City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

March 2, 2017

March 2nd

Trash

2:00 p.m. Temperatures rise into the fifties. The snow and rain of the last few days has lost its hold on the city and in the canyon. A few inches of lingering snow covers the shaded canyon bottoms, but warm pre-spring sunlight dominates the air. At mile 1.1., the road is covered with mule deer scat. As the road warms during the day, deer herds like to congregate on the road at night in order to take advantage of the road’s radiant heat. Insects now respond more vigorously to spring’s new attempt to return. The Black-capped chickadee flock now centers on picnic site six, and a few Black-billed magpies venture higher up canyon. Between Guardhouse Gate and mile 1.1, I count fifty-one small stoneflies, whereas on previous warm days, only one or two could be found. The warmth draws the University’s bicycling team outside, and in close colorful group, they speed by up canyon.

Small trash is pervasive along the lower canyon road. Each day while jogging along the first two miles, I stoop to pick up three or four pieces of discarded paper, energy drink pack tops, hair bands, cigarette butts, sanitary wipes, bottle caps, plastic bottles, gloves, hats, ear rings, and similar ephemera of modern life. I am not a saint. I do this to selfishly preserve the natural aesthetic of my daily excursion, and also as exercise. I have become older and bending over and picking up items is a way to maintain flexibility. I estimate that over three years that I have picked up three or four 40 gallon bags of trash. I am far from the first to do this; keeping the canyon clean is a community effort. In 1997, Tony Cannon, a descendant of Mormon pioneers who logged 22,715 miles running in City Creek, was known for always leaving the canyon with armloads of trash (Salt Lake Tribune, April 23, 1997, May 12, 1998). Things have improved. Since the lower canyon is kept clean on a daily basis, the volume of discarded trash has declined noticeably. If occasional users find a more pristine canyon, they seem to be less inclined to deface it. One can only imagine what layers of plastic have been incorporated into the soil and thus the future geologic layers on either side of the road.

The current geologic epoch is called the Holocene, and it began about 11,000 years ago. Some researchers have proposed that a new geologic epoch be declared: the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is informally defined as epoch in which human impact on the environment, in terms of species extinction, modification of the chemistry of the biosphere, and pollution, has become so pronounced that its effects will be seen in stratigraphic layers by future geologists (Waters et al). In August 2016, the Working Group on the Anthropocene of the International Union of Geological Sciences recommended to the full congress that it officially adopt this epoch name (Carrington), but the congress has yet to vote on the matter.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 2nd, 1855, he notes that when viewed from a distance, young shoots at the tops of maple trees are red tinged. Compare Dec. 11th here. On March 2nd, 1856, he observes that birches have dropped their seeds in a high density. On March 2, 1858, he sees a large flock of buntings. On March 2, 1859 during a winter of heavy snow, he describes the bluebird’s song as the first premature harbinger of spring. On March 2, 1860, he notes the ground is without snow.

On March 2nd, 1910, with a crew of 150, Moran Construction began installation of a 5 foot conduit to carry City Creek underground through the business district (Salt Lake Tribune).

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