City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

December 11, 2016

December 11th

Filed under: Colors, Gambel's Oak, Maple tree, milepost 1.5, Plants, Weather — canopus56 @ 4:17 pm

Rain Drops and the Half Black Tube

3:00 p.m., December 10th, 2016. The clouds from last night have thickened and it has rained for most of the afternoon. The half-day of rain has created new color contrasts in the canyon. As I drive to the gate and at the 11th Avenue and Bonneville Drive turn, hues from the grasses on the west slope of the lower canyon have turned from a bleached light-tan to a golden-brown. They contrast with the Gambel’s oak that have turned coal black from the soaking. This effect continues up canyon as I jog under my rain poncho up to the oak forest at milepost 1.5. The first mile is a “half-tube” of black oaks on the north and west side of the road. Compare the green tube (comment, Nov. 11th), the yellow tube (Oct. 11th), the brown tube (Oct. 24th) and the white tube (Nov. 24th). At mile 1.3, again the maple trees high on the south slope that retain some brown-orange leafs have a good contrast with the now wet dark tan hillside (November 19th). But the Gambel’s oaks show more subtle colors. The tips of the groves are tinged red-brown and the green of the lichen is emphasized. For some oak groves, the lower trunk is soaked black, the mid-trunk remains a dry gray, the upper third is green with lichens, and the top is reddish-brown. But from a distance, these subtleties are lost, and the groves look a deep black. In just a few days, the orange lichens near picnic site 9 (December 6th) have reverted back to a greenish color.

On closer inspection, the reddish-tinge at the oak grove’s fringes are this year’s new sprig growth. Each sprig is a light brown color, as compared to the grey of the trunk, branches and smaller twigs. The sprigs contain the unopened buds that are ready for next year’s resurrection.

The buds are discontinuities on the smooth twigs and sprigs. Here the water collects into small droplets that contain miniature inverted images of the hillside in the distance. The size of the twigs are such that water tension prevents droplets forming along its length. Further down the canyon, the smaller and smoother twigs of the red dogwood bushes allow water to retain sufficient tension that the droplets form like beads along all of that species horizontal twigs.

The rain is light and the droplets are large. I stop at the pool at picnic site 6 and watch the sporadic droplets make large expanding ripples on the surface. The drops and their expanding ripple circles cover more than one-half the pool, interfere with each other, cancel one another, and then fade out of existence. This type of experience inspired thought experiments by physicists that led to the modern understanding of the dual nature of light a particle and a wave.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 11th, 1855, Thoreau revels about winter nature and states that, “[w]inter with its snow is no evil to be corrected.”


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