The photo diary that I posted slightly more than a week ago featured plenty of pictures taken on bright sunny days (link, in case you missed it...Idaho Photo Diary #1).  When you are in the mountains in October, you cannot expect the sun to shine forever.  Indeed, the past few days have brought a taste of what's ahead.  Cold rain put an end to the long string of dry weather.  When the sun shines, its low angle in the sky does not bring the heat that it did just two weeks ago.  And the seven-day forecast has lots of snowflake symbols.

Bare aspens, western larch in fall colors, and green conifers.
Bare aspens, larch in fall colors, and green conifers
Same place, a day later.  As I arrived in the woods this morning, the first snowflakes began to fall.
First snowflakes of the season!
My forestry work here is coming to an end, just in time!  In fact, several things have fallen into place at just the right time.  The rain began one day after I finished the steep ground next to the North Fork of the Payette River.  Considering the long access on dirt roads that are steep in places, and also considering that my truck is two-wheel drive, the timing was perfect.  The next block of woods required some long drives over better roads, and I finished that area just ahead of another wave of rain.  Now I'm down to my final day of field work, and it's in the valley at the edge of town.  Is it luck?  Some luck was involved, I admit, but good planning was also involved.  I never save the worst ground for last.

I will start with some pictures of the McCall, Idaho area.  It's a nice resort town, one that has been drawing tourists for many decades.  This is a great time to visit, because the summer visitors are gone, and the winter crowds have not arrived.  McCall is on the south shore of Payette Lake.

October scene, Payette Lake
Shore Lodge, Lake Payette
Shore Lodge, located where Payette River drains from Payette Lake, is very inviting on a chilly fall day.  Being on a forester's budget, I opted for less expensive lodging.

Below: Shore Lodge after the first snowfall.

Shore Lodge in October snow
Gloomy day on Lake Payette
Foresters Club
Above: This picture captured the mood of a gloomy day.  I really did not want to go to the woods and get wet.

Left: Any town that has a Foresters Club gets high marks from me!

Now, let's leave the comforts of town, and head for the Deep Dark Woods.  It's below freezing most mornings now.  The mud puddles have a layer of ice, and the morning sun turns frosted plants into a glowing light show.

Frozen puddle
I told you it was cold!
Frosty morning
Frosty morning at the edge of the woods
A western larch in fall colors stands in contrast with other conifers.
Jet contrail framed by ponderosa pines.
Left: a jet contrail has begun forming cirrus clouds.  I had to work a bit to get the ponderosa pines to frame the contrail.  Right: Western larch (also called tamarack) turns bright yellow before shedding its needles.  Larch is one of the few deciduous conifers in the US.
Pine cones shredded by squirrels, on stump.
A squirrel's dining room
Weathered log in Idaho.
Weathered log, Idaho.
All that remains of a log after decades of weathering.
In the drier parts of the West, fallen logs can remain on the ground for decades.  As they weather, interesting patterns develop.  Eventually, nothing remains but tiny bits of rotted wood.
Thinned forest in Idaho
This forest was thinned about 15 years ago
Most of the time I am in working forests, not pristine wilderness.  The above scene shows an area that has been commercially thinned.  The strongest, healthiest dominant trees were given room to grow.  Seedlings sprouted on the forest floor, giving rise to the next generation.  Natural succession is on display, too.  The older forest consists mainly of Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine, with some grand fir and western larch thrown in for good measure.  The seedlings are predominantly grand fir, which thrive in shade, patiently waiting for their day in the sun.
Barns and cattle, far from the feedlot
Farm near New Meadows, far from the feedlots
Looking northeast towards the town of New Meadows, ID
View from the hills, towards New Meadows
As the sunny days gave way to stormy ones, I found myself including more of the sky in my photos.  Here are some examples:
Payette Lake
Another stormy day on Payette Lake
Low clouds after overnight rain
Land, clouds, land, and more clouds
Sunlight bursts through low morning clouds
Sunlight bursts through low morning clouds
I couldn't decide whether I liked the full image (above) or the edited one (below), so I included both of them here.
Sunlight bursts through low morning clouds (edit)
Edited version of previous image
Rain squall approaches forested hills
Another squall is on the way
I took the above picture as I was leaving the woods on the first day that I saw frozen precipitation.  The skies alternated between sun and clouds.  One serious-looking cloud appeared when I happened to be a short distance from my truck.  I took refuge in the cab just as a mixture of big raindrops and ice pellets began to fall.  Fifteen minutes later, the sun was out again.  Strange weather?  Not for the Idaho mountains in October.  You have to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at you.
Storm clouds gather over Idaho mountains
Storm clouds gather over the mountains
Choose your weather - sun, rain, or snow!
Choose your weather - sun, rain, or snow!
I've enjoyed sharing my slice of the Deep Dark Woods with you.  As always, your comments are welcomed.  If you have any stories or pics to share, bring 'em on!

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Mon Oct 22, 2012 at 05:16 AM PDT.

Also republished by J Town and Community Spotlight.

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