It’s lovely May weather we are having, isn’t it? I like Katrina’s reader board at the Twisp Feed Store stating, “I miss hating the heat.” But for me, I never hate the heat. I revel in it. In fact, I still haven’t warmed up yet since this winter, what with only single digits still midway through July. But I will say, this is the best patio season we’ve ever had.
Without the heat, there’s been a shifting number of behaviors happening in the human and animal world. Some for the better, some for the worse, and some just plain strange. Take for example the fact that I had not even been to the local Twisp hole to swim yet, a behavior that usually begins in early July.
The July temps usually compel us to visit the river in the evenings to shake off the heat. Finally, on Sunday it seemed fitting to visit the hole, albeit with my wetsuit in hand. Having only used my wetsuit in May or June on the river, this was a first for a July dip. But I wasn’t alone. The local youth group pulled in on their crafts about the same time and many of them also were sporting wetsuits — at least the sensible adults were. More-intrepid and committed dippers like the local pack of youth boys, alongside Phoebe and Nick Hershenow who make an evening pilgrimage to the hole, are experienced cold-water plungers and have become accustomed to the chilly water. But for my first dip this year, the wetsuit was perfect. Looks like I will be needing it for the rest of July as temps are predicted to barely break 80!
The cooler weather may be leading to some interesting animal sightings. Most notably, bears. I too have seen a couple. Young blacks, large cinnamon, medium brown — while they are all black bears, the variety is a testament to their abundance. One rambled through Twin Lakes a week ago right down a road in the middle of the day. They’ve been spotted up the Chewuch, up Twisp River, and on the Sun Mountain trails.
Male bears disperse in the summer to find a mate and are therefore on the move. Male cubs ready to head out on their own leave their mom’s cover and find their own territory this time of year, leaving them vulnerable to be spotted, especially if they haven’t figured out their travel corridors yet where they can stay concealed.
Also, this season, an unprecedented number of very chubby marmots have appeared. They seem to be everywhere, are very blonde in color, and very curious. A visit into the high country will inevitably be greeted with their alarming whistle where they will sit on a rock and let you know you’ve entered their world. So watch out, the marmot armies are ready to attack campsites when you least expect it.
Here in the lowlands, they have unfortunately met their fate on the highways in a level of carnage I have never seen before. Perhaps the mild winter led to better offspring survival, perhaps the lack of snakes I mentioned last week has led to better numbers, perhaps the early spring lessoned their mortality. Whatever the case, the marmots seem to be doing well this year, except when encountering drivers on Highway 153 who are filling an apparent void of predators.
Mosquitos? Other than in the high country, most residents agree, they haven’t been bad on the home front. I concur. There have been many evenings in past years that patio dinners were outright impossible. This year, they have all but been absent. Similarly, the yellowjackets haven’t been too ornery yet. They did find our barbecue chicken on the patio last night, but it wasn’t until we were done eating — so a pleasant meal was had. The only hitch was I needed a blanket to keep my legs warm once the sun set behind the hill.
Stranger still: Both my kids have gotten stung by wasps already this year — inside the house! Like many older houses in the Methow, we have paper wasps living in strange nooks and crannies of eves and roofs and these invaders find their way into the house. Normally they reside on the windowsills where they can easily be spotted and exterminated. But often they take refuge in unsuspecting places like our couch cushions. Book readers and Lego builders have been victim to their hidden stingers recently. So, I guess we are safer outside on the patio — which is just fine for me.