join us: park your car, witness the winter motorhome migration from a distance, and immerse yourself in nature and place. We hope that your commute is interrupted by Sandhill cranes preparing for their own migration to warmer climates.