When it's springtime in the Rockies

As I began to ponder what to write about, almost immediately my mind drifted toward springtime. Soon after, the song title “When It’s Springtime in the Rockies” by Gene Autry filled my mind. Most reading this article are probably too young to remember that song, including myself.

So why would a song from 1937 come to my mind?

My father often told me of his grandfather who was a cheesemaker in Wisconsin He would regularly sing this song while making cheese in his small cheese factory.

I never met my great grandfather, but I enjoy imagining him happily singing and whistling this song while making cheese.

One of the coldest and longest winters in Montana’s recorded history is finally grinding to an end. With snow on the ground since November, many of us have eagerly awaited the arrival of springtime in the Rockies.

The imminent arrival of Spring will bring new life and with it many welcome changes. Soon, the forest floors and mountain meadows will be full of magnificent wildflowers, like the vibrant yellow glacier lilies and the royal purple camas.

Soon bears will awaken in their dens with their newborn cubs and emerge from their shelters to embrace another springtime in the Rockies.

The daunting task of raising a young bear to survive the critical first year of life will not be easy.

Sadly, some won’t awaken from the winter slumber as the long harsh winter was just too much for the meager fat reserves that some bears managed to put on, due in part to the poor berry crop last summer.

However, most of our wildlife will survive and it won’t be long before elk begin calving and whitetail and mule deer give birth to their fawns. They will have the arduous role of protecting these young from such predators as the aforementioned bears. Others like wolves, coyotes and mountain lions will also be on the hunt.

The ice-covered lakes will soon begin to thaw and give way to open water. Creeks and rivers will also thaw from the frozen grip of winter, their banks will swell, and the water temperatures will rise.

The big flush of cold, clear water will be welcomed by native cutthroat trout as they begin their spawn.

Flies will hatch, and trout will begin feeding frenzies in the calm mornings and soft evenings. As spring progresses in all its glory, trees will put on new growth.

Cottonwoods and willows will begin growing leaves and start the process of photosynthesis.

The limbs of conifers, like ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir, will begin to lengthen as new needles develop.

Amongst the trees will be heard the beautiful sounds of songbirds that have returned to claim their territory, build a nest, and successfully rear another clutch of babies. Some of the first signs of spring are the unmistakable rattling calls of the red-winged black bird, and the soft whistling call of the western meadow lark.

Its springtime in the Rockies, and I can’t think of a better place to be.

 

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