The hornets are back
September 9, 2016
So that's it. Summer is done. We're into real fall colors and cold nights. Equinox is only a couple of weeks away. This is a wonderful time of year here. The chaos that has come to define the summer months is over. The crowds are gone, and the traffic that remains is mostly of our own making. It's down to a dull roar. The Chamber's Special Events calendar shows only a paltry 23 events between now and October 1. OK, so that's still more than one a day, but it's down from summer's frenzy. Not a soccer tournament or Ragnar in sight. Most of the 23 events are fairly low-impact affairs — shows, the film series, and so on. The only street closure is Tour des Suds, and that lasts only a few minutes while they grind up Main Street. So it's more or less just us these days. Enjoy it while you can. Ski season will be on us soon enough, and then it's back to Defcon 1 traffic conditions.
Summer seemed to go by a lot faster than usual this year. Maybe that's good, since it was a year when pretty much nothing worked on the ranch. Small projects turned into nightmares. A little touch-up painting on my house morphed into replacing a deck that had pretty much rotted away underneath. Thirty-five years in this climate will do that. There were mechanical problems getting the hay cut, and by the time the machinery was back in action, the irrigation water was gone. For all practical purposes, the North Fork of the Provo River is dry. Last winter was just average, even though it felt huge by comparison to the previous seasons, and the snow melted in May. A very hot summer finished it off. The second crop of hay isn't really worth the effort to cut, so we'll let the cattle mow it themselves—if we can figure out a way to get water to them. For the first time I can remember, we will be trucking water to fill troughs for the cattle to drink from so we can use the grass that's left.
I haven't kept a total, but I don't think there has been a half-inch of rain since the first of June. We've got a couple of big fires in the general area, and it's frankly surprising that we don't have more. Everything is bone dry. It would be great to get some heavy fall rains to put a little moisture in the soil. The 90-day forecast doesn't look promising.
Ski season is coming, and that's always something to look forward to. I renewed my Epic Local Pass for $629. That remains one of the best bargains out there. If I ski 100 days, which I usually do, and if I did it all at PCMR, it would cost me $6.29 a day to ski. I spend more on gas getting to the resort than it costs to actually use the lifts. A drink and a brownie cost more than the lift access. But there are lift lines where there didn't used to be lift lines, and parking is difficult. And there seem to be more people on the hill wearing hats with buffalo horns or bear ears on them. It's not just our mountain anymore. Not that it ever really was.
I don't know what the winter will bring. I put some stock in the theory that when the hornet nests are big and high in the trees, it will be a snowy winter. For the last few years this theory has been knocked on its ear, but not because the correlation between the nests and the snow was off. There were no hornets, so there were no nests. Nobody explained where the hornets went, but they were gone. Without the hornets, there was no weather forecast.
This year, the hornets are back. I've got hornets in wholesale batches building nests all over the place. There are several just in my yard. There are nests everywhere, and with a couple of alarming exceptions, like the one just inside the barn door next to the light switch, they are all about as high in the trees as they can get. If the completely unscientific theory holds true, we are in for a solid, snowy winter.
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Of course the scientists have their own theory, and they are pointing to a warmer than normal winter and at best average moisture. There's none of that "el Nino" stuff, just good old-fashioned drought. But who are you going to believe, a bunch of nerdy scientists using super-computers to crunch carefully accumulated statistical data and weather patterns going back a hundred years, or a bunch of random insects?
Personally, I'm going with the insects.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.