March is a month of transformation, though it comes in stages. A few days ago, when the sun shown for the first time in a week, the air felt like spring. Black ski pants immediately soaked in the sun, warming my legs, mittens came off and a ball cap replaced my winter beanie. A feeling of lightness came over me even as I glided on the snowpack. I grinned and felt like I had a ringside seat to experience the change of the season. Today, the cloud cover is thick; snow falls, heavily at times, and begins to coat the roads. The air is chill; a return to winter and heavy jackets.
March is the month that I begin to watch more closely for signs of spring. I search the roadside in Paradise Valley for the telltale bright blue of Mountain Bluebirds returning north; search for Kestrels sitting on fence posts on the dirt roads. Today I watch Bison graze in my yard—they know when snow begins to melt and expose tender grasses, or even dry dead grasses, in the Gardiner Valley. They depart the deep snows and difficult conditions of the Park’s higher elevations and head down to Gardiner to try to survive the last hurrah of winter.
I watch social media, too. I watch for reports of the first Mountain Bluebirds, the first Meadowlarks, the first Kestrels. I note when I see them, but others usually spot them before me. As the month continues I begin to look for the first spring flowers, though I am probably being more hopeful than realistic when it comes to March flowers. There are a few places, though, that receive afternoon sun—I hike and search there as soon as the trails clear enough to hike.
March is also the time of year that many of us head to the southwest to escape these last vestiges of winter. We try to avoid ‘mud season’, that time of year when snow is too rotten for skis and trails are too muddy to hike. As much as I love to ski, come March, I am ready for spring to burst through the cold and ice.
This year I will miss most of spring’s firsts here in Yellowstone. I will leave mid month for Baja, Mexico where I’ll be immersed in a different first: a yoga instructor course. I’ll miss the first Bluebirds, the first Kestrel. But I will experience the unknown territory of a desert/ocean ecosystem, and I will explore the inner wilderness of mind and spirit. I will have my own firsts to consider and integrate.
And I will return to Bluebirds and Kestrels and Osprey and Buttercups.