City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

November 18, 2016

November 18th

Filed under: Sounds — canopus56 @ 4:25 pm

City Rumble

7:00 a.m. The morning in the canyon, it is in the twenties – cold weather jogging. At mile post 1.5, it is quiet. For those who live within two or three miles of downtown Salt Lake City, the sound of the 5:00 a.m. horn of the freight train is a well-known harbinger of morning. Such sounds penetrate the lower canyon, but at mile 1.5, all is extraordinarily silent. The footfalls of pre-dawn runners on the road can be distinctly heard from more than a football field away. Here, there is that special sound of silence that Utahans, who vacation in the empty southwest canyonlands of the state, are familiar with. In the canyonlands where one can still stand on redrocks where the nearest person is twenty-miles away, silence has a sound that is louder than daily city noise. As I run down canyon to mile 0.3, another sound invades the canyon. Salt Lake City is an urban center of commuters. While the population of its central business and university districts falls to about 3,000 during the night, during the day 50,000 commuters flood the city’s center and another 30,000 travel to the university district. In lower City Creek Canyon and throughout central city neighborhoods, a distinct rumble wakes those still asleep between seven and nine a.m. It is the sound of thousands of cars going over innumerable breaks, potholes, and other imperfections in the city’s freeways and roads. It sounds like a massive wave from a distant mechanical storm moving towards the city, and this discordant noise at mile 0.3 marks the boundary in the canyon between its deep meditative silence and ones everyday working life. One cannot hear the rumble during the day, but around 5 to 6 p.m., the noise returns as the commuters leave the city.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on November 18th, 1837, Thoreau notes that there is no “noise” in nature. Nature makes loud sounds, but they are always rhythmic and pleasing. Only human-generated sounds are “noise”, which by its definition is bothersome and anxiety producing. On November 18, 1857, he notes that frost bleaches grass in the meadows of his eastern forest from tan to silver.

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