City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

April 19, 2017

April 18th

Filed under: Bicyclist, Colors, Kingfisher, Plants, Starry solomon's seal, Unidentified — canopus56 @ 2:47 pm

Yellow and White Flowers

4:00 p.m. In the first mile, all trees that are not oaks seem to have bloomed, and perhaps ten Gambel’s oaks along the road have bloomed up to mile 0.3. It rained during the day, and the canyon is full of the smells not of winter earth but of green spring leaves. The wind and rain have parts of the road with rotting bunches of inflorescences. These are something of a mystery because they appear to be River birch blossoms, but the deposits on the road are about two hundred feet from the nearest River birch tree. There are no other potential sources nearby. Could the wind have carried them that far? A small roadside bush has opened quarter-inch yellow flowers, and they are tube shaped at the bottom but open into five radiating petals. The small corn-like herbs mentioned yesterday have opened tiny – just a few millimeter – white flowers also with five petals. Because of their size, these are easy to miss. You have to walk up to the stalks and closely look into the top most set of leaves. They are Starry solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum). The entrance to the possible burrow mentioned yesterday has fresh dry dirt knocked out over rain soaked soil. Something lives there, and as I turn away from watching the burrow, a Rock squirrel darts across the road. Just before exiting the canyon, a lone Kingfisher is again sitting on the high powerlines stretched across the canyon, making its staccato calls. It is cold, windy, and wet, but I may be misinterpreting the Kingfisher’s raucous, annoying voice as complaining. This is its type of weather and to the bird’s ears, the song may be joyous.

The parking lot is nearly empty, and I realize how with the spring rush on the canyon, solitude had gone. Today, I hear only my own footsteps as jog along the road. As I exit the canyon, a hard rain starts to fall over a quiet, empty canyon. A few signs left along Bonneville Boulevard announce the upcoming April 22nd running of the Salt Lake City Marathon along 11th Avenue and down the lower City Creek Canyon to Memory Grove.

* * * *

On April 18th, 1920, the annual City Creek canyon running competition was rescheduled due to weather (Salt Lake Herald).

On April 18th, 2009, Mayor Ralph Becker placed the City’s proposed creation of firebreaks along City Creek Canyon Road on hold due to public opposition (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 18th, 1925, the Salt Lake Telegram in an editorial approved of city plans to widen the road in City Creek Canyon by the use of prison labor. The Telegram stated, in part, that:

“City Creek is more than a motorists’ retreat . . . Few cities in the county are blessed with a natural park such as City Creek Canyon . . . It should not only prove a magnet for our own people, but an irresistible summer attraction for visitors and tourists passing through the city.”

On April 18, 1909, the Intermountain Republican noted that homes were filling up the Avenues from 11th Avenue to Brigham Street (South Temple), and the paper supported building a bridge across City Creek near Eight or Ninth Avenue. On April 18, 1908, city commissioners approved widening City Creek Road using prison labor (Intermountain Republican, Salt Lake Telegram). On April 18, 1900, the Salt Lake Herald described the use of prison labor in making the road up City Creek. The article is accompanied by racist caricatures of a Chinese prisoner and degrading depictions of older men no longer fit for employment who had been arrested for vagrancy. On April 18, 1876, part of the City Creek Road gave way under five young men walking in the canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

March 27, 2017

March 26th

Filed under: Box Elder Tree, Chokecherry, Colors, Crabapple trees, Cultivars, Dogwood, Insects, Plants, Stream — canopus56 @ 1:04 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part VII – Mining

2:00 p.m. Today, the Sun and spring returns, but temperatures are subdued in the low fifties. The result is that insects do not try to restart, and they are too stunned by the return of overnight freezing. This also stunts the growth of some plants. The small leaves emanating from the red-osier dogwood have stopped growing. Others are still responding to more light. I find the first full-sized river birch with swelling buds. Their leaves, like the crabapple trees, are covered with small hairs. In the first quarter-mile, another cultivar is opening small white flowers with five petals and a brace of fully formed stamens that hides its ovary underneath. The difference between trees in the city on the valley floor below and those higher in the canyon is marked, and it is not simply a matter of altitude and temperature. Plants in the valley have been selected for an early show. Cherry trees that radiate light purple line many streets. Other cultivars, like willows bloom, but these are mere visitors that cannot survive on their own in arid Utah. In the valley, even valley natives like cottonwoods show blooms at their tops absent in their sister trees in the canyon, but the native trees in the canyon are more subdued, and they still bide their time waiting for the true heat of spring. In the sunlight, some sections of stream reflect repeated steps of slack pool and turgid fall water, and falls make the stream a miniature white water ribbon.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 26th, 1853, he watches a red-tailed hawk at a distance of about 15 yards. On March 26th, 1855, he hears two larks. On March 26th, 1860, he summarizes the first season observations of plants, birds, reptiles and frogs. They vary between years by about one month.

* * * *

The second wave of resource exploitation in City Creek began in the 1870s with Utah’s mining boom. That boom included many mines in City Creek Canyon. The City Creek mining boom last only a few years (Thompson). Other, more profitable ore bodies were found in Little Cottonwood Canyon and in the Park City districts drew miners elsewhere. Amateur ghost town and mining enthusiast Donald A. Winegar has reconstructed the mining history of City Creek and other Utah mining districts from a review of numerous newspaper records such as the Salt Lake Herald to the Utah Mining Bulletin (Winegar) and since 1977, he has attempted to locate and visit each mine where the location is known. There were approximately 31 mines in City Creek with colorful names such as Red Bird, General Scott, and the Rob Roy. Most the mines were active between 1871 and 1875. There was a small football field-sized platted township called Modoc, Utah, at what is now the site of Upper Rotary Park picnic grounds at mile 5.75. In the 1870s, it was little more than a few wooden shacks (id). Another town, called “Hangtown,” was proposed further up the canyon from Modoc (id). Ores mined in City Creek typically were silver and lead. Lead ore was hauled by mule to a smelters located below the City Creek-Avenues ridge. The remains of the smelters still exist and are located to the west of a home at 1507 East Tomahawk Drive.

There were two significantly profitable mines in the Canyon and a third on the city side of Black Mountain. The first was the Red Bird Mine that had a shaft over 1,300 feet in length that was active from the 1870s to 1900 (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 23, 1896 and Dec. 30, 1900). The second was the Treasure Box Mine below Grandview Peak. The Treasure Box Mine was a lead mine with a shaft extending 10,000 feet into the mountain, and as a result of increased demand for lead generated by World War I, the mine was active from 1918 until the early 1920s (Winegar). Various mining machinery still can be found about 1.75 miles up-canyon from the end of the road (Winegar, Personal observation). The third was the Burro Mine on Black Mountain (Salt Lake Mining Review, Sept. 9, 1910). The Burro deposit was discovered in 1906, and the mine was still shipping 300 tons of ore a day i 1910 (id). The locations of the two major City Creek mining areas correspond to geologic faults (Sept. 1st) and northern Utah’s volcanic era (Jan. 7th). The faults promoted mineralization.

Other than the concrete Treasure Box Mine entrance and associated machinery, all of these mines have disappeared from the landscape (Winegar). When jogging along the stream between 0.5 and 1.5 miles beyond the end of road, there are sections of the stream bed where the rocks are still discolored from mine tailings (Personal observation). However, when running or hiking in the canyon, past mining activity does not reduce the present overall enjoyment of nature.

* * * *

On March 26th, 1912, City Engineer George D. Keyser proposed paying prisoners working on creating the new road up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On March 26th, 1906, the YMCA scheduled hikes for the year including up City Creek Canyon (Intermountain Republican). On March 26th, 1903, the City Council deferred approving bonds for the construction of reservoirs in City Creek and Parley’s Canyons until the city engineer could be consulted (Salt Lake Telegram).

March 12, 2017

March 11th

Filed under: Birds, Colors, cut-off to trail at mile 0.6, Geology, Lichen, moss, Moth — canopus56 @ 3:23 am

City Creek’s Delta – Part II

External Link to Image

Flood sandbag river down Main Street in 1983 (left, KUTV News) and the 1906 flood where the sandbag river was sent down Third West (right, Utah State Historical Society, Utah Digital Archives, Marriott Library). Ensign Peak and the State Capitol Building are in the far background.

5:00 p.m. Again, a late run up the canyon. Since it is a Saturday night and it temperature rose into the sixties today, the parking lot is overflowing and the road is frequented by couples strolling arm-in-arm or hand-in-hand. Below picnic site 7, I look for the source of the intermittent spring on the west side of the road, and about seventy-five feet from the road, there is a small pool about 15 square feet in size and one foot deep that is the source of the rivulet seen today and yesterday. Air bubbles up the middle of the pool, and I make a note to revisit this site as spring progresses. Three moths, that move to fast to be identified, float by. At mile 1.1, I again hear a warbling twilight bird call in a gully to the west, and I decide to jog down the Pipeline Trail to see if it can be located. The bird is still unseen, but as I am going down the trail near mile 0.8, I come across a rock outcropping that previously had confused me as to whether it was volcanic breccia (January 7th). In better light and without snow, I can see that this is a sedimentary outcrop, but the rock is covered in a dark black lichen that is spotted with a second cream colored lichen with a light blue tint. The rock also has sparse moss and orange lichen colonies. The black lichen makes the rock look igneous. I jog down to the Shark Fin Rock at mile 0.5 and go down the cut-off and back to the road. The track is muddy, and amongst the many dog tracks, there is one unmistakable hoof print of a mule deer.

The first diversion of City Creek waters occurred on August 2, 1847, when fifteen members of Young’s reconnaissance party built a dam to divert the west branch of City Creek to what is now Pioneer Park at 300 South and 300 West (Hooten; Bancroft 261). First, they split the diversion into two streams on either side of their first encampment and later the first stockade (Hooten, 6-7). As previously noted, the east branch of City Creek went to 300 South and 500 East before turning back west and the Jordan River. Later, City Creek was channeled into two branches: one going west to the present Union Pacific Station and one going south to the location of the current City and County Building (Hooten, 3). On August 22nd, 1847, the pioneers named the creek “City Creek” (Hooten, 7).

When settling on a final grid design for their new city, the pioneers made a practical choice to locate their commercial center on the centerline of City Creek’s delta, but that choice left the heart of the city vulnerable to future flooding. The natural parabolic curve of City Creek’s delta lent itself to gravity feeding water to flat lands to the east and west of the delta. This left the north-south line along the delta itself as the obvious choice for the new city’s administrative and commercial center. This was a reasonable decision. Many cities in the east were laid out on either side of waterways that in the east provided both transportation and water power. Through the central district, City Creek was re-channeled down First East Street, now State Street, and the pioneers quickly moved to establish a water-powered adobe mill to build their first homes and grain (grist) mills along the City Creek. They built four water-powered lumber mills in the canyon to supply wood for constructing homes (Day; Watson). However, because of the pioneer’s eastern United States’ bias (Feb. 6th), they did not appreciate how City Creek was subject to highly variable flows and extreme flow events. In the 1850s, initial colonists were of the opinion that the arid Utah valleys were free from flooding (Honker 1994 at 21) and that their resource harvesting activities would not increase flooding (Park). That the pioneers perceived the landscape as arid with little rain or snow is evidence by their choice to build their initial fort with flat roofs, which promptly leaked the following spring (Bancroft, 277).

But their understandable impression of the potential for flooding was incorrect, and new research suggests that much larger flood events in City Creek can occur. In 2014, when Bekker et al reconstructed Utah extreme weather events back to 1492 from tree rings (Feb. 9th), they estimated the number of extreme floods as wells as extreme droughts. Although drought was far more prevalent since 1500 as compared to the modern era after 1850, those droughts also have been punctuated by years of extreme precipitation. Most Utahans will remember the flood of 1983 and the winter of 1993 as peak wet years. Those years did not make the list of Bekker et al’s 5th percentile wettest years since 1492. In the 1900s, 1907 and 1965 were more severe (Bekker et al, Table 3). Since 1500, there have been twenty-two years with more extreme precipitation than 1983. It is these extreme wet events that pose a hazard to City Creek’s delta and the business district.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 11th, 1854, he hears four types of bird songs: bluebirds, song-sparrows, chickadees, and blackbirds. Where snow has melted, he sees the dens of mice. On March 11, 1855, he sees bleached pine needles. On March 11, 1860, he finds a woodchuck burrow. He is approached by two red squirrels. On March 11, 1861, he examines willow seeds. (The willow has a tiny air-dispersed seed suspended below a white cotton tuft.)

On March 11th, 1905, two prisoners in the chain gang working on City Creek road escaped (Salt Lake Tribune).

March 8, 2017

March 8th

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

1:30 p.m. True pre-spring has set in, and temperatures rise to the sixties. On the remaining snow around the stream and road, I count about thirty stoneflies, one early butterfly or moth, a spider, and one red-orange ladybug. Curiously, several snags along the road have orange paint marks on their trees. From milepost 1.5, looking down canyon, I hear the screech and see a raptor circling over mile 1.0. It is probably the Red-tailed hawk seen yesterday. Returning down canyon at the Red Bridge and mile 0.9, an out-of-place silhouette on a tree high on the ridgeline catches my eye, and pulling out the monocular, I see the raptor pruning itself in the warming sun. Further down-canyon, the orange paint is explained. A crew from the City is cutting down any snags adjacent to and that lean towards the road. Last year in the March or April of 2016, there was a great windstorm that caused the watershed patrol to close and hurriedly evacuate everyone from the canyon as several trees came down across the road. I ran through the storm and was bemused by the evacuation order. The probability of a runner or walker being struck by a falling tree was astronomical, but out of politeness and respect to the officer, I left the canyon. Last year’s storm was probably the impetus for today’s felling of the snags.

First contact did not go well for the First Peoples. As previously noted, 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 his brother Little Wolf’s group from Utah valley greeted the new immigrants (Little, 100). Although bread was exchanged and attempts at communication were made (Little), a member of the Utah valley band jumped a colonist horse and sped off. Chief Wanship dispatched a posse, a chase ensued, and the result of which the two band members were killed about three or four miles south of present day Pioneer Park (Little, 100). A familiar pattern of Euro-American colonization followed. First Peoples taught the colonists how to dig for roots and tubers that sustained the colonists through their first winter (Nov. 30th), and the colonists provided or traded blankets to the First Peoples and at times First Peoples captured colonists and vice versa. Having no immunity to western diseases, the First Peoples in the valley succumbed to measles during the fall of 1847 (Bancroft; Gottfredson, 24; Conetah, 37). As previously noted (March 1st), in December 1848, the colonists, being agriculturalists, systematically killed all predator wildlife in the valley (Bancroft, 287 ftn. 287), and presumably, they also quickly consumed all the deer and buffalo. First Peoples then sought recompense in the form of payments in cattle, and as Utah’s Euro-American population continue to explode, Ute members in the face of hunger from dwindling wildlife, resorted to cattle theft (Duncan, 188; Conetah, 38; Covington, 56).

War ensued. Both a 1978 article, historian Howard A. Christy of Brigham Young University Press and a 2008 a book by Standford historian Jared Farmer extensively researched this slide into hostilities (Christy; Farmer). In March 1849 when Ute foodstuffs would have been at their lowest, a forty-five man posse was sent to Utah Lake to retrieve stolen cattle. On March 3, 1849, thirty-five Utah militia men were again sent to Utah Lake with orders to put a “final end to their (the Ute group’s) depredations in future” (Christy, 220). Four braves were killed and the remaining Ute women and children were returned to Salt Lake City. In early January 1850, again when the First Peoples would be at their lowest in available food, settlers in Utah Valley killed a Ute for alleged cattle stealing (Christy, 223). The band, seeking justice, threatened to attack settlements. In January, fifty or sixty head of cattle had been stolen around Utah Lake (Covington, 51-52; Christy, 222-223). On January 31, 1850, in Salt Lake, according to an account by a pioneer in attendance at a meeting to address the issue on file in Brigham Young University Archives, Brigham Young was quoted as stating,

“I say go [and] kill them. . . . Tell . . . to go and kill them . . . let the women and children live if they behave themselves. . . . We have no peace until the men [are] killed off—never treat the Indian as your equal.” (Christy, 224, ftn. 30).

On January 31st, Utah Militia General Daniel H. Wells, also in attendance at the meeting, issued “Special Order No. 2” to Capt. George D. Grant, dispatching a company of the militia to Utah Valley:

“You are hereby ordered . . . to cooperate with the inhabitants of said [Utah] Valley in quelling and staying the operations of all hostile Indians and otherwise act, as the circumstances may require, exterminating such, as do not separate themselves from their hostile clans, and sue for peace” (Christy, 224).

At another meeting on February 10th, 1850, Young explained that, “[W]e were cold [told] three years ago, if we don’t kill those Lake Utes, they will kill us . . .” (Christy, 225)

The effect of the January 31st meeting was that Brigham Young had caused to be issued an “extermination order” against the Tumpanawach band (Conetah, 38). “Extermination order” is a phrase that in the 1840s and 1850s had a various meanings. The Mormons themselves had been the subject of an “extermination order” by Missouri’s Governor in the 1840s, that led to the Mormon’s decision to seek a refuge in the unoccupied lands of the United States (Sillitoe, 44-45). In the United States Indian removal era of the 1820s to the 1840s, an “extermination order” also referred to the removal or driving out of peoples from a region (Merriam-Webster Dictionary), and it did not have the same overtones of genocide and ethnic cleansing that the phrase has come to mean after the Wanersee Conference of World War II and the Bosnian crisis of the 1990s. However, Young’s directive to kill places the order of 1850 in the latter category.

General Wells, later Mayor of Salt Lake City, led the militia troops, accompanied by surgeon James Blake and Lieutenant Gunnison of Captain Stansbury’s survey expedition (Farmer). The Stansbury expedition happened to be in Salt Lake City at the time. In ensuing running battles on February 4th (Covington, 51), and February 8th through the 13th, 1850 between the Provo River and sixty miles west to Table Mountain, Utah, General Wells reported killing between 43 and 48 male warriors (Christy, 225; Farmer). Farmer, who has compiled the best account of this conflict, estimates Ute deaths at approximately 100 (id). At Table Mountain, the remaining Utes, including women and children, were massacred on a frozen lake (Farmer, 71-78). First, some women and children were captured, and then using them as hostages, the militia induced the braves to surrender. The militia then executed the men in front of their wives and children, and as the mothers and children fled, they were shot down in the back (id). After the massacre, army surgeon Blake decapitated some of the warrior’s bodies, possibly for medical research purposes (Christy, 226; Farmer). Fifteen to twenty women and children were returned to Fort Utah for distribution into settler families (Christy, 225; Covington, 51 quoting Gunnison, 147). Later in 1850, the State of Deseret legislature made plans to petition the U.S. Congress to remove all members of the Ute Nation from Utah to California, Wyoming or Idaho (Christy).

In 1853, “Walker’s War”, that is Wakara’s War, broke out in which many Ute warriors were killed, and Ute opposition to colonization was decisively defeated militarily by the colonist’s Nauvoo Legion (Conetah, 38-39; Sillitoe, 45; Duncan, 188; Simmons, 91-94). Although this history is barbaric by modern human rights standards, this pattern is no different from what occurred throughout the West during the Manifest Destiny era (see Brown).

Due to urbanization, there is little archaeological record of the Ute’s habitation of Utah (Jennings 1978), the Salt Lake Valley or City Creek Canyon. By 2010, the tribal census of the Northern Ute Nation, which only includes Utes with fifty-percent or more of native blood, enumerated about 3,100 persons out of a total First Peoples’ population from all tribes of 11,870 (Office of the Secretary) and compared to 20,000 for all Utah First Peoples in 1847 (McPherson, 20).

The Northern Ute Tribe still holds its annual gathering of about 100 members, reminiscent of their historical Utah Valley summer harvest festival. In the early 1900s, they met in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald, July 21, 1903), but they now hold their annual harvest festival in Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park at a summer “Living Traditions” festival. While the City has never issued a reconciliation apology to the Northern Utes for the Table Mountain Massacre, the colorful dance costumes of the Utes are used to promote the City as a place of diversity (Salt Lake City 2016b, 24).

The level of the Ute hunter-gathering population in 1847 also supports the view of the Salt Lake valley as being abundant in grasses and wildlife. In conclusion, historical evidence indicates that prior to the Euro-American colonization of 1847, the Salt Lake Valley was an ecologically productive, lush environment by western United States standards. Hints of that pre-colonization condition can still be seen in the canyon today. In City Creek Canyon, the open fields between milepost 2.0 and mile 2.3, are the best representative habitat of what the valley looked like prior to 1847.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 8th, 1853, he notes melting snow has created rivulets of running water. On March 8th, 1854, he finds that the red leaves of mountain cranberry are in bloom. On March 8th, 1855, he finds skunk-cabbage in bloom. On March 8th, 1857, he sees his first hawk of the season. On March 8th, 1860, he sees a flock of grackles. Thoreau notes that mosses and lichens grow in all seasons including winter. Grasses and other plants also continue to grow during winter.

On March 8th, 1904, a new Republican administration takes office at City Hall and vetoes the salaries of several city employees, including Joseph Pugsley, City Creek patrolman (Salt Lake Tribune).

February 18, 2017

February 18th

Filed under: Colors, Light — canopus56 @ 6:56 pm

Orange Light

3:00 p.m. Last night, it rained continuously, and today is overcast. On February 6th, I noted a beautiful orange diffuse glow that flooded the canyon for about fifteen seconds near sunset. On the evening of February 16th, while I am driving around the valley floor near sunset, the orange glow reappears, and I see its cause. A low cloud bank hung over the valley with clear skies to the far west. The clouds were banded, that is they was long north-south running parallel bands generated by gravity waves. From each band, streamers of vapor hung in vertical curtains. The curtains were not falling rain; they were held in a temporary state between being cloud vapor and falling rain. The sun set under the cloud layer and streamed through the series of hanging curtains, and this generated the diffuse magical orange glow that lasted for about thirty seconds.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on February 18th, 1854, he observes that leaves that have spent the winter under snow are brown on the topside but white on the underside.

On February 18th, 1910, the City public grounds committee considered a request to expand a gravel pit in City Creek Canyon by adding an asphalt plant (Deseret Evening News). On February 18th, 1894, City Waterworks Superintendent Daniel S. Griffin recommended the abandonment of 1.5 miles of wooden channel in City Creek between the High Line station and Capitol Hill and the replacement of the wooden channel with iron pipe (Salt Lake Herald). No water is supplied north of Ninth Avenue. City Creek Canyon supplies about 7.9 million gallons of water each day to the city.

January 22, 2017

January 22nd

Filed under: Chokeberries, Colors, Meadow Mile 1.3, wild rose — canopus56 @ 9:21 pm

The Brown Ribbon

4:00 p.m. Yesterday’s heavy snowfall made the canyon a wonderful monotone white, and this emphasizes the stream. Usually, I do not notice the varying shades of brown of the stream, but now without the distraction of other colors, I perceive subtle variations of its dark brown bottom, the red of the bank’s soil, and various shades of brown stones sticking up above the water. There are a few other colors besides white snow, an overcast white sky, and grey tree trunks.

At mile 0.2 around the first bend from Guardhouse Gate, a chokeberry tree, a large wild rose, and a red osier dogwood (Aug. 31st, Nov. 6th) intertwine with their branches covered in snow. The chokeberry is one of the few that still retain many of its dark purple dried fruit, and these are suspended next to red bulbs of the wild rose bush. White, red, and purple provide a reminder of brighter colors now gone from the canyon, except for winter’s bright subtle pinks and yellows in the sunset. At mile 1.2 off of a side trial that leads to Pipeline Trail, there is one other notable example of a large wild rose bush. I have to shake the branches to reveal the color hidden underneath. There a wild rose bush is intertwined with a cultivar green apple tree. Some of the shriveled and ice-frozen fruit of the apple tree are plum or orange colored, and they contrast against the red buds of the wild rose and the snow. This is the largest wild rose bush in the canyon.

As I jog up canyon, there is man muttering to himself in revelry. “Fantastic”, “amazing”, “beautiful”, he stammers while he watches the snow covered trees and takes numerous photographs. He is in his early fifties and remarks that although he has lived in the city all of his life neither himself or his relatives have gone into the winter canyon during his lifetime. He rides bike here during the summer and recalls how as a boy, he and his friends would do annual summer hike. They would hike to the end of the canyon at camp near the divide with Morgan County. The next day they would hike out Hardscrabble Canyon and then to East Canyon, where their parents would pick them up. As we part, he notes, “it is strange how a man can be near something the like this, but never really see it.”

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on January 22nd, 1852, he turns a rock over and finds a colony of black ants. On January 22, 1854, he sees subtle hints of rainbow colors in the clear, setting sun sky. (These were probably due to ice crystals in the air.)

January 12, 2017

January 11th

Filed under: Colors, mile 1.2, Owl, River birch, Smells, Weather — canopus56 @ 1:52 am

Water Birch Bark

3:00 p.m. Temperatures remain in the high forties, and in the morning there is heavy rain shower. Eighty-percent o the snow has been stripped from both canyon walls, and even in the shaded road, the snow is half gone. The air is smells heavy with moisture and the earth. The bark of the river or water birch trees have changed to a light silver color. I compare today’s color with a photograph taken on September 23rd, and during the summer and autumn, the bark of the same tree at picnic site 3 was dark gray.

7:00 p.m. During a second jog in the dark, at mile 1.2 two owls are having a call and response session. I cannot locate them by sound other than to obtain a general direction. Their low-pitched calls travel great distances.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on January 11th, 1852, he sees green patches of light in overcast sky at sunset. On January 11th, 1859, he records a -22 degree Fahrenheit temperature and hears the frozen ground loudly cracking open. On January 11th, 1861, Thoreau examines the contents of a crow shot by a neighbor in order to during the crow’s diet. He finds apples, berries, acorns, the bones of small animals and a pebble.

December 28, 2016

December 27th

Filed under: Box Elder Tree, Colors, Light — canopus56 @ 1:54 pm

Gray-Slate

5:30 p.m. Temperatures as twilight descends fall into the teens, as a run late up the canyon. Already, I can feel the force of the lengthening days bringing strength and hope back into my limbs. At the solstices, the rate of change of the length of the day is at it greatest – two or three minutes per day. It is overcast, and all is a tableau of gray and blue slate sky and land. In the fading light only the catkins of Box Elder trees and tufts of dried summer bunch grasses show any hint of a tan color. As I exit the hills that mark the beginning of Pleasant Valley, even more shades of gray, blue-gray, green-gray are seen. I stop counting after ten hues and shades. Near milepost 1.5, behind me, a faintest yellow glow from twilight and the lights of the City filter through a cloud over the south hill of the valley’s entrance. Then through the cloud, the angle of the twilight changes, and the snow in the valley is infused with the dimmest, almost undetectable, yellow light. This moment of magic only lasts a few seconds. The canyon is empty; I am alone here, but satisfied.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 27th, 1851, he notes a red sunset proceeds the actual winter sunset. On December 27th, 1853, he observes how fresh snow allows one to note through their snow tracks, the existence of many small and large animals that are invisible at the other times of the year. On December 27th, 1857, he finds joy in the contrast in the seasons. At a pond where he swam in the summer, he stands on ice with numbed fingers.

On December 27th, 2003, dogs at areas set aside for them in city parks have become controversial, and lower City Creek in Memory Park is a “no-leash” zone (Salt Lake Tribune). On December 27th, 1993, the Salt Lake Tribune joked that there was such a heavy inversion layer in the air a runner going down City Creek might mistake Salt Lake City for London, Great Britain. (That year, 1993, was a heavy-snow, flood year.) On December 27th, 1951, citizens’ considered a proposal to build three water filtration plants, one in City Creek Canyon, because the United States Public Health Service was threatening to prohibit the use of the City’s low-purity water at interstate railroad terminals, at bus stations, and at the airport (Salt Lake Telegram). That would effectively have closed those important facilities. On December 27th, 1903, the Salt Lake Tribune described the then existing City Creek Water system in the context of the proposed dam in Parley’s Canyon. The “high-line” went from a head gate in City Creek at 5030 feet in elevation to a reservoir in the high Avenues. The “mid-line” went from a head gate at 4712 feet to the low Avenues and Central City. A second head gate at 4676 feet went to the Capitol Hill and west-side districts. The “low-line” went from a head gate at 4579 feet to serve the business district.

December 17, 2016

December 17th

Filed under: Birds, Colors, Elk, Insects, Light, Pepper-and-salt Moth, Seasons, Unidentified — canopus56 @ 7:51 pm

Late Signs of Coming Winter

5:00 p.m. Another arctic front came through last night, today there was light snow, and temperatures have dropped into the twenties in the city and into the teens in the canyon. For jogging, it is time to start dressing for the coldest part of the year. I start layering up by putting on two warm turtleneck shirts, a wind breaker, and then a sweater. For the lower body I have two socks and a light stretch running pants and a second heavier running pant. With heavy gloves, I am comfortable enough, if moving.

Everything in the canyon is frosted with two or three inches of snow. The Sun is near its most southern position on the ecliptic, and it sets behind the south wall at mile 1.0 and not the north wall. At dusk at milepost 1.5, a warm ray of sunshine breaks through the clouds and casts a warming light the western hills. The ray disappears, but as sunset continues, the cloud that obscures the sun is highlighted at its fringes with bright orange-yellow glow. Through the orange light at the distant canyon mouth, a raptor glides through yellow light. No elk or deer nor their tracks are seen.

5:00 p.m., December 12th, 2016 (Supplement). Winter starts on the 21st. Below Black Mountain, I can see elk tracks that traverse from the Avenues ridgeline down to the canyon road. For me, this is one of the early signals of true winter, which is in five days. The beginning of winter is not first snow, the frost, or even the first real cold spell. It is when the elk collect and migrate out of the higher mountains through Red Butte, Little Mountain Pass, Emigration Canyon, and upper City Creek. Four the next few weeks, they will congregate and file past this mid-elevation of Black Mountain, cross City Creek Canyon, and climb up to winter grazing habitat behind Ensign Peak. Black Mountains’ snow covered lower slope betrays their movements.

At Guardhouse gate, there is small pepper-grey winter moth (probably a Pepper-and-salt moth) that is, for the lack of a better word, panting like a dog. It flutters its wings in a slow sinusoidal rhythm and not in the frenetic flapping before flight. It must be warming its muscles.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 17th 1850, he observes that the practical working length of twilight is lengthened by light reflecting from snow. On December 17th 1853, he finds more moth or butterfly cocoons hanging from trees. On December 17th, 1856, he finds a winter scrub oak forest to be beautiful. On December 17th, 1859, he finds small seeds on the snow surface that have been dispersed by the wind.

On December 17, 1926, the Salt Lake Telegram reported that a mature chestnut tree, that was being dug up at the corner of 100 South and 300 East, was being donated and relocated to Memory Grove Park in City Creek Canyon.

December 16, 2016

December 16th

Filed under: Colors, Gambel's Oak, Stream — canopus56 @ 9:02 pm

The Black Ribbon

4:00p.m.-5:30 p.m., December 15th, 2016. Before dusk, the stream is a brown ribbon that is marked with spots of brown-yellow from differing sediments on the bed and with green from moss and lichen. But as dusk falls, the stream becomes darker until it is a black ribbon winding out of the canyon. The black ribbon can also be seen when the Golden Ribbon (see Dec. 14th entry) below near picnic site 3. As the stream bends around a corner from the golden hued reflecting stream, the stream no longer reflects light, and because of the contrast with the lighted section, the stream appears inky black.

At mile 1.2 and picnic site 10, the Gambel’s oaks are no longer fringed with red. Today, temperatures reached into the fifties with high winds, and most of the snow has evaporated. The warm wind has also drawn much of the water out of the air and from the trees. The formerly red sprigs at the end of the oak branches have become grey, except at the very top of the trees. The Gambel’s oaks now sport silver-grey coats and not red outer coats.

Where snow remains by the roadside next to the warmer air, the snow seems to radiate cold just as a truly warm evening Sun radiates heat. In lower City Creek near Bonneville Drive, where the earth is exposed, bunch grass continues to grow at the roots and is more green.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 16th, 1850, he observes fleas in a handful of snow, and he finds butterfly cocoons hanging from a tree. On December 16, 1840, Thoreau compares the awkward motions of quadrupeds such as deer and moose to the fluid movement of cats, birds and fish. On December 16th, 1837, he notes that the morning winter forest is covered with mist rising from wet leaves.

On December 16th, 2014, Salt Lake City’s Director of Public Utilities Jeff Niermeyer and the City Water Resources Manager Laura Briefer described the history of watershed protection in Salt Lake City and City Creek Canyon in the context of a suit seeking the release of more city water for City of Alta development (Deseret News). Niermeyer noted that the City has restrictive rules to protect the watershed, but pursues a multiple use philosophy. The City imposes a $1.50 per month watershed protection tax on its users which generates $1.5 million per year for protection. He states that,

The bottom line we only have a limited amount of water. It is not replaceable and if anything it is going to be reduced because of climate change, and we really need to protect what we have. We can’t lose it because of poor choices or poor planning.

On December 16th, 2005, Bishop George H. Niederauer of the Diocese of Salt Lake City was nominated as the Archbishop of San Francisco Archdiocese (Deseret News). Earlier in the week, he went for a hike with ten students in City Creek Canyon (id).

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