Dear Mud Season

A native's love note to an underappreciated time in Jackson Hole

They’re the awkward weeks wedged between winter and full-blown springtime. No longer considered ski season, but not yet time for more summery sports, we hang suspended in the valley between the seasons.

The weather can be unpredictable; glorious sunshine-filled days can give way to drizzles or even snow flurries in a matter of minutes. Shining Teton peaks can be eclipsed by clouds that roll in like a swift wave, only to be revealed again moments later. Many locals seize the opportunity to pack up their cars and camper vans and head south in search of desert sunshine.

But I’d like to let you in on a secret. This is one of my absolute favorite times of year in Jackson Hole. It has been for as long as I can remember.

With few visitors, and many locals out of town, there’s a sense that you have the place entirely to yourself. On a visit to Grand Teton National Park last week, I enjoyed the iconic Snake River Overlook – of Ansel Adams fame – completely solo. Well, except for the nosy fox family that pokes around from time to time. No other cars. No other visitors. Not a tour bus in sight. It’s a rare treat to stand alone in a spot like this, surrounded by the timeless peace of solitude and the sweeping beauty of the mountains and river. 

Spring’s slow and steady march across the landscape always fills me with awe at the resilience of the creatures that inhabit Jackson Hole. Despite feet of snow, steeply-dipping temperatures and long winter nights, life endures and reemerges. Bears, with newborn cubs in tow, crawl out of dens. Tiny, fuzzy bison with spindly legs appear beside their mothers in fields that are just beginning to show hints of green. Pointed flocks of waterfowl arrive, aimed north. Below, the river swells and turns turquoise, and lacy, ephemeral waterfalls decorate canyons and ravines.  

I imagine that local creatures are filled with similar joy at the warming, lengthening days and ever-greening foliage. How delicious must budding willows and pond greens taste to a moose who has been browsing on dormant sticks all winter? You can’t tell me the deer and elk aren’t overjoyed to munch on tender tufts of grass after pawing through snow to eat fall’s leftovers for months. And if trout can feel happiness, I am confident that ice abandoning lakes and rivers inspires it in their fishy hearts.

In the human community, we welcome these changes in the landscape around us as a sign to begin our own rituals of spring. Relishing the anticipation of summer heat, we take the time to close the season behind us. We lovingly pack away skis and boots, ice fishing rods and snowshoes. Until next year, we say. Maybe we reflect on the season past, mentally playing a highlight reel as we round up mittens and puffy layers that will hibernate through the sunny season.

We enthusiastically dig out hiking boots and camping gear, boats and bikes, fly rods and flip flops. We fire up the grill, and spend lengthening evenings making plans for new adventures. We swap the car’s snow tires for those better suited to dirt roads. We prepare the earth in our gardens for this year’s vegetables and flowers.

It’s a season profoundly characterized by renewal and promise. Year after year, it leaves me brimming with excitement for the season to come.

So, if you aren’t afraid to get a little old-fashioned mud on your boots, I invite you to come share this magical time of year in Jackson Hole. But shhhhh. Let’s keep this between us, okay?