As it is often said on Game of Thrones, winter is coming — but it isn’t here yet.
Monday is Labor Day, which unofficially marks the end of another summer and the beginning of fall. And there is plenty to do and to enjoy before winter rolls into northwest Wyoming in two to three months.
First of all, there is football, with Powell High School’s Panthers and the University of Wyoming Cowboys having opened their seasons last weekend with convincing wins.
And football isn’t the only sport going on right now. Powell High School’s cross country, tennis, golf, girls’ swimming and volleyball teams are just beginning or in the middle of their seasons, while Northwest College offers local spectators volleyball, soccer and rodeo. If you get a chance, head out and support our local athletes.
However, there is much more to enjoy this time of the year than sporting events. Many people say fall is one of the best times of the year to visit Yellowstone National Park, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, the Shoshone National Forest, Bighorn National Forest, Grand Teton National Park and other outdoor areas.
Fall is prime time for the elk rut, when bull elk are bugling and fighting with each other as they seek mates. While bull elk can have a nasty temper this time of year — they have been known to ram vehicles during the rut — many people also enjoy hearing the sound of bugling bull elk.
Of course, hunters will be among those listening for elk as well, as hunting seasons begin opening around the state on Saturday.
More than that, elk aren’t the only animals heading into rut at this time of the year — so are bull moose. And like bull elk, bull moose can also be short-tempered at rut time.
“Elk and moose particularly can be very dangerous during the rut,” said Dr. Charles Preston, senior curator at the Draper Natural History Museum. Bull moose and elk “are full of testosterone and aggression — and not much patience with interruption,” Preston said. “Everyone should be aware of that and be careful.”
Many other animals are also on the move at this time of the year. With winter coming, animals, including black bears and grizzlies, will be coming down from higher elevations with the lower temperatures and also eating as much as they can to prepare for winter and — in the case of bears — for hibernation. Also on the move are many of the area’s summer resident birds. Several species, ranging from pelicans to robins, begin to group together to form pre-migratory flocks as they prepare to fly south for the winter.
With children heading back to school and the end of the summer, there are also fewer visitors at Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks this time of the year. This means less congestion on roads in the parks and also less congestion at popular points of interest, such as Old Faithful and Hayden Valley.
Last but not least, there are the colors. Few things compare to green leaves changing to red, orange and yellow as the temperatures drop. And unlike some parts of the country, we don’t have to wait very long for the fall colors to make their debut here in northwest Wyoming.
Yes, winter is coming — and with it cold temperatures and snow. But in the meantime, fall is here, so enjoy the cooler weather, high school sports and also take a trip to Yellowstone while you’re at it. You won’t be sorry.