Rain streaks to the ground near Challis, bringing life-giving moisture to an otherwise very dry area.
Nasty weather often makes Memorial Day weekend an iffy time to go camping in Eastern Idaho. This year though, the storms have been widely spread throughout much of the West and Midwest. If someone were to ask for a weather report in much of the western half of the nation, a single word, rain, would have covered it.
Despite soaking a lot of recreationists out for their first fishing/camping/atv or mountain bike riding trip of the year, a week or more of rain is a terrific gift. The mostly gentle rains have soaked into the ground and will eventually work their way into the aquifer. The rain will bolster snowpack runoff that is stored in reservoirs for irrigation and may delay irrigation in some cases, saving farmers a lot of cash.
Everywhere we look, valleys and hillsides appear like polished emeralds as the grass, shrubs and trees respond to this bonus of water with stunning fields of multi-hued greens. Wildflowers should benefit as well and in places the coming show may be tremendous.
Not everywhere has faired as well. My wife’s cousin lives in Oklahoma on a bluff above the Arkansas River. He reported 8.2 inches of rain in one event and more followed the next day. To put that in perspective, Idaho Falls has an annual precipitation of 10-11 inches. The Arkansas River, which normally is a bit of a hike down off the bluff, looks like it is in his backyard.
Rain begins as water vapor that eventually coalesces into droplets that fall back to earth. The water vapor comes from natural processes such as plant transpiration, evaporation (which accounts for about 90 percent of the water vapor) and cool dry air becoming saturated with moisture as it moves across warmer bodies of water.
The relative humidity of air, or how much water vapor it can hold, depends on the temperature. Warm air can hold more water vapor than cold air. Thus, in many cases, rain is a result of a warmer air mass cooling quickly and dispensing with water droplets until it reaches the new maximum relative humidity, or dew point, for that temperature.
This cooling of the air usually happens in one of four ways. The first is air that rises into the cooler atmosphere above the earth through convection, wind or large physical barriers such as mountains that force the air upward.
When an air mass moves from one surface temperature to another, say from a warmer body of water across colder land, it can cool quickly. The two other methods are when the Earth radiates heat faster than it absorbs it and through evaporation which requires energy (heat) to convert liquid water into a gas state (think swamp cooler).
As moist air condenses, it forms a cloud. Gaseous vapor converts back to tiny droplets of water and ice using dust and smoke particles as nuclei. These droplets are so small that air currents can keep them buoyed up forming the cloud. As saturation increases, the droplets continue to grow until they fall to the earth as rain.
Water moves from oceans, lakes and plants into the atmosphere where it spends an average of ten days and returns to the earth as rain. Despite what rain might do to our recreational plans, without this endless cycle, Earth might be as habitable as Mars.
Help Idaho Wildlife
When we traveled across the state in October, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates.
C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles!
See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho