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Signs of Life


It is springtime at the headwaters of the Wind River and at 8,500 feet snow continues falling. Even so, the season is evident by the sudden and dramatic appearance of open water. Last weekend the site of this stream could be determined only by memory and the faintest gentle curves in the blanketing snow. Today, dark patches appear between deep creases, accompanied by the faintly discernible sound of trickling water. Closer inspection reveals startling green at the base of ragged dry plants growing from the black exposed earth. The sedges (Carex spp) lose no time beginning their seasonal vegetative cycle: growing, flowering, generating and dispersing seeds, all while providing forage for grazing animals, shading the wetland, and stabilizing the soil. The spring melt has commenced and the perennial sedges are ready, dependably moderating the water’s rush to join the Wind River. Incidentally, sedges can be distinguished from rushes or grasses by their triangular-shaped stems. “Sedges have edges” as opposed to the cylindrical shape of reeds and grasses. Tracks crossing the meadow detour sharply to the stream. Imagine this coyote’s (or perhaps fox) delight in finding water.

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