City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

January 20, 2017

January 19th

Filed under: Pollution, Weather — canopus56 @ 12:21 am

Cloud Fog

5:00 p.m. A storm front with a low cloud layer has moved in, and it has rained on and off for most of the day. This has also cleared out the inversion layer, but the air, although it smells crisp and moist, is still bad in the city. A network of real-time particle pollution sensors surround the City, and I can view their results on my telephone. Sensors on the city’s plain read an unhealthy count of particulates of less than 2.5 um in diameter in each cubic meter of air. Three of the many sensors in the network are positioned high on or above the Provo Level terrace of Lake Bonneville at 4,700 feet in elevation, and those three sensor in contrast average a healthy PM 2.5 count of about 20 particles. Although there are no sensors in the canyon, the distribution of their healthy particulate readings indicate clean air can be breathed there. It is time to go and jog in the canyon.

As I drive to and start jogging up the canyon, I am enclosed in one of the low-lying cloud banks. The scene feels like one of Stigliz’s silvery photographs of New York buildings at night in the fog. The lightest falling of wet snow precipitates out of the cloud as I run through it; I am watching snow form. This covers the road below mile 0.5 in slick, slippery surface. To run up the road’s incline, I most plant each foot flat in order to obtain enough traction. Pushing off from the toes and balls of my feet results in slips and near-falls. But the air has a wonderful taste to it and it is not overly cold. I can feel my lungs clear as I reach milepost 1.5 and turn around for a subtle down canyon view. A thick low cloud layer blocks the lower entrance to the canyon, and flat bottoms of another cloud layer just scrapes the ridgeline five hundred feet above. A string of small fog banks stretches tentatively up the canyon to the entrance to Pleasant Valley.

Unlike Thoreau one-hundred and fifty years ago, I have access to a myriad of technological resources that change my relationship to the city, nature, and the canyon. Thoreau had access to a good university and a library a short train ride away at Harvard. I have in real time, undreamed access to satellite weather images, air quality networks, global positioning satellites, world-spanning journal research indices and publications, and like Thoreau, access to a good university library. But understanding and knowledge today, as in Thoreau’s time, depends on interest, perception by an open mind, and effort. I am continually surprised at the depth of research being done by professionals and academicians on even the smallest natural curiosity that I find in the canyon. But this is not an age of the end of knowledge. More often than not, researchers begin their papers about what would seem to be the most common of questions with the statement “little is known about …” Such statements are part of the art of scientific writing since publication focuses results that extend new knowledge, but it is more than just draftsmanship. The depth of things not known or that we assume to be resolved is immense. Such reading has made me more cautious about checking my own assumptions about the world before deciding or acting on a matter. Like most people, I make quick assessments and judgments about issues of daily life, but I see them only as provisional ideas. Then I ask, “What have others done on this question, and is there an opportunity for a fresh view or thought?”

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on January 19th 1856, he describes overcast skies in which there are parallel bands of clouds. These are probably gravity wave induced cloud bands.

On January 19th, 1905, City Land and Water Commissioner Ben D. Luce reported that City Creek was regularly patrolled to prevent livestock from grazing in the canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). He recommended that the canyon road be improved and that a park be established at its mouth (id). On January 19, 1898, Mayor Clark reported to the City Council that he concurred in the Water Commissioner’s recommendation to replace the City Creek “high line” redistribution tanks on the grounds that they were “in such a deplorable condition as to render it likely at any moment that a large area of the city should be cut off from a supply of water by the collapse of these rotten structures” (Salt Lake Herald). On January 19th, 1887, the City Watermaster reported on a plan for allocation of water from the new constructed Dry Bench water mains (Salt Lake Democrat). On January 19th, 1875, the Salt Lake Tribune reported the account of a member of a rescue party sent to check on the welfare of two miners at the Red Bird Mine on Scott’s Hill (probably the Unamed peak at 8283 feet to the north west of Lower Rotary Park). The rescuer reported that “game of all kinds is abundant. We saw twelve blacktail deer in one band for a starter, ducks in great abundance, many snipes, a brace of California quail, to say nothing of prairie chickens, grouse and white hare. The stream is also a favorite resort for brook trout” (id). The reporter also listed many feature names, most of which are not in use today, including Maiden’s Rock, Whisky Springs, Dead Man’s Point, The Narrows, Pleasant Valley, Jackass Cut Off, Rattlesnake Point, Chimney Rock, Blooly Cabin, Lime Burner’s Retreat, Camp Enoch, Porcupine Gap, Tan-Bark Hollow, Hermit’s Camp, Priesthood’s Tree, and Modoc City (id). Modoc City was a proposed and platted city at the current site of Upper Rotary Park. The “city” consisted of a cabin that served as a post-office.

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