By Tim Hauserman
Here in the Sierra Nevada, Mother Nature knows that seasons can be fickle and short so she doesn’t mess around. Instead she gets right to doing what nature does best…producing off-spring, especially the plant variety. Even before the last flake of snow has fallen the melting cycle is in full swing. While the creeks are roaring with all that melted snow, the wildflowers are already popping up along the creek edges, eager to attract the bees and produce the seeds that will mean more wildflowers the next year. High elevation plants know that if you get it done fast, you will not have to worry about the early season snow wiping out a year’s crop.
Watching Page Meadows go through the cycle is a prime example of how fast the process goes. In the middle of June I approached Page Meadows and there were still lots of standing water with patches of snow still in the shady forest. The edges were starting to sprout flowers, but I skipped a ride through it because it would have been a muddy and buggy slog. A month later, I rode through and the trails were dry as a bone, in some places the flowers had come and were already going to seed, and the early signs of mid-summer were starting to appear: Grasshoppers.
The aspen tree leaves in the meadow are still a deep, dark green, and the grass remains green and vibrant. But before you know it, the grass will start to dull and turn brown, the yellow jackets will make a very unpopular reappearance, and the number of grass hoppers will explode. When they do, a bike ride through the meadows sets off a wave of flying creatures in your wake.
It will still be awhile before the first leaves begin to turn as the nights get colder. Fall conditions can last anywhere from a few weeks before the first snows arrive in October or cruise right on into November before the white stuff finally flies. Whenever winter comes, it puts the meadow asleep again for several months under a blanket of white…but wait, we are not there yet. Now is the time to enjoy the warmth, the green grass and the blue sky…but carpe diem, because nature doesn’t fool around in the Sierra.