Wild West (Virginia?)

The Wild West is wildly different than the Wild & Wonderful West Virginia. Not in a bad way, of course. I love them both. In fact, I’m throwing the WV everywhere I go.

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This waterfall was featured in a fly fishing movie. Can you guess it? PC: Laura Valley

Let’s start with the elevation. Jackson Hole is over 7,000 ft. in elevation; Morgantown, W. Va., is about 960 ft., according to the Google machine. The elevation factor changes everything, and more than I would’ve thought.

The air is less than 14% humidity, and I love it. When the sun’s out, it’s hot and can get up to 90 degrees F, but hey, it snowed last week. It’s never overly hot and is relatively cool. The sun does burn my pasty skin real nice, but I love the lack of humidity.

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Some clouds settle in on the mountains, bringing just enough moisture to sustain the plants.

Since it’s so dry and high, there are only four trees here. FOUR. TREES. For this particular site and elevation mixture, there are only subalpine fir, Douglas-fir, quaking aspen and lodgepole pine. There are more in the state, but for right here, it’s four. Man, I should’ve taken dendrology here.

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Trick photography – it looks like the moose is eating the tree, but it’s not.

There are plenty more flowers, though, over 55 that I’ve seen so far. Those vary at even 400-ft differences. Thank God for ultra-specific Peterson guides to help me out, like “Rocky Mountain Wildflowers” by Craighead.

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Fairy Slipper was only around “flora” few days before something came and ate it.

In the east, there are more general areas to separate the wildlife, like “eastern,” “northern,” or “shore.” In the West, it’s crazy specific, and I’m constantly amazed by the diversity of little flowers to birds and everything around here.

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Mule’s ear, the yellow flower, came out in bloom about a week ago. It’s everywhere!

And there are even morels here! The staff cooked ’em up real good this morning with scrambled eggs, and I could’ve eaten 5 more platefuls. In PA, they came out about a month ago, but yesterday was the day to do it.

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Those brown shriveled things are mushrooms called morels. If you haven’t tried them before, I’d recommend it.

We saw some hikers go in a patch that we just came out of – sorry, not sorry! To those hikers, yes, they were amazing and no, you may not have any.

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Only a small sample of the hundreds my team collected.

Another session starts today, and it’s my first as an official staff member. Yay! This should be fun, especially with sights like these every day.

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Sunset over the Gros Ventre Mountains

With more to come,

West VirJillian

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