City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

December 31, 2016

December 31st

Filed under: Bonneville Drive, Elk, Gambel's Oak, People, Pleasant Valley, Sounds — canopus56 @ 8:45 pm


3:00 p.m. New Year’s Eve by the Georgian Calendar. In the morning, although Internet cameras in the mountains show that it is a bright sunny day at higher elevations, the city is overcast all day due to the thick inversion layer. This lack of natural daylight is conducive to sleeping in, and if lack of sunlight persists to inducing seasonal affect disorder.

Along Bonneville Drive leading to the canyon, many trees are frosted with rime, and this is where the thick fog was seen yesterday near sunset. Overnight, small two and four millimeter ice crystals have sublimated on some trees, and this turns them along diffuse light into silvery-white apparitions. In the first mile jogging up canyon, I see little of these rime covered trees, but beginning at mile 1.0, more of the trees are frosted. This is probably due to the Bernoulli wind-tunnel effect (Aug. 18th) caused by the high canyon walls opening into Pleasant Valley. At the opening to Pleasant Valley, all of the trees are rime covered, but the Box Elders and their catkins are particularly thickly covered. The catkins provide a high-surface area ratio to which the rime frost can adhere. Going further up canyon, where side gullies have also accelerated the air, trees also are layered this heavier frost.

As I reach picnic site 6, a father, son, and daughter, are walking out and are outfitted with rifle hunting gear. From the lack of weight in their packs, I judge that they were unsuccessful. Rounding the bend to the red bridge at mile 0.9, an anterless elk is standing the middle of the road. She is in the no hunting zone that surrounds the road. She sees me first, freezes, and then slowly walks into the leafless forest. Examining her tracks, I can follow where she entered the road, went to drink at water seep on the west side, and then sauntered away. Water seeps from the cliffs on the west side provide water without wildlife having to trudge through deep snow to reach the stream. A walking couple stops me and tells me that they just say a herd of twenty elk crossing the south ridge line at Pleasant Valley. A few elk are also grazing on the west hills next to the road, they excitedly report. Rounding the bend into Pleasant Valley, there are four elk grazing on the hillside. Like the wild turkeys (Dec. 30th), they are pawing at the snow free ground underneath the Gambel’s oaks looking for acorns. Although unseen, I can hear the flock of wild turkeys in the oaks forest.

Near milepost 1.0, an overhung ledge shelters the partially and thinly ice covered stream. The cavity between the underside of the ice and the surface of the stream create a natural amplifier, and the stream resoundingly gurgles and thuds. Weather forecasters have promised another storm tomorrow afternoon, and this should clear out the inversion layer. If it does not arrive, I will have to go higher above the haze layer in order to enjoy a much needed dose of sunshine.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 31st, 1850, he describes how blue jays warn each of other of approaching threats. On December 31st, 1851, he observes leopard [sic – probably a lynx] tracks. On December 31st, 1853, he again notes how snow reveals the tracks of many animals normally unseen. On December 31st, 1854, he notes how the shadows on snow are not grey or black, but blue.

On December 31st, 1995, the Salt Lake Tribune noted the historical event that the eagle statute on the top of Eagle Gate was modeled on an eagle actually killed in City Creek Canyon. On December 31, 1995, the Audubon Society scheduled a walk up City Creek Canyon for January 11th, 1996 (Salt Lake Tribune). On December 31, 1924, the City Waterworks Department denied a petition by the Utah Athletic Association to build a four mile long tobogganing run down City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). A Salt Lake Telegram editorial supported the proposal on the grounds that it would relieve the winter boredom of local residents (id). On December 31, 1916, the Salt Lake Tribune noted that the City Creek road had been improved that year, and the paper endorsed park proposals by a better roads civic improvement group to link and upgrade the Wasatch Boulevard scenic drive with 11th Avenue street and the City Creek road in order to create a scenic drive for the now popular automobile.


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