The Wind River Range in Wyoming has long been one of my favorite places in the US. I’ve been backpacking in the Winds since about 1970. I’ve done several trips of two weeks and longer in these gorgeous mountains.
One change I have noticed over the years about the Wind Rivers is that they used to be full of snow and ice, even at the end of summer. Now-a-days there is much less snow. Snow fields that I remember as being a half mile long are now totally gone. When I look at where those snow fields used to be, there are now only rocky slopes or big scree fields. The glaciers that used the fill the valleys of the high peaks are a tiny remnant of what they once were.
A warmer climate is melting the Wind River’s snow and ice just as it is in high country all over the world.
The other change I have noticed in the Wind Rivers is that many of the lodgepole forests that used to be green and healthy and vigorous are now full of dead and dying trees. Not all the trees are dead of course, but now when you look at large forested slopes they are a quarter or half full of rust colored trees. And sometimes whole forests are dead. There is is lot of this in the Western part of Rocky Mountain National Park.
These dead trees are victims of the pine beetle which is taking over the Rocky Mountains. Winters no longer have the long periods of intense cold which used to kill pine beetles.
The place where I find this most noticeable in the Wind Rivers is on the western shore of the Green River Lakes in the Northern Wind Rivers. There used to be a gorgeous Forest Service campground here where I have spent many beautiful days and afternoons and nights. Now the whole campground is gone except for three or four camp spots way over to one side. National Forest rangers have cut down all of the hundreds of huge pines that used to fill the sky above this campground because most of the trees had died and dead trees tend to fall on campers when the wind blows. And after they cut the trees down, they moved out the entire campground.
The same thing is happening in all of the National Parks of the Western US. Often you see forests full of dying and dead trees. And unfortunately these forest full of dead, dry timber is ready to be touched off by the first spark that comes along. This is usually lightening. And then large chunks of the forests are gone. This has happened over the last fifty years in all of my favorite parks: the Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and as everyone knows all over California. All of our national parks are now scarred with burns, small, large and huge. I hate to say it, but the beautiful National Parks in the Western US may be a thing of the past in the not too distant future.