City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

May 5, 2017

April 30th

Butterfly recovery

3:00 p.m. It is overcast but warm in another weekend day, the parking is overflowing and there are over one-hundred persons on the first-mile of road. Hiking down the road is a bearded hunter-type wearing camouflage fatigues and strapped to his backpack at two whitened deer antlers. He has been collecting, motivated that a market that can bring one-hundred dollars for their best high-point discards. But more usually, the price four dollars for average samples. The first young one-foot tall cattails reappear at the seep below picnic site 6. Last year’s grove is rebuilding (October 25th). A mallard is resting in the flood retention pond, unperturbed by four anglers casting around it. In the first mile, I hear eight unseen chickadees in the thickets. The call of an unseen hummingbird is heard.

Butterflies are recovering from the cold weather, and I glimpse five types of small butterfly with a wingspan of less than one and one-half inches that is feeding near a red-rumped worker bumble bee. They are fast and this makes identification difficult. One is a dusky orange with small black wing spots and a black thorax, perhaps a Zerene fritillary. Another is a uniform light blue. The third is light blue with widely-spaced blue-veins on its wings, probably a Western blue-tailed (Evere amyntula). The fourth is the same, but the veins are closely-spaced, possibly a Spring Azure (Celastrina ladonecho). The fifth has the same molted brown pattern as the light-decomposing leaf layer on the ground. I notice it because a small black ant is dragging one of the wings away, that is twelve times its size, back to its nest. That the ant has chosen this prize illustrates the importance of protein to the ant colony’s development.

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On April 30th, 2006, the City continues to develop its proposal to create a 1.5 mile above ground greenway that would receive City Creek’s flow and “daylight” channel the creek above-ground from 45 South 700 West to the Jordan River (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 30, 2005, a Primary Children’s Hospital Patient ties a “wish note” on a tree to be planted in City Creek Canyon (Deseret News). On April 30th, 1996, the Salt Lake Tribune rates the Bonneville Shoreline Trail to City Creek Canyon the third best mountain bike ride in Utah. On April 30th, 1943, all travel into City Creek Canyon and north of Thirteenth Avenue was banned due to drought and extreme fire hazard (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 30th, 1899, the Social Wheel Club planned a bicycle outing up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). Club plans for a 100-mile ride in June are discussed.


April 26, 2017

April 24th

Benefits of Nature – Part II – Restoration of Well-Being and Stress Reduction

4:00 p.m. Heavy rain falls all day, and I am running in a medium to light downfall. Even so, there are twelve runners and walkers on the road and enjoying a wet canyon. The stream is swollen. The rain brings out the colors of the tree trunks: the Box Elder, cottonwood and River birch all have slightly varying grades of gray. Under this light and the soaked trunks, orange lichens have a high contrast. The red trunks of the Red ozier dogwood bushes also starkly contrast with their two-inch sparse green leaves. In the winter, these red trunks contrasted again the white snow. The Gambel’s oaks all show signs of leafing through mile 0.2, but they slumber thereafter. All other trees through mile 1.2 have significant unfurled buds. Green begins to dominate the upper story of the forest along the road, and Solomon’s seal dominates the understory. I hear about eight unseen chickadees in the forest’s thickets.

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Attention Restoration Theory (ART) proposes that the daily mental strain of modern life leads to cognitive burn-out and that a natural environment can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes. In 2012, Ruth and Paul Atchley at the University of Kansas and David Strayler at the University of Utah measured the creativity of 56 participants before they entered three-day Outbound Bound retreat in the wilderness were technological devices were banned (Atchley et al 2012). Post-wilderness participants had significantly higher scores on a creative problem-solving task as compared to pre-wilderness participants. This is a psychologist’s way of showing that vacations are necessary for restore ones mental functioning. In another small study, Howell and colleagues at Grant MacEwan University surveyed 452 undergraduate students regarding their degree of connectness to nature and their sense of emotional well-being (Howell et al 2011). They found that a person’s sense of connectedness with nature, measured using accepted psychological test scales, is positively associated with their sense of emotional well-being. But these are small studies involving non-randomly chosen populations.

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Research also indicates that exposure to nature reduces stress. Previously discussed studies involving a self-reported sense of well-being based on using accepted psychological test scales may be describing a subjective response to nature that has no physical counterpart. Such studies lack objective physiological, biochemical measurements. Thompson at the University of Edinburgh and colleagues measured outdoor activity and cortisol in salivary secretions over two days in 25 unemployed persons between the ages of 33 and 57 years of ago (Thompson et al 2012). They found a positive association between the slope of their daily cortisol levels (which naturally decline throughout the day), an increasing self-reported sense of well-being, and their increasing levels of activity in natural areas. Persistent low-levels of cortisol are indicative of continuing emotional stress, e.g. as in PTSD. Park at the Chiba University and colleagues used a portable electrocardiograph, a wearable blood pressure monitor, salivary swabs and psychological tests to measure changes in heart rate, ECG, and cortisol levels before and after exercise by 480 urban residents before and after traditional Japanese Shinrin-yoku nature walks in forests (Park et al 2010). Different types of electrocardiograph data is correlated with activity in the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Park et al found that as compared to urban settings, walking in forests lowered cortisol levels, pulse rate, blood pressure, increases relaxation (as measured by parasympathetic nervous activity) and lowers the flight-or-flight response (as measured by sympathetic nervous activity). Alvarsson and colleagues found in laboratory experiments on forty university students that the sympathetic nervous system, measured using skin conduction, recovered faster to loud natural sounds as opposed to loud noise, e.g. urban noise (Alvarsson et al 2010). This suggests that interrupting living in an urban environment saturated with traffic noise over-stresses the fight-of-flight (symathetic nervous) response and that breaks in a natural setting might aid in restoring symathetic nervous system. Again, these are small studies involving non-randomly chosen populations.

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On April 24th, 1992, Beacon Elementary students held a one-mile hike in City Creek Canyon support of the creation of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (Salt Lake Tribune, Tribune April 25, 1992). According to Rick Reese of the Shoreline Trail association, progress is being made on agreements to start construction of the segment between the University of Utah and City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, April 25, 1992). Reese’s vision is to be able to “to walk from Emigration Canyon to Shriners Hospital without traffic or constraints[.]” (Reese was a legendary early rock climber who with Former Mayor Ted Wilson, explored many now classic rock climbing routes in the Wasatch. Reese went on to be an officer of the Great Yellowstone Coalition in Montana.) The Children’s Association to Revive the Earth will also plan to plant trees with Gov. Norman Bangerter on Arbor Day. On April 24th, 1908, the Police Department did a sweep of vagrants seeking to arrest one with experience handling explosives. A skilled prison laborer was needed to dynamite rocks during the construction of City Creek Canyon Road (Salt Lake Herald). R. B. Matthews, the City Creek Canyon water patrolman, impounded 13 stray cattle found in the canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 23rd

Benefits of Nature – Part I – The Restorative Effects of Simulated and Wild Nature

3:00 p.m. On this overcast day, the parking lot is full and the stream still runs higher from recent rains. At mile 0.3, a round a bend in the road and startle a female mallard who is stand overlooking the stream. Ten feet in front of me, she rises in a flight response that is a flurry of molted dark browns mixed with light browns and white. Her receding figure is punctuated by bright rump feathers.

Local bird observer Brian Olsen reported at Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory’s “E-bird” list (Cornell 2016) that on April 21st, he saw or heard a extensive list of native and spring migratory visitors including Turkey vultures, a Red-tailed hawk, a Cooper’s hawk, Peregrine falcon, a Scrub jay, Northern flicker, Chukar, California quail, American robin, two Black-capped chickadees, House finch, a Lesser goldfinch (Spinus psaltria), and a Broad-tailed hummingbird (Selasphour platycercus)

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Ulrich also cites human health and cognitive restoration responses to nature therapy also provides indirect support for the biophilia hypothesis (Ulrich 98-108). Patients exposed to to nature while confined to a hospital accelerates their healing (id), and resting in an unstressed natural environment accelerates the brains recovery of executive and cognitive functions after they have been dulled by stress (id). This idea has given rise to an entire architectural philosophy called biophilia design, and its impact can be seen in many new urban buildings that seek to integrate wide natural lighting windows with views of natural environments into office working spaces.

Whether or not study of nature restoration supports the biophilia hypothesis, the restorative and healing quality of nature continued as an active area of research between Ulrich’s 1993 summary and the present. Ninety-percent of all time spent by humans of developed nations are spent indoors and between 1982 and 2008, there was a declining per capita trend in the amount of time that developed nation residents spend outdoors, although total recreation days continues to increase (Pergams and Zaradic, 2008). This trend raised concerns about the impact of that time on both physical health and mental health. Research conclusions about the effects of nature exposure provides scientific support for the commonplace that nature heals and restores. Capaldi at Carleton University and colleagues review benefits of exposure to nature on ones sense of well-being (Capaldi et al 2015). Those benefits can be characterized as increasing or maintaining hedonic well-being, that is a subjective emotional well-being consistent of positive feelings and satisfaction with ones life, and increasing or maintaining eudaimonic well-being, that is a general sense that one is functioning well with a sense of meaning, autonomy and vitality (id).

In 2015, McMahan of Western Oregon University and Estes of the University of Wyoming conducted a meta-analysis of thirty-two studies involving 2,356 participants concerning the effects of exposure of nature on emotional well-being (McMahan and Estes 2015). They reviewed studies that involved actually going into nature as opposed to viewing images of natural environments. They found an moderate increase in positive affect from short-term exposure to nature, found no difference between the effect of exposure between managed nature (e.g. urban parks) and natural environments, and they suggested how future research programs could be improved to provide better results. For example, research has not addressed dose-dependent exposure. Does increasing the amount of time spent in nature have an increasing affect on emotional well-being? Coon and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of 11 studies with 833 participants that compared the effect of exercising outdoors in nature verses indoors, and they found an increased sense of well-being from exercising outdoors as opposed to indoors (Coon et al 2011). Lohr summarized how studies from 1984 through 2000 have indicated that exposure to nature reduces stress, improves social interactions, speeds recovery from illness, reduces mental fatigue, increases attention and reduces violence (Lohr 2007).

Do true natural environments have the same effect as managed open spaces like parks? McMahan and Estes’s meta-analysis did not find a difference, but other researchers have reported a distinction. White at the University of Exeter and colleagues analyzed survey results of 4,255 participants in a national survey of English residents (White et al 2013). They found that respondents reported the level of restoration achieved was associated with a declining level of urbanization stretching from coastal areas, natural woodland forests, and urban parks. White et al also found that restoration was dose-dependent: higher levels of outdoor activities in a natural setting resulted in a higher level of restoration (id). Korpela and colleagues surveyed 1,273 randomly chosen urban Finnish residents for their emotional responses when using urban woodlands verses managed urban parks, and the restorative experiences of people using urban woodlands was stronger than those using urban parks (Korpela et al 2010). Korpela et al also found the the degree of worry over daily life, e.g. such as money worries, was negatively associated with utilizing the outdoors.

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Exercise outdoors has a higher restorative effect than indoor exercise. As time indoors increases and increased urbanization raises barriers to outdoor recreation, the issue of whether indoor verses outdoor recreation has the same health benefits and restoration of emotional well-being become significant. Hug at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and colleagues surveyed 319 persons at Swiss exercise centers during the winter months regarding their exercise preferences (Hug et al 2009). Persons who exercised outdoors during the winter months reported higher levels of restoration than those who exercised indoors, but Hug et al noted that this does not imply that exercising in nature is necessarily better than indoor exercise. People who exercise indoors also seek social connections and rate indoor exercise as better satisfying that equally important need. Hug suggested that the higher restoration from outdoor exercise is consistent with exercising alone. Outdoor exercise provides a release from social constraints and worries that would not be found in a social exercise setting, even where the social ethic of a club permits members to exercise alone and without social interruption from others.

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On April 23rd, 1997, a group of prominent locals who ran regularly in City Creek Canyon, remembered Tony Cannon on his passing (Salt Lake Tribune). Cannon was a descendant of the 1847 advance party. They were informally known as the “City Creek Maintenance Crew”. Tony Cannon, who ran in City Creek Canyon every day for years, dies from a stroke (Deseret News). Cannon knew “every landmark, among them Little Black, Smuggler’s Notch, Rudy’s Flat, Pleasant Valley and North Fork.” (id). On April 23rd, 1993, City officials warned about increasing coliform levels from unleashed dogs being found at the mouth of City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 23rd, 1997, Tony Cannon, who ran in City Creek Canyon every day for years, dies from a stroke (Deseret News). Cannon knew “every landmark, among them Little Black, Smuggler’s Notch, Rudy’s Flat, Pleasant Valley and North Fork.” (id). Cannon was also known for hauling “armloads” of trash from the canyon during his runs. On April 23rd, 1916, 1916, the Salt Lake Tribune in a real estate promotional piece, noted that there was a housing construction boom occurring and that among the amenities of living in Salt Lake was the closeness of City Creek Canyon. On April 23rd, 1913, the City Commission refereed Morgan County’s request to construct a highway down City Creek Canyon to the Health Commissioner. On April 23, 1888, the Salt Lake Herald suggested that to solve the city’s water shortage, a dam could be constructed across the entrance to Pleasant Valley in City Creek Canyon.

April 11, 2017

April 11th

Queen Bee

4:00 p.m. Below picnic site 6, an aging tree has toppled, but this was not from high winds. The amount of rain from the last storm was so large that the soil around the tree, which sat on the inclined road bank, failed, and the entire tree slide down the slope. This has occurred before for several large cottonwood trees. Either they fall across the road, are removed, and leaves a scalloped mark on the road bank or their bleaches trunks fall against their neighbor. They rest there for many decades until wind and insects take them away. Near mile 0.2, a two foot by four foot by three foot segment of the side-bed of the road has broken away and fallen into the stream, and the stream bank is reduced to two feet from the road. This is geologic erosion in real time. To erode the both sides of the stream bank of the first mile two feet back and ten feet down to the stream bed would take about 35,000 such events.

Jogging up canyon, a kingfisher that flies by also traveling higher, and he alights on the power lines strung across the canyon at Guardhouse Gate about two hundred feet above the ground. There, he sits and watches my progress. The opposite of the down-canyon flight behavior seen on April 6th occurs. As I reach underneath him, the kingfisher noisily flies off going up canyon. He lands one hundred feet away, and when I reach him a second time, he again flies up canyon for another one or two hundred feet. This repeats four times as we reach below the picnic site 4. Then the kingfisher loops back and starts flying close above the stream in one hundred foot stretches. As on April 6th, he is looking for dinner. A few moments later, an unidentified raptor with a five foot wing span glides down canyon below the western canyon wall. He or she is too far and too quick to make an identification.

Under the snow’s effect, the flowers of the glacier lily fields along the road have shriveled, and in one field, I can find perhaps seven intact blossoms. Their passing was too quick, and I have seen no pollinator working their flowers. Will they try for a second bloom?

On this overcast day, I choose to jog back down the Pipeline trail to Shark Fin Rock, and I come across loud single chirps from the Gamble oak forest and an unseen bird. Its single chirp is loud and piercing, and the calls registers 70 decibels on my sound meter. A few minutes of patient waiting reveals a pair of Black-capped chickadees. Several hundred feet up canyon, another chickadee responds to my new neighbor’s call. Then for some unknown reason, the kingfisher from the stream below joins in with its loud rapid fire call, and the three take turns calling.

Along this trail, I see the first large bumblebee of the season, and it has a black rump, dark brown wings, and a single orange abdominal band. It is almost one and one-half inches long, and the bee is grazing on the many open poison ivy blooms along this section of the trail. It is a Hunt bumble bee (Bombus huntii), and given its size and the month that it is active, this may be a queen (Koch 66-68). Koch’s annual timeline for this specie’s annual activity suggests that the queen will be active for one month. During this period, she is building her underground nest and laying the eggs of her future sister workers. In May, these workers will slowly become active as their queen retires underground. Returning to the road, the land dwelling shrimp, the common pill bug (July 31st), has returned and it plods along the road apparently oblivious to temperature.

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In Thoreau’s “Journal” on April 11th, 1852, he describes the close inspection of a stream bottom including micro-air bubbles in the water and yellow mica on the stream bottom. In the Riverside Edition of Thoreau’s “Journal”, new entries begin again on June 1st.

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On April 11th, 1904, the Utah Audubon Society noted a drop in the City Creek bird population (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 11th, 1904, George W. Root announces that he had located a gold ore vein in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald).

March 30, 2017

March 29th

Filed under: Glacier lily, Long-leaf phlox, Western bluebird, Wolf spider — canopus56 @ 4:11 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part X – Road Development and Increased Recreation

1:00 p.m. Sun continues for another day, and insects make a tentative try at recovering. Only three butterflies are seen, and one is unidentified with large orange wings. A spider with a prominent light strip on its thorax, possibly an immature Wolf spider (Hogna carolinensis), scurries along the road. The Glacier Lily field up canyon from picnic site 6 is much larger than I had originally thought, and containing several hundred plants, it extends on the slope above the roadbank for 120 feet by 120 feet. Between picnic sites 4 and 5, a small one-hundred by two-hundred foot field on the south-east of the stream is covered with newly opened purple Long-leaf Phlox (Phlox longifola). Near milepost 1.0, Wild onion (Allium bisceptrum) stalks grow. These are another sign of spring: flowering bulbs are rising. At Guardhouse Gate, a Western bluebird (Turdidae sialia), lands on a nearby branch and sings. I estimate perhaps 20 song birds in the trees along the first mile, but the bluebird is the only one visible. The parking lot and road remain full of runners, walkers and bicyclists.

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In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 29th, 1859, he sees crows and possibly an eagle.

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The fourth era of human utilization of the canyon was road development and increased recreation use. In the era before indoor air-conditioning and with the rise of the middle-class in Salt Lake City, escaping the city summer heat by going to City Creek in horse-drawn carriages became a popular activity. A 1901 Salt Lake Tribune article noted that, “It is estimated by a man that not less than five hundred equipages passed through Eagle Gate and the drivers of all these were bound for the canyon” (Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 16, 1901). In 1903, the Tribune noted that on Sundays, “hundreds” of City workers would escape to City Creek for relaxation and camping. Camping in the canyon was a popular past-time (Salt Lake Tribune, May 24, 1903).

With the arrival of the automobile and expansion of Salt Lake City’s middle class, more demands came from the public for improved scenic roads. Utah law had long allowed for the municipal use of prison labor (Utah Code Ann. 10-8-85 (1953 amended), and predecessor statutes). The City extensively relied on city prison road gangs to improve City Creek road. As previously noted, on January 17th, 1909, City Water Commissioner Frank M. Matthews reported that City Creek the road was being widened road using prison labor (Intermountain Republican). 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, 11th Avenue and the City Creek road in order to create a scenic drive for the now popular automobile. On January 31st, 1917, City Commissioner Herman H. Green reported that jail prisoners were continuing work on grading the new scenic boulevard around City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). Between 1919 and 1927, the Rotary Club built parks at Memory Grove and picnic grounds at Lower Rotary Park (mile 4.3) and Upper Rotary Park (mile 5.2) (Salt Lake City Corp. 1999b).

March 8, 2017

March 7th

Filed under: Common stonefly, gnats, Red-tailed hawk, Seasons, Western bluebird — canopus56 @ 1:21 am

It is enough. This is the Right [Natural] Place – First Peoples – Part V

2:00 p.m. Hawks! Near picnic site 6, a couple is standing looking intently towards the east-south ridge wall. This is always a good sign to stop, chat, and see what others see. Half-way up the south wall, a Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in its immature phase with red leading-edge wing bars floats suspended in mid-air. A light wind blows up canyon, and the hawk flies perfectly balancing the forces of lift and drag by only making small changes in its black wing tip feathers. The couple says it is part of a pair; a larger mate fly up canyon before I arrived. The hawk floats for about a minute, lands on nearby trees or an outcrop, rests, and then resume stationary soaring. I suspect the hawk is here hunting for one of the flock of about ten chickadees seen here since February 17th. Continuing up canyon, the Moon that is just one day past first-quarter hangs low on the horizon above Little Black Mountain. Since it is during the day, the black seas on the Moon’s surface are flooded with blue light. The blue color is repeated at mile 1.1. I find a flock of seven Western bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) resting in a tree next to the road. I am quiet and watch them for several minutes, but then make the mistake of coughing loudly. The flock is startled and disperses.

The wind storm and snow of March 5th and 6th denoted the coming change in seasons. The storm was a marker that spring now has the upper hand and tilts the balance towards warmth. Astronomical spring will begin on 14 days – March 20th – and I find myself unconsciously counting the days. Yesterday’s snow has melted except around the stream banks and, the canyon begins to quickly reset itself back to the last warm days. Four or five stoneflies struggle on the road, and two gnats flit in the air. The green mosses, where they were covered with yesterday’s snow, plump up again and turn dark green. But yellow-orange lichens on the dry side of trees remain their dull color. The buds on trees have not yet started to respond to the new warmth, with one exception. Today and after Sunday’s windstorm, there are a broken twigs with three swollen buds on the ends. Touching the buds breaks them off, revealing a miniature curled green leaf within. This seems out of step from the rest of the trees in the canyon, whose buds still hibernate. After some searching, I pair with an immature Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides).

The Euro-American colonists also found First Peoples in the valley on their arrival, and their population further evidence that the valley was a lush environment prior to the 1847 arrival of the Euro-American colonists. The presence of the First Peoples in the valley stretches back 12,000 years to the Pleistocene (Feb. 15th). The Ute tribe evolved from the the proto-Uto-Aztecan culture in southern Nevada and California (Simmons, 14). After the Anasazi and Fremont cultures left the area in response to prolonged severe drought around 1,200 C.E., the Ute Nation expanded into the northern Nevada, Utah and Colorado regions between 1,000-1,200 C.E. (id).

Before the arrival of the 1847 Euro-American colonists, the dominant First People’s community in the valley were migratory hunter gathers, the Tumpanawach, or fish-eaters, band of the Ute Nation, also called the Timpanogots band (Conetah, 25; Simmons, 18). Their territory stretched from the south-end of the Great Salt Lake, east to the Unita River and south to Nephi (Simmons, 18). There were two Tumpanawach groups present in the valley in July 1847: one led by Chief Wanship in Salt Lake Valley and a second led by Gosip who resided around Utah Lake (Simmons, 32). The overall leader of the Tumpanawach band was Wakara, after which Wakara Way in present day Research Park of Salt Lake City is named (Conetah, 39; Simmons, 89-92 (“Wacarra” or “Walkara”)). The Mormons mispronouced Wakara or Walkara as “Walker”. They called themselves the Nu’u-ci or “Nuche”, and the terms “Ute” and “Utah” are corrupted versions of earlier Arizonian Jemez Native American terms that the Spanish shortened to “Yuta” (Simmons, 15). A romanticized version of the first encounter and Wanship can be found on a 1990s multi-tych plaque at the entrance to the Ensign Peak trail park west of the City Creek Canyon (Feb. 15th). One of the plaque’s panes shows a mid-1970s nuclear family hiking up Ensign Peak against the back drop of urbanized Salt Lake City. A second pane illustrates Wanship’s camp at the base of Ensign Peak. Pioneer May Ellen Kimball records that the group was camped near Warm Springs about at present day 1600 North Beck Street (Gottfredson, 15). The illustrations on the plaque feature Ute style brush wickiups, a tee-pee style conical brush lean-to used for temporary summer camps. The true appearance of Wanship’s camp is unknown and the images on the plaque are probably drawn from a photograph taken by John K. Hillers during Wesley Powell’s 1872-1873 expedition. The photograph is attributed as either a Paiute encampment in St. George or a Unitah encampment of Utes, depending on the author (Jennings, 297 (Piautes); Duncan, 166 (Utes)).

The valley was also occasionally visited by the Goshute tribe of Utah’s western mountain ranges and Nevada rangelands. The Goshutes, masters of northern Utah edible desert plants, built deer run traps in Millcreek Canyon (Chamberlin 1911, 335), and their name for the canyon means Precipice Rock, or Tîn-go-ûp in their native tongue. In upper Millcreek canyon, they drove herds of antelope and deer over a natural precipice (id). The Goshutes were able to survive in the west Utah deserts that would kill an unsupported modern in as little as two days. Much of the subsequent encounter between the First Peoples and the Euro-American colonists of 1847 can be understood in terms of population dynamics, Manifest Destiny inspired racist paternalism, European disease, the religious beliefs of the Latter Day Saints embodied in their Book of Mormon, and Mormon Indian affairs policies (McPherson, 19-21). Much of the subsequent encounter between the First Peoples and the Euro-American colonists of 1847 can be understood in terms of population dynamics, Manifest Destiny inspired racist paternalism, European disease, the religious beliefs of the Latter Day Saints embodied in their Book of Mormon, and Mormon Indian affairs policies (McPherson, 19-21).

The size of the two Ute groups in the Salt Lake and Utah valleys during 1847 is unclear, but is estimated at 75 persons. On the evening of Young’s first day in the valley, July 24th, 1847, a group of 12 to 15 members of Ute Chief Wanship’s band from Salt Lake valley and Utah valley greeted the new immigrants (Little, 100). If 12 to 15 men between the ages of 17 and 40 represent about 20 percent of the population, as occurs today, this implies a local First Peoples population of around 60 to 75 persons. The advance party of Mormon colonists that arrived of July 24th, 1847 contained about 150 persons. One estimate of the total First Peoples population in Utah in 1847 is 20,000 persons (McPherson, 20), but it includes all the major tribes of Utah: the Gosutes, the Utes, the (southern) White Mesa Utes, the Paiutes, the Western Shoshone, and the Navajos. Another speculative estimate was that in the 1840s, 10,000 Utes were spread across Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas (Covington, 2). By the end of 1847, the Salt Lake Euro-American colonist population rose to 1,500, by the 1850 census there were 4,658 colonists in Salt Lake City and 11,330 in Utah as a whole, and by 1860, 8,191 in Salt Lake City and 40,125 throughout Utah (Perlich, 8; Draper, 15). But the early Mormon Euro-American colonists of 5,000 were only about 1 percent of the 400,000 Euro-American immigrants who used the Oregon Trail between 1846 and 1850. Most colonists, like Heinrich Lienhard (March 3rd), were passing through Utah on their way to Oregon, Washington and California.

As the relative abundance between Euro-American and First Peoples populations reversed in favor of the pioneers between 1847 and the 1850’s, conflict was inevitable. In particular, the Euro-American colonists arrived with substantial livestock populations that quickly depleted native grasses. Wildlife populations, on which the hunter-gatherer First Peoples depended, dwindled in competition with cattle grazing. Fish were used up from the streams and the Utah Lake fish-laden river was fenced off (Covington, 51, 60, 62-63).

The second major cultural factor that affected the first encounter between the Utah Euro-American colonists and First Peoples was Manifest Destiny inspired racism, and that racism is best illustrated by the Euro-Americans’ view of First Peoples “depredations”. James Amasa Little’s 1946 biography of Lorenzo Dow Young is illustrative of pioneer attitudes towards First Peoples as immoral “thieves”,

“The following circumstance, illustrating the thieving propensities of these aboriginal Americans shows that the Saints did not much improve their Indian associations in changing their location from the vicinity of the thieving Pawnees and Omahas to the midst of the cricket eaters of the desert” (Little 99-100).

What the Euro-American colonists viewed as “thieving” may have been perceived by the First Peoples as payment of “rent” due. In denying claims of the pioneers, based on Christian biblical doctrines, that the valley and the canyon were owned by all persons, including the Euro-American colonists, the First Peoples view was that they owned the land as their territory. They claimed “a share of the grain [planted by the colonists] for their [the colonists] use of the land” (Christy, 219, citing “Journal History of the Church,” August 15, 1846, Archives Division, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City).

Similarly, Gottfredson’s 1919 “History of Indian Depredations in Utah” by its title reveals colonists’ views of First Peoples. “Depredations” is normally a term reserved for animal depredation of livestock. The use of the term “depredation” indicates a view of First Peoples as sub-humans prone to immoral thieving. Gottfredson stated that,

“It was the inherent nature of the Indian to steal, and this brings to my mind an incident told of an Indian who brought a worn out axe to a black smith to be fixed, the blacksmith said, I can’t fix it, it hasn’t any steel in it. ‘Oh yes, said the Indian, it is all steel, me steal it last night.’ Indians could not be depended upon as to their lasting friendship, mostly on account of their thieving propensity, so it was necessary for the settlers to build forts for protection” (Gottfredson, 6).

Local Native Americans were referred to by the colonists with the denigrating names of “diggers” and “cricket-eaters” (Gottfredson, Little). The use of these terms persisted even though the 1847 colonists’ crops failed and the pioneers survived the 1847-1849 winters by learning from the First Peoples to dig and eat local roots (Nov. 30th).

The third major factor that affected 1847 colonist interactions with First Peoples was disease. After initial trading of blankets with and exchanging prisoners with the Utes, in the winter of 1847, the European disease of measles struck Wanship’s group, and the colonists buried thirty-six Utes in a mass grave (Conetah, 37; Covington, 60; see Gunnison, 146). This was typical of the disease transmission during the Euro-American colonization of North America (Diamond).

The fourth major cultural factor that affected the first encounter between the Utah Euro-American colonists and First Peoples was Mormon religious views. Written or translated by Joseph Smith during the religious revival period of the 1820s in up-state New York and during a period of eastern Indian removal, the Book of Mormon recites the story of a supreme North American white tribe, the Nephites, that split from a tribe of immoral non-whites, the Lamanites (Book of Mormon). The supreme being later becomes displeased with the Nephites for their failure to follow religious tenants, and around the time of crucifixion of Jesus, the being destroys both the Nephite and the Lamanite cultures. Mormon culture identifies Native Americans as Lamanite remnants to which the Mormons have a historical and religious duty (Covington, 52-53). For example, when Utah was admitted as a territory in 1850 as part of the Missouri Compromise, Utah was admitted as a slave territory; however, the territorial legislature allowed only the taking Black Americans and not First Peoples, as slaves.

The fifth major factor was Mormon Indian affairs policies. On August 1st, 1847, the colonists told the First Peoples that the Native Americans did not own the Salt Lake Valley (Christy, 219). Brigham Young directed the colonists to remain confined to the Great Salt Lake Valley, given that the “Utes may feel a little tenacious about their choice of lands on the Utah [Lake], we had better keep further north . . . which is more neutral ground . . .” (Sillitoe, 32, quoted). After having established themselves, Young concluded that the pioneers would then “select a site for our location at our leisure” (id). The Salt Lake Valley was the northwestern corner of the Ute territory. The valley was bounded by and overlapped the Western Shoshone Nation to the north and Gosutes lands to the west (McPherson, 2). But eventually, Ute taking of cattle, Ute threats to attack settlers due to lack of wild game foodstuffs and anger over expropriation of their traditional lands led Young to view the Ute Bands as an existential threat to the new colony, “They must either quit the ground or we must — we are to maintain that ground or vacate this . . . if we yield in this instance — we have to yield this land” (Young, Feb. 10, 1850, quoted Christy, 226).

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 7th, 1853, he lists the early natural signs of spring. On March 7th, 1854, he hears the first bluebird of the season and sees flying gnats. On March 7th, 1859, he hears a woodpecker and then a shrike.

On March 7th, 1915, the Salt Lake Telegram extolled the beauty of the drive along the new 11th Avenue and City Creek Roads. The road is to be completed shortly using prison labor. The Telegram notes that “thousands” of Salt Lake residents go to the canyon on summer weekends to escape the city’s heat (Salt Lake Telegram). On March 7, 1895 on the west side of town, Rio Grande while boring an artesian well to 1,073 feet, brought from pieces of a preserved tree with stream rounded rocks similar to those found at City Creek from depths of 438, 667, and 730 feet (Salt Lake Tribune).

March 2, 2017

March 2nd


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).

February 20, 2017

February 20th

Filed under: Bald-Faced Hornets, Blacked-Headed Chickadee, picnic site 4, Wasp — canopus56 @ 1:57 pm

Hornet Nest

Opened Hornet Nest

External Link to Image

Source: Author. The nest is rotated 180 degrees and in nature points down.

10:30 a.m. It is a very windy day, and a holiday. The wind blows leaves on and by the side of the road in two patterns. First, is a widening v-shaped spray. Second, the brown leaves dance together in a circle and are driven by a hidden dust devil. The canyon is again full of strollers, runners and bicyclists. The Black-billed magpies have come around the ridgeline from Ensign Peak (Feb. 15th), and taken up residence near picnic site 2 and down canyon from the Black-capped chickadees.

Near picnic site 4, I peel back the bark of a horizontal fallen snag. Underneath the bark are no insects, but there are long strands of a fungus sticking between the trunk and the bark. Hidden well up under the bark is a Paper wasp nest. The wasps carefully choose this place. Only a small opening in the bark leads down a tunnel to their hidden fan shaped nest. This is the natural version of their human adapted nests at the Red Bridge and in the natural gas pipeline valve station tubes (Dec. 10th). At those sites, the Paper wasp nests are inside metal fence hangers and bridge tubing. At picnic site 9, the hornet’s nest that I discovered on September 27th, long abandoned, has finally fallen from its tree. Inspecting the nest, it is apparent how the Bald-Faced hornets, who are a more social form of wasps, have engineered an evolutionary improvement in home building over their cousins, the Paper wasps. The Bald-Faced hornet nest also contains fanned shaped crèches that hang down from an attachment point. But in the hornet nest, they have constructed apartment style tiers. From the middle of the first, largest tier, a stack protrudes and on the bottom of that stalk, a second tier hangs. The third smallest tier hangs below. The diameter of the respective tiers contain 17, 12, and 9 cells, and this suggests that this compact eight inch high colony contained about 380 individuals. It is around this that the hornets build a thin multi-layer shell about two to three times the central colony. The shell contains air gaps that provide ventilation and natural cooling. The nest’s core colony is a marvel of insect engineering and the broken outer paper shell an artistic swirl of gray toned bands. That such beautiful complex construction can arise from simple, almost robotic insects is inspiring.

On my way down-canyon, I check the five hornet nests that I inventoried on December 10th. Winter weather has blown all from the trees. In a few months, will they will rebuild at the same locations?

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on February 20th, 1856, he finds otter tracks.

On February 20th, 1909, City Engineer Louis C. Kelsey reported on infrastructure accomplishments across several years of his tenure (Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake Herald). He recommended the replacement of the wooden flume below the City Creek Brick Tanks reservoir be replaced with a concrete flume and that water mains be extended into the business district.

February 19, 2017

February 19th

Filed under: Blacked-Headed Chickadee, Horsetail, Lichen, picnic site 4, picnic site 6 — canopus56 @ 6:19 pm

Blue-Green Lichen

4:00 p.m. It rains into the afternoon, but around 3:00 p.m. the Sun reappears. Horsetails have tan pads that divide each green segment, and usually, these go unnoticed. But the rain makes the green more vibrant, and where horsetails hang over the stream, the beige segments are highlighted. Drops of rainwater stick to the cylindrical segments and randomly fall into the stream below. In response to the continuing warmth, the Black-capped chickadees have moved further up canyon to mile 0.6. Now that the snow is gone, it leaves behind a flattened mat barely 1/16th inch thick of soaked leaves. In the autumn, these covered the ground to a depth of four inches. Scraping at the mat with a stick, one small insect is dislodged. All is primed for leaves’ decay back into soil, and the ground only waits the addition of spring’s heat. Testing the Box Elder catkins, the helicopter seeds easily come loose and are awaiting the strong winds of March. At picnic site 4, an unusual lichen stands out. Lichen is uniformly orange on trees in the lower canyon, as was this specimen. But the lichen on this tree has changed in the last week; it now has an orange green tint. Examining the lichen closely, under the orange lichen miniature green moss-like leaves are fruiting. Interspersed with these plants are three-quarter inch circles of a kaleidoscopic blue-green lichen. The centers are slate blue, the border is light blue, and a splash of new growth light blue-green tops the mass. At mile 0.2, I find another “mystery hole” next to the road (December 3rd). This hole is only four inches in diameter, and on exploring it with a stick, it is at least eighteen inches deep.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on February 19th, 1852, he notes that the lengthening of the days is a sign of the coming of spring. At night, he sees a bright auroral display that covers the entire northern horizon. On February 19, 1853, he finds more insect cocoons.

On February 19th, 2006, a moose wandered out of City Creek Canyon and into the Avenues where wildlife officers tranquilized it for removal (Salt Lake Tribune). On February 13th, 1913, 49 head of cattle were found illegally grazing in City Creek Canyon and were impounded by the City (Salt Lake Herald). On February 19th, 1912, Superintendent of Waterworks Charles F. Barrett recommended tunneling in City Creek in order to develop new water supplies for the City and to reduce current water shortages (Salt Lake Telegram). On February 19th, 1903, City Councilperson Hewlett recommended building a reservoir in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On February 19th, 1896, Charles Stewart, the manager of a mine in Hardscrabble Canyon just on the other side of the City Creek divide, argued for the development of a road down City Creek Canyon from Morgan County (Salt Lake Herald).

February 14, 2017

February 14th

Filed under: Blacked-Headed Chickadee, Common stonefly, Gambel's Oak, gnats, Spider — canopus56 @ 6:19 pm

Mega Tree

2:00 p.m. It is another in a series of brisk, sunny late winter days in the mid-forties. The snow in the lower canyon has left the ground except in small patches. Responding to the warmer weather, the flock of Black-capped chickadees near mile 0.3 to 0.6, now plays in more dispersed groups. In the depths of winter, they remain closer to each other. Another songbird is heard, but not seen. At mile 1.1, I look into a stream that is flowing freely, but about one month ago, here the stream was frozen in a solid milky mass. The stream itself is running lower, but is now clear and does not contains the fine particles seen yesterday. In one tree backlit by sunlight, a single strand of gossamer silk indicates that a spider was active. Two gnats and a stonefly are seen, and near mile 0.8, earlier in the day, a small beetle tried, but failed to completely cross the road. As I arrive home, a favorite tree is full of noisy European house sparrows, and the filling of this tree with a large flock is a sign that I usually take as a first precursor of the coming spring.

In southern Utah outside of Cedar City is the world’s largest single living organism: a stand of aspen trees named “Pando” (DeWoody et al). Aspens reproduce by root cloning, and Pando has been expanding for possibly 80,000 years until reaching its current mass of six million kilograms. The stand of trees is one organism connected by a series of underground roots. In northern Utah, neighboring Gambel’s oaks also reproduce asexually by clonal root extension and are connected by system of extensive clones with fused grafting roots (Neilson and Wullstein, 1986 at 298; Neilson and Wullstein, 1983 at 295; Cottam; Tiedemann, Clary and Barbour). As I jog by the Gambel oak stand between Guardhouse Gate and mile 0.3, I am passing hundreds of individual trees or just one large plant? Although biologists refer to these stands as “extensive clones” (Feb. 10th), I am unable to find any genetic investigation that sought to determine if Gambel’s oak stands form massive single organisms like southern Utah’s aspen named Pando.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on February 14th, 1854, he observes black-capped nuthatches, a downy woodpecker, and chickadees all feeding in the same area. He hears tit mice calling. On February 14th, 1857, he observes that during a thaw, many caterpillars are crawling on snow.

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