SCHIESS: Enjoying the hot summer days on the Henrys Fork
Six weeks of temperatures in the 90s made me wish for a couple days of coolness so the birds and animals would leave the dense thickets during midday. So last week while hiking along the Henrys Fork of the Snake River I found a mat of moss alive with hatching insects, sunning turtles and frogs.
Arriving just before noon I viewed the slow moving water and settled into a shady spot to hide from the sun and to watch for wildlife doing their best to survive the heat. A bull moose with velvet antlers wandered by as an eastern kingbird harvested a hatching damsel fly from the bed of moss. The bull was in no hurry as he splashed through the shallows feasting on the underwater veggies and occasionally wandering off into willows for a second course of willows.
I noticed the thick moss bed was full of wild creatures. Occasionally a muskrat would come out of its underwater entrance for a snack while a family of Painted turtles would bask in the blazing sun on a log.
As the muskrat headed back to its burrow to get out of the sun, I heard a “plunk, plunk, plunk” as three Northern leopard frogs jumped into the moss bed for protection. In some slack water filled with pondweed, I located one frog camouflaged by its surroundings of plants that do not need soil to get their nutrients.
About an hour and a half into my nature vigil I heard my first human voices — high male voices from up river. Fifteen minutes later what appeared to be a Cub Scout troop came floating down the lazy river in black recycled truck tubes. The moose slipped off into a deep thicket, the turtles dove into the moss but the kingbird kept catching flying insects.
Soon more voices and a family group floated by with the Mrs. seeing and recognizing me lounging in the shade.
“Mr. Schiess, so is this how you get your wildlife pictures?” she asked as they floated by.
“Yup,” I replied.
The next group was a flock of female tweens; looked like a Merry Miss group from a nearby church. One girl waved but most were too busy giggling and lamenting that summer would soon be over.
There was a lull in the human traffic and some of the wildlife decided to reappear, all except the bull moose, but what would appear but a small calf moose just below me that waded out into the deep water. It remain there while a group of high school students floated by trying to hand paddle their bright colored floating devices away from it.
“Do you think it will eat us?” one girl worried to her young male tube-mate.
“No, I will protect you!” he replied.
Just as the sun found my hiding place the bull moose wandered back into the river. While it was drinking two male college students rounded a bend above it. The three played cat and mouse before the moose wandered off into the thick brush allowing them to pass it and me.
“I didn’t know if it was going to let us get by,” said one as they floated by. “It made this float a lot more exciting.”
I warned them of the calf and possibly a cow below me and they might be more dangerous than the bull. They agreed and I headed for the truck and home. The weather forecaster on the evening news promised a cool down for the next week and I almost squealed with joy.
That means more wildlife out and about while the human sun-water worshippers will be elsewhere and I will not have to hide from the sun.