City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

May 18, 2017

May 17th

Winter Interlude

3:30 p.m. The jet stream is again broken and chaotic (May 8th). This time the discontinuity stations a huge low pressure system, shaped like some misplaced galaxy with great arms separated by open spaces, over Idaho, and this weather system brings cold arctic air back into the canyon. Temperatures drop over night into the thirties and only reach the high forties during the day. Banished winter makes returns. Throughout the morning, the sky, between the arms, alternates with an hour of sunlight that turn again to dark skies and rain. As I enter the canyon, light snowflakes, miniature versions of winter’s mature form, fall from the sky, and turn to a light rain. The high walls of the canyon are again covered with a light snow and Little Black Mountain is frosted white. But the snow is deceptive. Along the road only a few patches remain on the leaves of the broadest ground plants. On the hillsides, the Arrowleaf balsamroot blossoms reflect white, not yellow, but this will all be gone in another hour. Next to the winding road, the plants are invigorated by cold, and groups of songbirds sing louder, not softer, in defiance of the prior season. Two bonded pairs of mallards swim the flood retention pond. Three groups of songbirds collect at the Gate, near mile 1.0 and again in Pleasant Valley. A single raptor is soaring up-canyon along the salient. Butterflies are vanquished.

At Pleasant Valley, the 50 meter diameter Gambel’s oak grove has now fully leafed out. There members of Utah State University’s Utah Conservation Corps have returned (Oct. 16th) for further work on their starthistle field abatement. Last year’s removal of the starthistle plants has made a lush, green field in lower Pleasant Valley, but it has given the myrtle spurge an opportunity to return. Today, they pull the spurge in the field and on the hillside surrounding the oak copse. It is hard, labor-intensive work, perhaps impractical, and I can see the temptation that biologists in the past had to use either chemicals or biological controls in the form introduced invasive insects. Both techniques end with unanticipated, adverse results. The City has already tried chemical sprays on the starthistles (Salt Lake Tribune, May 20, 2008), but that failed at Pleasant Valley.

I revisit the stretch of flat stream near picnic site 11 that I have named Rivendell (Jan. 19). I expect to find the entire area flooded. The stream has doubled in size to about 18 feet across and 18 inches in depth, but its surface runs smoothly downstream. There is a same sandy beach, barely two feet wide, at the water’s edge, and there deep hoof prints tell of mule deer coming for a drink earlier in the day.

Returning down canyon by the Pipeline Trail, the Sun comes out as the next arm of the low pressure system arrives. A Broad-tailed hummingbird flutters in the oaks, and another chorus of about eight songbirds starts up again. On the road, the warmth entices a bright yellow Western tiger swallowtail butterfly out of the bushes.

* * * *

On May 17th, 2006, Sarah Grant is training in City Creek for a 3,000 mile cross-country fund raising ride to benefit Splore, a local disabled outdoor program (Salt Lake Tribune). She plans to raise $30,000. On May 17th, 1926, twenty-four men and women of the Wasatch Mountain Club hiked up City Creek to “Scotts Peak” at the canyon’s headwaters (Salt Lake Telegram). On May 17th, 1919, City Park Commissioner George Y. Wallace argued for the creation of a scenic boulevard up City Creek Canyon and then along 11th Avenue and the bench to attract the new automobile tourism (Salt Lake Telegram).

May 10, 2017

May 8th

A Jet Stream Back-flip

4:00 p.m. The air is warm, humid and muggy, a rarity in May in Utah. A line of clouds also is uncharacteristically moving from the southeast to the northwest over the mouth of the canyon, and the east side of the valley is overcast while the west side is clear and sunny. Usually, clouds move from the southwest to the northeast as storms move in from the Pacific to the west. As I pull into the canyon parking lot, the division of these two bodies of air meet, and the result is a light, pleasing cold rain. The parking lot is full, but the road is empty except for a few walkers with rain gear. I have left my rain poncho at home, and for the first time in months, I jog with my shirt off to keep it dry. The rain is so lite that it sprinkles evaporate immediately and my shirt, held in one hand, remains dry. The rain continues on and off for the first mile, but abates at Pleasant Valley. The sky is in reverse. The dark line of clouds makes a lens across the front of the canyon, and there, although their are fewer clouds, the rain is heavy. Just beyond the lens, the sky is a deep sunny blue. The difference in the air masses makes the rain fall. At milepost 1.5, the clouds are thicker and more menacing, but their is no rain. It is a sublime scene.

Later at home, I check the jet stream map. As the globe’s air has warmed, the circumpolar jet stream has fragmented into great eddies containing low pressure systems. Unusually, the jet stream now brings moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico in a counter-clockwise turning storm. That is why the humidity reaches an unheard of sixty-five percent, and why I enjoy a refreshing spring shower while jogging. Back at Guardhouse Gate on the return leg, the clouds open up and it starts to rain heavily. The rain rejuvenates me. At other locations in the valley, lightening strikes fall with large hail stones.

At Pleasant Valley, a single Wild Turkey climbs a hill-side. Hunting season for turkey remains open from May 1st until May 31st, and now the turkeys travel alone instead of in groups. On the way down, I pass two turkey hunters and joking say, “They are up there; I know where they are; but I will not tell you where.” A tuff of dropped fur on the trail discloses the passing of a mule deer. Last year’s Curly dock (Rumex crispus) have dropped their seeds and disappeared. A new crop of these plants rises along the Pleasant Valley road. Although a noxious weed, I favor its deep red colors that contrast both with summer’s browned grasses and winter’s white snow. All of the young dock plants are healthy, except for one, that has been almost entirely consumed by Black bean aphids (Aphis fabae), and this aphid has a preference for dock species. A large three-inch Blue dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) streaks by on some unknown, but purposeful, errand. A Mormon cricket with red-colored underwings is startled along the Pipeline Trail and the meadow at Pleasant Valley.

* * * *

On May 8th, 1920, a citizen group meeting was planned to consider constructing a viaduct over City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). On May 8, 1909, a father committed suicide by hanging himself in the canyon because his business had failed and he could no longer provide for his family (Salt Lake Herald).

May 9, 2017

May 6th

Wizards of the Canyon Soundscape

7:00 a.m. The entrance to the canyon along Bonneville Drive is closed today for one of the many social 5K runs that occur during the summer. This adds an extra mile jogging along the drive to reach Guardhouse Gate. As I start, the sun line is just beginning to descend the snow capped peaks of the western Qquirrh Mountains and the small sliver of the southern tip of the Great Salt Lake reflects slate blue. The clear western sky shows the last vestiges of dark slate band of the Earth’s shadow retreating from the sun. Along the first stretch of road there are many sage brush bushes that provide cover to chukars. I stop to pick and crush a bracket of this pungent bush to remind myself of what Utah smells like during the heat of summer. About one-half mile from the gate and around a bend, the canyon explodes with the sounds of stream and birds. Although hidden, a male Lazuli bunting peaks from behind some red maple leaves, singing loudly. His colors are muted, since he perches in early morning shadow of the canyon’s east ridge. The sound of the stream is overwhelming, and this indicates the vernal season’s heat is melting the high snowpack. At the gate, the parking lot is full, and includes the enormous truck of the wild turkey bow hunter (May 4th). I must have just missed the race organizer’s closing of the road.

Along the road, the grasses are now twelve to eighteen inches thick, and the first quarter-mile is nearing full leaf out. Near mile 0.3, I look up through the trees to the step slope above, and there a young female mule deer idly grazes on the new grass. I stop to watch and after some minutes, she takes notice of me, stares back, and knowing that it is not hunting season and she is in no immediate danger, she slow walks and disappears into the Gambel’s oak forest. A bird loudly chirps from a nearby tree, and I catch a fleeting glance of black, white and red-brown from below. It is probably a Rufus-sided towhee (Pipilo maculatus). I count about forty or bird separate birds calling the forest thickets in the first mile.

I am not a morning person, most of my daily observations are in the afternoon, and the morning spring canyon is a new place. The warm morning light crawls down the western ridge of the canyon, and makes the thick grasses of spring bathed in an inviting green light. Although it is a pleasant high fifties along the road, one can feel the advancing daytime heat in the seventies approaching. Between mile 0.5 and 1.0, large overhanging trees in partial leaf-out form a series of green tubes through which the rising south-eastern sun penetrates. The lighted end of these tubes with the darkened green leafed foregrounds reminds me of the religious ceiling paintings of European cathedrals. I am overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.

In this half-lit morning reflected light, the canyon has a different character. I have misjudged the Starry solomon’s seal. In the afternoon, I have found two or three open out of an estimated 20,000 plants (May 4th). This morning, most are open, and I easily count 200 open blossoms in the solomon grove surrounding the seep below picnic site 5. The number of active birds is astounding, and a multiple of several times over my afternoon encounters.

At the entrance to Pleasant Valley, I run into the Tracey Aviary sponsored birding, a course directed by and led today by aviary biologists Bryant Olsen and Cooper Farr. I am happy to find the group; I have followed their Cornell birding logs in the canyon for some years; and in the spring, they regularly return to the canyon. Other seasons draw them to other habitats. Traveling down canyon, there seven group members including the leaders, and their five students are a diverse group that range from their thirties to eighties. They allow me to tag along as they proceed down the Pipeline Trail for the one mile walk back to the parking lot. Since I have been frustrated for some years in identifying the thicket hidden birds by sound, and I hope to gain some insight into the process by watching and learning. I quickly learn that I am in the presence of masters. Many birding skills quickly become apparent that explain the large number of birds that they record each week in the Cornell University E-bird log system (Cornell Ornithology Laboratory 2016).

First, birding in groups greatly increases detection. I first encountered this in amateur astronomy. Looking for detail in nature, which involves rare events, is more likely with more eyeballs that can cover the whole sky. In addition to the chance of making a sighting, the ability to perceive rare events also differs greatly by both the ability to perceive and by the knowledge to understand what one is seeing or hearing. The seven of the birders stare intently towards a sound coming from a clump of leaves, and one or two of the seven will first detect the bird, and then direct the others to it. Seven sets of eyes scanning the sky’s dome catch fleeting glances of bird movements in opposite directions, and this greatly increases the number of exclamations that one or another of some species has been seen.

Second, time explains the groups many sightings. As we descend the trail, younger runners and bikers wisk by at six to fifteen miles per hour. They traverse the mile of Pipeline trail in five to ten minutes. When I was younger, I has one of these. They smile as they pass, confident in their belief that in their superiority that their youthful ability to exercise makes them the most important denizens of the canyon. My slow jogging takes twenty minutes, but the birding group takes about one and one-half hours to walk this mile. Perception and time are inversely related. The slow see more; much more. Chance visual sightings reveal common sightings such as the cliff-soaring Red-tailed hawks. In this way, the group quickly seeings a Peregrine falcon resting on the top of the western massif at the entrance to Pleasant Valley and a brood of cliff dwelling Violet-green swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) living nearby in the crumbling deposits of Van Horn and Crittenden’s Triassic conglomerate No 2. sandstone. Are these the peregrine’s prey? Peregrines prey on many of the plentiful birds and mammals in the canyon, including mallads, swallows, Mourning doves, Northern flickers, starlings, American robins, Black-billed magpies, American crow, hummingbirds, owls, mice and Rock squirrels. Thoreau used the Peregrine’s historical name – the duck hawk – and Audubon memorialized this predator-prey relationship in a noted 1827 oil painting (Audubon 1827). The peregrines are in turn fed upon by larger birds of prey like Bald eagles and Red-tailed hawks. The birding group has great interest in following the falcon back to its nest, since these birds, although removed from the United States endangered species list in 1999, remain popular and are known to raise young near Pleasant Valley.

Third, these are the wizards of the canyon’s bird soundscape. Raw knowledge, expertise, and practice allows the group to identify many birds by sound alone or first by sound and then by sight. A member will hear a call of interest, and all will stop intently listening while leaning in one direction; some cup hands around their ears. Someone will call out a name, there is a discussion, and then a final determination is made as to the species. Sometimes, this is accompanied by a pointing figure and the exclamation “There it is!”, and all binoculars are raised in unison. I humbly learn the calls of one or two common canyon residents, like the chirping of the Rufus-sided towhee, and can notice distinct obvious sounds, like the wing-beat of a passing Broad-tailed hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus) and the obnoxious squawking of the Red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis). But the group’s ability to identify unseen colorful birds by sound alone is astounding. They hear a Green tailed towhee (Pipilo chlorurus), an Orange-crowned warbler (Vermivora celata), and a Western tanager (Piranga ludoviciana).

The group’s ability is distinguish between similar calls is uncanny. I have a particular interest in the rapid chirping call of the Rufous towhee. Later at home, I compare audio recordings and spectrographs of several species found along the trail that all include to my uneducated ears, subtle variations on a series of four to six rapid fire trill chirps, preceded or followed by two tones. The songs of the Rufous-sided towhee, the Green-tailed towhee, and Orange-crowned warbler, are all variations on a theme.

The group continues down the trail as the bright line of sunlight engulfs them. The celebrity bird of the afternoon are many Lazuli buntings. On the western brightly lit slopes, perching on a Gambel’s oak, several of these buntings are seen. They males are aflame in their cloaks of brilliant iridescent blue. Bryant notes that a bird’s coloring are the result of their feathers refracting sunlight. The explains why colorful birds have dulled colors in diffused light, but radiant colors in full sun. Near trail mile 0.5, a Black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) sits on a powerline and obligingly ignores the birders as they take photographs. In the last third of trail mile, the sun and temperature has risen, the birds are less active, and the group quickly exits back to the road. A mallard rests in the flood retention pond.

I point out the cliff nest site that I followed last spring near mile 1.0 (Dec. 9th, 40°48.227 N, 111°52.204 W), but only about one-half of the group can see the nest. I had previously thought it was built by Peregrine falcons or Cooper’s hawks, but Bryant notes I am mistaken. Peregrines and Cooper’s hawks do not build stick nests, he says, a point supported in literature (Utah Legacy Raptor 2011). A later search on the internet returns many photographs of peregrines nesting in nearly identical stick nests. A probably resolution of the difference is found elsewhere: peregrine falcons sometimes will take over the stick nests of other raptors like eagles (White et al 2002).

Comparing the group’s Cornell Ornithology Lab birding logs for the canyon since April 30th reveals the arrival of many small migratory song birds with the abrupt rise in temperatures and the arrival of the vernal season (April 29th and May 1st). Common canyon birds in their logs in April through May 6th include mallards, European starlings, American robins, House finches, Song sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-billed magpies, Mourning doves, Ravens, American crows, Red-tailed hawks, and Cooper’s hawks. New spring heat-seeking migrants that arrived just as the temperature switch tripped two or three days ago include the Peregrine falcons, Plumbeous vireo (Vireo plumbeus), Warbling vireo (Vireo gilvus), Orange-crowned warbler, Yellow warbler, Virginia’s warbler, Chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina), Green-tailed towhee, the Western tanager (Piranga ludoviciana), Broad-tailed hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri), Black-chinned hummingbird, Lazuli bunting, the Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria). These new colorful arrivals have followed the north running heat wave from the southern states and Mexico for a thousand miles to this northern canyon, and now that they have arrived, their next tasks will be mating and beginning the construction of nests.

I ask a question about what some of the most common canyon birds eat. I am interested in not only the simple phenological list of what bird species arrives when (this is what Thoreau did), but also how the web of insects, plants, and birds link together. The aviary experts’ answers are general and unsatisfying. “Seeds” (there are none), “grass” (they have not developed grains), and “insects” (there are still few, given the newly higher temperatures). The same vague discussions are found in my various paper and internet birding guides. I have witnessed a few instances in which canyon birds actually eating something over an entire year. A scrub jay ate acorns in the fall (Oct. 6th); wild turkeys ate winter acorns (Dec. 29th); chickadees ate winter fruit; spring kingfishers fish along the ponds and stream, although I have never seen them catch anything (March 19, April 6, 11, and 18); in the mallards eat spring algae from the stream; hummingbirds and dragonflies feasted on summer gnats (August 1st and August 11th), and a few days later, cliff swallows gorged on the dragonflies (August 22nd). In the spring of 2015, two falcons ate a mouse. But what are they, in particular the new arrivals, eating now? After this morning with the soundscape wizards and a subsequent literature search, I am struck both about how much science knows about the birds and how little science knows about birds. All things cannot be known, and I suspect there is little grant money available to fully construct and quantify the ecological relationships of even close natural areas, since minerals, logs, and skiers only have economic value and iridescent sheen of the Lazuli buntings do not.

A lone mallard sleeps near the shore of the flood retention pond. Jogging out of the canyon, the social-cause, 5k fun-run has begun, and three or four-hundred joggers are going towards milepost 0.5, along the opposite western leg along Bonneville Drive. A loudspeaker blares out popular music. Groups of racing bicyclists stopped by the police to allow the race to pass joke about blindly coming around a curve into such a mass of humanity. Their focus on life is different from mine, and neither, as they go about their respective enjoyment of the canyon, will perceive the dazzling blue of the Lazuli buntings seen by the wizards of the canyon soundscape.

* * * *

Iridescence in birds is caused by both pigments and the refracting structure of their feathers (Doucet and Meadows 2009; Rajchard 2009), and many birds also perceive light, including the iridescent refraction, in the ultra-violet spectrum (id). The view that humans see of birds is not what they see of each other. The blue feathers of birds, like the Lazuli bunting, may be hint that a bird can see ultra-violet light (see Doucet and Meadows, S118). Falcons use the ultra-violet reflection of mole and mouse urine to determine the density of their mammalian prey in fields (Rajchard). Fruit seeking birds like crows better see mature fruits because the ripe fruit better reflect ultra-violet light (id). Blue tits switch to the ultra-violet spectrum to see insects against non-contrasting backgrounds (id). The iridescent patches also help birds to distinguish their sexes, just as human birders do, but in some birds, the ultra-violet spectrum of their iridescent patches enhance the sex difference of their pigments seen in the human visual spectrum (id). Another study suggests that in the ultra-violet spectrum, some birds find it easier to distinguish eggs (id). Iridescence can also be an indicator of fitness to breed. Male birds lose iridescence as they age and when they are sick (Doucet and Meadows, S120-S121).

The iridescent patches of birds involve a trade-off. Iridescent patches, like those of the front-chin of the Broad-tailed Hummingbird and the side-neck of the Black-chinned hummingbird seen today, may be more visible to their predators, but they are also more visible to their potential mates (Doucet and Meadows). To reduce the predation cost of these patches, some patches are directional. A bird living in a diffusely, dark lit forest can perch in a ray of sunlight and send a narrow beam “flash” to other members of its own species and to potential mates (id). Predators circling above will not see this visual chatter. Conversely, the bright Lazuli bunting simply shines like a beacon. What do the hawks and falcons circling above see of these beautiful song birds in the shorter-bands of light that we human birders are unaware of?

* * * *

On May 6th, 1899, work to replace the City Creek water main with a larger diameter pipe was underway (Salt Lake Herald), although a suit seeking an injunction against the construction had been filed. On May 6th, 1888, Z. Jacobs canvassed citizens for suggestions on how to increase the city’s water supply, including Fire Chief Ottinger (Salt Lake Herald). Jacobs argued against building a dam in City Creek Canyon, since failure of the dam would destroy the downtown (id).

March 9, 2017

March 9th

Filed under: Eastern Boxelder Bug, mile 1.2, Moon, Moth, Mule deer, Mule Deer, picnic site 7 — canopus56 @ 10:14 pm

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

5:30 p.m. It is again warm today, but I do not get to the canyon until late, and even so, the parking lot is overflowing and their are thirty people in the first mile. It is the warmth of pre-spring that draws people. The canyon looks dreary, but perhaps that is because I am in a poor mood. Everything is waiting for more light. Plants on the side of the road look dirty; the leaf litter is slowly transforming into a paste that will foster this spring’s growth. Although it is dusk, a few Box Elder bugs are out and a moth flutters by. Below picnic site 7 on the west side of the road and across from the overhanging rock (Jan. 3rd), there is an intermittent spring whose small rivulet runs down an earth bank and along the road. I start up the bank to trace the rivulet back to its source, but then hear a branch crack behind me. Turning around, on south-east side of the canyon and across the stream, two mule deer are picking their way through the undergrowth. They see me turn and freeze. One of the deer stands with one foot held above the ground in mid-step. I wait for a minute and rather than stress them further, I decide to continue up the road and leave their forest home to them alone. At mile 1.1, a nearly full Moon hangs over Black Mountain, and this contrasts the earlier earlier afternoon Moon also seen over Black Mountain on March 7th. Coming back down canyon, I remark about the deer to a canyon regular – a man who daily walks an abused dog that he rescued from a shelter. He patiently was been working with the animal for a year, trying to reduce its aggressiveness. He reports that at dusk yesterday, there was a herd of fifty or sixty deer on the western slope above mile 1.2. Although he is known to me to be a reliable reporter, not prone to exaggeration, this is the type of report that needs to be witnessed directly. Fifty or sixty deer in one herd is more than I have ever seen or heard reported in the canyon, but his description does indicate that the deer have begun their spring move.

Occasionally, humanity does aspire to greatness and it tries to fix its missteps and injustices. For example, the Northern Ute Tribe received $272 million under the 1992 Central Utah Project as compensation for the United States’ failure to complete the Unitah portion of the multi-basin water project. In 2010, the State of Utah agreed to pay $33 million to the Navajo Nation related to the mismanagement of trust royalties for the 6,000 Navajos living in the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation. Conversely, no monies were actually paid to Northern Utes when they succeeded their lands to the United States under an 1868 Treaty with the United States.

In modern economics study, much is made of the economic miracle of the United States since the initial North American colonization and the exceptional peoples who created that miracle. A typical undergraduate first economics course is Heilbroner and Singer’s “The Economic Transformation of the America: 1600 to the Present”. Heilbroner and Singer’s economic narrative parallels the history of Euro-American Utah: hard-working, creative, persistent immigrants following free market principles took a raw valueless land and turned it into an economic powerhouse unparalleled in human history. The subtext message of the authors is that Americans are exceptional, and, similarly, the Mormons by their religious beliefs also feel themselves to be exceptional even among exceptional Americans. A simpler explanation of the Utah and United States economic miracle is that Euro-Americans were better capitalized. In settlement of the 1848 water with Mexico, the United States paid Mexico about $19.65 per square mile, or 3 cents an acre, for western lands including present day Utah. In present day Utah of the 84,899 square miles, or 54,335,360 acres, about 31 percent is held privately or by the State of Utah. After 1851, Utahans could buy homestead land at $1.25 per acre in 1850 currency, and in 1805, United States undeveloped land was valued at about $2.00 per acre. Thus, in 1850, future private and state lands were conservatively worth about 33,687,922 USD in 1850 currency or 740,198,508 USD in 2016 currency. That is about 148,039 USD for each of the 5,000 colonists of 1847. Viewing Utah as a “business venture”, starting a business with about 150,000 USD capitalization per shareholder is likely to be a successful prospect. Unknown to both the First Peoples and the Euro-American colonists was the value of Utah’s mineral wealth, which extracted and still extracts billions of dollars per year from the earth. In 2016, the value of minerals extracted from Bingham Canyon and the Great Salt Lake were about $3 billion USD. Had the Euro-Americans of 1847 and western United States settlers kept to their fair market and contract law principles and paid the First Peoples the fair value for their lands, the Utah Euro-American colonists would have started out their business venture with a per capita debt of 150,000 USD in 2016 currency. If the Utah colonists had been true to their professed beliefs, then the economic history of Utah would have been much different. The same economic reasoning applies to much of the Manifest Destiny expansion of the United States westward of Appalachia’s in the 1800s. This reasoning should not and does not mean to denigrate the struggle, hard-work and sweat equity that the Euro-Americans, my ancestors, put into transforming the nation. But context is important to understanding the past and present, and certainty in one’s exceptionalism is the enemy of democracy because it prevents a person from seeing issues from another’s perspective and thus from reaching compromise.

Exceptional abilities implies choice within a given context. By 1847, the Euro-American colonists were well into the era of the Indian Removal Act of 1930, that established the precedent of removing First Peoples from lands west of the Mississippi. Removal of First Peoples was their cultural and political policy of first choice. But there were choices. The 5,000 colonists of 1847-1850 could have chosen to remain confined to Salt Lake Valley; they could have slowed the rate of their migration; they could have chosen to expand first to the north; they could have chosen to engage in a reparations program of providing supplemental cattle to First Peoples during the winter. The options are endless, but at the forefront of the colonists Indian policy was seizing the most fertile land in the region in Utah, not Salt Lake, valley. In this regard, the colonists of 1847 were not exceptional, and their behavior differed little from previous Euro-American contact with First Peoples up to that time.

City Creek Canyon also exists in a larger context. Sometimes that context is climate (Feb. 7th), and sometimes that context is the economic and political needs of the Euro-Americans as they developed the surrounding region (Feb. 24th). It is this relationship between nature and human resource and infrastructure needs that modified the pre-colonization condition of City Creek Canyon into what is seen today. Here, again context and ability implies choices. While the canyon has been modified since 1847, by historical accident and by political design, much of its 1847 pre-colonization state remains.

What choices did the Euro-Americans make, and how has nature in City Creek Canyon been changed from its 1847 condition by those choices as compared to the six other Salt Lake Valley canyons?

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 9th, 1852, he notes that bluebirds arrive with the first warm wind (see March 7th here). March 9th, 1853, he opines that the first bark of the red squirrel is a sign of spring. On March 9th, 1854, he see a large flock of ducks and reflections of the landscape in water. On March 9th, 1855, he scares a rabbit from the brush.

February 22, 2017

February 22nd

Tree Trunks

4:00 p.m. This a year of extremes: on February 21st, the temperature was sixty-six degrees and yesterday and last night and today, after raining for almost ten hours, the temperature has dropped to thirty-three degrees Fahrenheit. As I enter the canyon, it is snowing, but this is light snow that turns to water when it touches any physical object. The high ridgelines and Pleasant Valley are covered in snow dust, perhaps one-eight of an inch thick, but it will not last. This is the second sign of the coming spring now one month away: The battle between spring overtaking winter (September 22nd) has begun. There are other signs. At Guardhouse Gate, I see my first, fat and healthy Rock squirrel of the season. It runs across the road and is busily inspecting bushes for fresh buds. The constant rain has driven three earthworms on to the road, even though temperatures are freezing. High on the ridgeline near mile 1.1, I see my first mule deer in over a week. Even at this distance, it is skittish; it tentatively comes out of a copse, feeds, and then retreats for cover.

The lichens and mosses are the most responsive to the hours of light rain. Everywhere the orange, yellow and green colors of lichen and mosses have deepened, and a few trees become vibrant flames amongst winter’s brown, grey and white. Black cankers on tree branches that normally turn to dust when touched have become plump, fat and solid with water. It is the time of year for the simplest organisms, for the earliest life.

Tree trunks have so many varieties of forms. Above picnic site 6, some trees are like brothers and sisters. The trunks of two 4 inch diameter immature river birches intertwine in a playful embrace, and they spring from a common root. Next to the River birch, are three immature Box Elder trunks that also rise from the same root. These stand tall and vertical like two brothers. At and down-canyon of picnic site 6, large Mountain cottonwoods have large bulbous galls on their lower trunks, and this is evidence of old attacks by insects, bacteria, and fungi. Other trees in the lower canyon have partially or completely succumbed to age and disease. At picnic site 6, an ancient tree has been broken off to about four feet above the ground and spilt in half. The remnant remaining in the earth is pock marked with with trails and caves of insects that reminds me of the cave houses carved out of volcanic tufa in Cappadocia in Turkey. In the lower canyon, still half-alive cottonwoods have had much of their bark stripped away, and underneath the xylem and heartwood has taken on a sinuous, smooth, yellow texture like human skin. At Pleasant Valley and at picnic sites 9, 7, and 2, dead cottonwood snags are bleached grey-white. Where large trunk stubs are near the road, erosion has exposed their subsurface tap roots, and this reveals a tangle of gnarls that remind of Eastern paintings of nature. An example is below the Red Bridge.

Traveling down-canyon, a familiar pattern appears in the River birches, Box elder and Mountain cottonwood trees that line the stream. Multiple, large, mature trunks sprout from a single root, and at the base, numerous suckers rise. For these trees, the mixture of angled mature trunks and smaller shoots gives the impression of a circular fan opening or a fountain of water rising. In this respect, trees are simply a larger, woody version of the brome grass bunches in Pleasant Valley, further up canyon. I realize that my impression of trees as organisms that are born, grow, have a middle age, and the die is mistaken. Angled older branches grow and fall away, and this gives the young shoots an opportunity to grow and replace them. But both originate from the same tap root, from the same genetic material. In this sense, most of the trees in the lower canyon that surround the stream possess a form of immortality. My misconception of the lives of these trees is the result of my biased exposure to shade trees in the city. Those trees mimic the cultured form of an English oak forest. There, trees are manicured and husbanded as individuals by their human farmers. Those trees do experience an individual birth, a middle age, and a death. But the English form of a forest is only one classical European choice, and here in the canyon, the stream trees pass their lives in a cycle and not along linear time.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on February 22nd, 1856, he observes the first insects of spring crawling over snow.

On February 22nd, 1910, the City Council debated whether to lease a second gravel pit in lower City Creek (Deseret Evening News). On February 22nd, 1894, an attorney sought permission from the City to hunt a mountain lion in City Creek Canyon. Permission was granted and the hunter took a cougar (Salt Lake Herald).

February 12, 2017

February 12th

Filed under: Gambel's Oak, Mule Deer, People, Watercress — canopus56 @ 4:53 pm

Tough Plant – Part III

1:00 p.m. Today has a truly warming sun of latter winter. The air in the canyon has a sharp, cold crispness, but the low midday Sun is bites on the skin in infrared. The result is ones spirits are lifted in anticipation of the coming spring and from relief from winter’s oppression. As a consequence, the road is filled with runners and numerous families strolling with young children. A sign of advancing technology is that one young boy is not walking; he is riding a wheeled hoverboard up the road. I estimate their density within the first mile as close to eighty persons. Ice forms in small pockets of water by the side of the road and as rime on branches that hang above the stream, but unlike in the depths of winter, this ice is a clear glass. At winter’s peak, ice is a milky white. Between the rain and the melted snow, the ground is saturated and no longer holds water. The stronger Sun has also started to melt the snow in the upper canyon, and the stream now runs four to six inches deeper. At picnic site 3, the flock of six Black-capped chickadees again plays in the trees. I hear three more in the brush. Their joy and constant antics is mimicked in the play of the children walking up the road. Although I enjoy the company of children, by mile 1.2 I am ready for solitude and decide to run back down the Pipeline Trail although I know it will be muddy this time of year.

The Pipeline Trail is a patch work of drained soil, tracks of two inch deep mud, and in the much shaded portions, snow covered ice. The varied terrain provides a good training reminder for trail running later in the season. A fresh circle of mule deer dung marks the passing of the deer that I saw last-night at the meadow up-canyon. A tree snag has fallen across the trail, but it is too large for me to push it aside, and near trail mile 1.0, where a seep crosses the trail, there is a patch of bright green watercress. The trail is about seventy-five feet above the road at this point, but somehow this non-native species has managed travel uphill to this isolated spot.

I hear a crow cawing. Searching the sky, one is up canyon circling at about three-hundred feet above the meadow at mile 1.3, but there are no air rising air currents this time of year. The air is still, and the crow is flapping strenuously while circling in order to gain more altitude and is cawing loudly in complaint. Although the crow is almost one-half mile away, its voice travels through the cold still air with amazing clarity. It sounds like it is only a few hundred feet away. After recent about six hundred feet above the canyon floor, it resumes its journey and quickly glides out-of-sight in a straight line up-canyon.

The evolutionary narrative that emerges from this tale of two species of Gambel’s oak and their hybrid (Quercus gambelii, Quercus turbinnell and Quercus gambelii x turbinnell) is that both existed along the banks of ancient Lake Bonneville. When the lake receded to its current levels as the climate warmed 9,000 years ago, Quercus turbinnell was unable to adapt to extreme droughts of the new Utah summer climate, and turbinnell receded southward. Quercus gambelii remained, became more abundant, and started to reproduce asexually. Isolated pockets of Quercus turbinnell remained in northern Utah, but they hybridized into Quercus gambelii x turbinnell.

Pockets of Quercus turbinnell have been found at This is the Place Monument at Cottam’s Grove (Warchol), at Dry Fork Canyon near City Creek, and at Red Butte Gardens. I make a calendar note for next summer to look for this Quercus turbinnell in City Creek Canyon.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on February 12th, 1854, he remarks on how white birches trees next to a pond spread in a pleasing manner. The same is true for water or river birches found in along the stream in the canyon. On February 12th, 1857, he observes another frozen caterpillar, and when he thaws the insect, it comes alive again. On February 12th, 1860, he finds the earth partially free of snow and a yellow-brown color, and it contrasts with the blue sky and white patches of snow. He describes a spectacular sunset and states that in winter, “the sunset sky is double.”

From Feb. 12th to Feb. 20, 1986, massive flooding began in Northern Utah, including in City Creek (Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 30, 2000).

February 11, 2017

February 11th

Filed under: Astronomy, Gambel's Oak, grass, Mule Deer, Owl, Weather — canopus56 @ 10:12 pm

Tough Plant – Part II

5:00 p.m. It rained throughout the night, ending with a brief laying of light snow on the ground. That snow quickly dissipated on the valley floor, and as drive to the canyon is a classic sunny Wasatch winter day. The valley is warm and free of snow, but the mountains are blasted white and stand majestic under the falling Sun. In the first mile of the canyon, the now snow free soils and trees have been soaked, and there colors are the most vivid tones of dark brown and grey. The soils are deep red-brown, and it greatly contrasts with the darker grey of the trees. Green grass shoots are everywhere, but at mile 1.2 where the Utah Conservation Corps did star-thistle abatement by clearing the land (Oct. 16th), patches are particularly green with new growth. Here, five mule deer browse. Only one looks up as I jog by 200 feet away. They can sense that the deer hunt is over until the fall. At milepost 1.5, Black Mountain sits covered in light snow reflecting the twilight. Two owls have returned to a side-canyon off near mile 1.3 after being absent for some weeks, and they exchange calls as night falls. Turning down canyon, a brilliant Venus is again hanging in the night sky, but as compared to a month ago has shifted to the west.

Quercus gambelii’s southern cousin, Quercus turbinnell Greene is equally tough, but in a different way. In Utah, Quercus gambelii prefers colder, moister habitats on northern facing slopes near water, but where the two species meet at the Utah Arizona border, Quercus turbinnell prefers hotter, drier south facing slopes (Ehelringer and Phillips). The responses of the two plants to differing moisture and heat stress is related to their respective physiology and metabolism. Quercus gambelii has deeper roots and its leaves stop respiration at higher temperatures (Ehelringer and Phillips). Quercus turbinnell has shallower roots, but sustains respiration at higher temperatures (id). As a result, Quercus turbinnell prefers habitats that have consistent summer rain like Arizona’s monsoon season, and Quercus gambelii better thrives in the lower temperature summers of Utah where its long roots can reach deeper aquifers during the rainless peak of Utah’s summer.

The two plants can be distinguished by their leaves: Quercus gambelii has large lobed leaves with smooth edges, and in contrast Quercus turbinnell has small leaves about one-third the size of gambelii with serrated edges (Frates).

Between the two species sits their rare hybird: Quercus gambelii x turbinnell. Its leaves are midway in size between gambelii and turbinnell, are lobed like gambelii but also serrated like turbinnell. Its ability to continue respiration is more similar to turbinnell (Ehelringer and Phillips at Fig. 3b). A small stand of Quercus gambelii x turbinnell can be found at Cottam’s Oak Grove at “This is the Place Monument Park” near the mouth of Emigration Canyon. Cottam noted that the cross hybird, like gambelii, also reproduce in northern Utah by rhizomal (root) clonal expansion (Cottam 1959).

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on February 11th, 1854, he again notes patches of snow fleas. On February 11th, 1856, he sees a partridge.

On February 11th, 1908, Lands and Water Commissioner Frank Matthews reported that City Creek needed to be maintained in a more sanitary condition. Conversely, he reported that 150,000 sheep travelled down Emigration Canyon and that the City sold 160 tons of hay farmed in Parley’s Canyon at Mountain Dell. (Salt Lake Telegram; Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 12, 1908).

January 21, 2017

January 21st

Filed under: Elk, Mule Deer, Weather — canopus56 @ 8:10 pm

External Link to Image

Left: Shipler’s January 21, 1918 Photograph of City Creek after a Snow Storm. Right: Photograph of City Creek after a Snow Storm taken January 21, 2017. The spring below picnic site 6 discussed Jan. 20th is in the lower left-hand corner.

Snow Storm

4:30 p.m. Another snow storm crossed the valley depositing over one foot of wet, heavy spring-like snow, and it takes most of the weekend day to clear the whiteness away. In the canyon, the branches of trees weigh down supporting four to six inches of this snow whose consistency allows it to pile high on the smallest branch and twig. High on the west ridge, a few elk and deer have returned to paw through the thick blanket. Birds are silent. On January 21st, 1918, the Salt Lake Tribune published a half-page spread of four photographs of snow-covered City Creek Canyon made by Harry Shipler. Comparing photographs taken on January 21st, 1918 with those taken today this evening, I recognize the same weather in both. Shipler typically reached the canyon by horse and buckboard.

On January 21st 1899, Water Superintendent John T. Caine recommended the construction of an excavated reservoir tank at Pleasant Valley in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

On January 21, 1893, the Polytechnic Society discussed a plan proposed the Salt Lake Herald in 1892, for an 18-mile long grand boulevard beginning at the Warms Springs on Beck Street, rising to the Ensign Peak mountain grounds, traveling around City Creek, along 11th Avenue, thence to Fort Douglas, along Wasatch Boulevard, and to Parley’s Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). (The route followed the natural topography of the Provo level bench of ancient Lake Bonneville.) The Herald’s route proposed crossing City Creek Canyon by a viaduct across lower City Creek instead of by the current Bonneville Drive. The proposals were described by retired British Rear Admiral Jason Henry Selwyn, who invented an ore separation process and who owned Utah mining claims. Selwyn noted that the road should be a boulevard and in the 1890s, that meant a wide street with a planted center and lined with trees that was designed for slow travel. Another proponent, a Colonel Stevenson, suggested that “Upon whatever lines it may be built it should as nearly conform to those that nature has given us so that we may forever give to posterity an outlook that may not be seriously interfered with by any artificial constructions in the way of buildings especially” (id). Colonel Stevenson referred to in the article is believed to be Col. Charles L. Stevenson, a prominent local mining engineer who then also served on the Utah Irrigation Commission.

The proposed boulevard can be viewed in the context of Frederick Law Olmsted’s the then popular systems of linear necklace parks including Boston’s 1880 Emerald Necklace Park and Rochester, New York’s 1881 Genesee Valley Park System. In the early 1900s, Cleveland, Ohio also developed an Olmsted inspired emerald necklace park system. Although the City did subsequently grade and develop the scenic road from the Ensign Peak area to the mouth of Parley’s Canyon using City prison labor, it did not acquire the property on either side of the road. Currently, private homes and public trees along 11th Avenue at the City Cemetery block the scenic view along almost all of the route, and in the 1890s, Salt Lake City missed its opportunity to have a grand emerald necklace boulevard that exploited the scenic vistas provided by the ancient Lake Bonneville Provo level terrace. Even so, the route is still popular with bicyclists, walkers, runners, and pleasure drivers. It was not until 1990 that an analogous unobstructed scenic vista drive was begun. In 1990, construction of the foot and bicycle traffic Bonneville Shore Trail began between Dry Fork and Emigration Canyons. By 2017, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail has expanded to 100 miles along the Wasatch Canyon Front Mountain Range out of a proposed system of 280 miles (

The missed opportunity by the City to purchase lands around each side of the scenic drive from Ensign Peak to Parley’s Canyon for an emerald necklace park without obstructions should be viewed in its economic historical context: the City may not have had the funds to make the necessary land purchases. In 1889, the non-Mormon Liberal Party succeeded to the mayorship of and control of the city council of Salt Lake City following demographic changes from mining and provisions of the Edmunds-Tucker Act that effectively prevented many Mormons from running for public office. As today, in 1983, between fifty and sixty percent of the population of the City were non-Mormon. The new city administration then proceeded on a massive program of public infrastructure modernization including sewers, street paving, sidewalks, public water supply improvements, and a fire alarm system that the Mormon People’s Party administration had previously refused to pursue (Maxwell). In 1890, City residents would also be required to take on another large public expenditure. The Utah Territorial Legislature would not would adopt universal free public education found in the then 42 existing States, until Congress forced its hand in 1890 by moving to amend the Territory’s Organic Act (id). In order to maintain local control of education, the territorial legislature then adopted its own public education law modelled on the federal bill; the new law required the building of many new public schools; and the City quickly issued $850,000 in bonds (or about $21.5M today) to buy land and to begin erecting free public schools (Maxwell). After his election as mayor in November 1891, Salt Lake City’s second non-Mormon Mayor Robert N. Baskin continued those programs, and in July 1892 in counter-point to the completion of the Mormon Temple in April 1892, Baskin laid the cornerstone for a large public construction project: the building of the Salt Lake City-County Building on Washington Square (id). Later in 1893, the United States suffered its largest ever recorded depression (Heilbroner and Singer). The Depression of 1893 was much larger than the Great Depression of the 1930s (id), and City unemployment was estimated at 48 percent (Maxwell). But construction of the City-County Building continued as a public works program in order to alleviate the poverty of its citizens (id, 242). When dedicated in late 1894, the City-County Building contained some architectural elements that were intended to distinguish its secular focus from the Mormon Temple and that were intended to make a statement. The statute at the top of the City-County Building is of Columbia, a popular 18th century personification of the United States. She holds the light of knowledge in one hand and the dove of peace in another. The four towers were designated as “Knowledge”, “Power”, “Peace” and “Justice” (Maxwell, 245). Taken together, through all of these features, the builders made a powerful implied statement on the future direction of the City. The public infrastructure investments of the 1890s formed the foundation of the modern city that we enjoy today. But adding the expense of creating an emerald necklace park on the Lake Bonneville terrace as discussed by Selwyn and Stevenson in January 1893 may at the time have been beyond the City’s fathers’ and the residents’ reach.

January 18, 2017

January 18th

Filed under: Elk, Mountain lion, Mule Deer, People — canopus56 @ 8:41 pm

Mountain Lion

5:00 p.m. The inversion air continues to thicken, and much of the City has been swept through by a virus. I cannot escape the bad air, but by milepost 1.5 and at about 5,100 feet in elevation, I am breathing easier. The temperature feels warmer overall, but between picnic site 7 and 8, where yesterday the stream was covered with a thin pane of water glass, the ice is thickening again and becoming a frosted white. Below picnic site 7, where roots stick out of the bank, rising water vapor collects on them in the form of white rime. Surface air is calm, but three thousand feet above, cirrus clouds with long linear wisps are rapidly moving over the land. Like water vapor of the stream, the wisps are ice crystals forming and evaporating but at a higher altitude.

Yesterday evening, on local neighborhood social media, a woman reported hearing a mountain lion screaming in the bushes of lower City Creek Canyon below Bonneville Boulevard. For the last four days between Guardhouse Gate and mile 0.3, there have been a herd of four mule deer regularly grazing during the day on the south canyon side across the stream, and it does not surprise me that a mountain lion came down to consume a deer. Last summer on June 22nd, 2016, a woman who frequently runs in City Creek reported to the guard at the gate that she had seen a mountain lion just off the road in Pleasant Valley (Personal observation). The next day, City Watershed Patrol posted several “cougar sighted” warning signs along the road; this is their usual practice in such cases. Last night’s social media report is one in a long-list of regular cougar sightings in the canyon.

Mountain lions have been here since before the 1847 arrival of the Euro-American colonists. Those pioneers built a fort in the form of stockade consisting of 29 log-cabins on what is now called Pioneer Park near 300 West and 300 South in Salt Lake City (Bancroft, 277). The pioneers reported the fort also was harassed by “wolves, foxes, and catamounts” (id). “Catamount” is a term used by easterners for eastern mountain lions, and the term “mountain lion” came into use after Euro-Americans came to the West. Other predators dangerous to humans were present. In 1847, pioneer Lorenzo Young noted that he “spread some strychnine about [the fort], and in the morning found fourteen white wolves dead” (Bancroft, 277, ftn. 8). On January 7th, 1903, predator bounty hunter George McNeil reported that “I killed two wildcats up there [in City Creek] a few days ago” (Salt Lake Telegram).

Mountain lions continue to occupy the canyon today, and City residents are fortunate in this regard. One-hundred and fifty years ago in Thoreau’s “Journal,” he lamented that eastern mountain lions, lynx, wolverenes, bear, moose, deer, and wild turkeys had all been exterminated from Concord, Massachusetts (Journal, March 23rd, 1856). Except for lynx and wolverenes, all of the those animals can either be regularly seen in the canyon today, or in the case of the black bear, I saw its track in the snow during February 2016. I count possibility of rarely glimpsing a mountain lion a similar positive expectation. Although no longer in the canyon, in 1978, I saw a lynx in the nearby Oquirrh Mountains and in the mid-1980s, a wolverene below O’Sullivan’s Peak in Big Cottonwood Canyon. But this privilege of regularly seeing moose, deer, elk, and wild turkeys in the City Creek canyon does not come without a price.

In the winter, cougars feed principally on mule deer and in the spring, they turn to newly birthed mule deer and elk. From record-keeping beginning in 1970, there have been no known fatalities in Utah, although a few have occurred in California (Wikipedia). Not all encounters are fatal. In over thirty years in the Wasatch, I have been tracked only once by a mountain lion, but that was during a solo hike below Deseret Peak in Tooele County during the midst of summer. A small rock and some shouting turned the lion packing in the other direction. The ratio of non-fatal attacks to deaths is unknown, since attacks or attempted attacks, like the one I experienced, are not reliably reported, and traveling with a dog in the backcountry is said to attract and to increase the risk of encountering a mountain lion.

Beyond the obvious overriding human concern over the risk to children walking in the canyon, another of the City’s practical concerns is liability and risk management; it has a duty to warn of wildlife in the area. Hence, the notice posted in the canyon last summer. In 2007 in Utah County during the summer, a bear tragically took and killed a small child at a Utah State picnic area, and in 2015, the state ended up paying a 2 million dollar judgment for failing to warn picnickers about their knowledge of other recent sightings of bears near the picnic grounds (Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 24, 2015). After the 2007 incident, the “danger, watch out for bears, moose, and mountain lions” signs started being posted at Guardhouse Gate in City Creek. Since then, all levels of government, including the City Watershed Patrol, post notices of recent sightings of any predator, and properly so.

The notices allow people to keep a closer eye on their children and pets, until the cat moves back up the canyon. The cat probably will follow the deer back up in a couple of weeks as temperatures rise and deer herds move higher. Anecdotally, there have been many more anterless elk hunters in the canyon this winter (including two yesterday) as compared to the 2015-2016 season. Hunters may have been more successful in the canyon and that may have put more pressure on the one or two mountain lions that hunt between Ensign Peak and Lone Peak, forcing them to come lower towards the city. The anterless elk hunt ends on January 31st, and the hunters leaving will lessening competition for the mountain lion’s up canyon food source.

There also is a good practical reason for mountain lions to be in City Creek, at least above Bonneville Drive, even though there is some risk to people from them continuing to reside in their historical hunting range. Deer inflict relatively more injury to people and cars in the form of automobile accident collisions, and mountain lions are more effective at controlling deer populations than human hunters. Where I live near the City cemetery, I usually see or hear one early morning collision a year between a car and a deer. Last year, speeding young people, who were also drunk, hit a deer, and the deer walked off but died a block away. The university students were unharmed, but the deer did significant damage to the front of their still drive-able car. Younger, inexperienced yearling deer just do not know the right way to run when startled. The ones that make it to an age of 2 years old figure out that they have to run into the dark and not into the light. Conversely, mountain lions do not come down into the Avenues, or so I thought. Today, another neighborhood resident posts that two years ago at Christmas, she saw a mountain lion in the City cemetery. Mountain lions fear people since they, like the mule deer and the elk, are subject to an annual hunt, but they do still roam the canyon.

Recent 2016 research suggests that mountain lions provide a substantial economic and social benefit by reducing deer collisions with human vehicles. Gilbert at the University of Idaho and colleagues studied the impact of re-introducing and re-colonization of mountain lions into North and South Dakota. Mountain lions were extinct in both states prior to 1994, but were then re-introduced, and by 2004, the lions had re-colonized most of their former range. Between 2004 to 2012, deer-vehicle collisions in areas with and without mountain lions decreased 20% in North Dakota (to 0.22 per 100,000 people) and 50% in South Dakota in areas with and without mountain lions (to 8 per 100,000 people). This benefit may outweigh the risk of living on an urban nature interface with their presence. In short, one coyote or one mountain lion in the nearby canyon can mean many less deer grazing on your Avenues or Capitol Hill shrubbery or stepping out in front of your car during a 2 a.m. run to a convenience store.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on January 18th, 1859, he sees more blue snow shadows. On January 18th, 1859, he records thick frost rime covering trees. On January 18th, 1860, Thoreau describes winter feeding habits of chickadees: they pry up the bark of pines looking for insects underneath.

On January 18th, 1941, the Utah State Road Commission proposed to build an improved road from Fort Douglas along 11th Avenue, then across a newly constructed bridge over City Creek Canyon, and then on to the airport (Salt Lake Telegram). On January 18th, 1927, the University Hiking Club reported that 20 of its members hiked to the top of Black Mountain and then slid down its backslide to [Upper] Rotary Park (Utah Daily Chronicle). On January 18, 1909, the Salt Lake Telegram reported that Ms. Helen Boes became the first Utah women known to have killed a bear. A captured wild bear was released in City Creek Canyon and a party of thirteen hunted the bear assisted by dogs. The bear escaped City Creek but was hunted down on the western slope of the ridgeline above the Beck Street Hot Springs (id). On January 18th, 1895, City Mayor R. N. Baskin proposed that the City build an independent power plant driven by City Creek water, after it was alleged that a private electric company had been providing only one-half the candle power to city lighting as required by its public contract (Salt Lake Tribune). See February 1st, 1895.

January 17, 2017

January 16th

Filed under: mile 0.5, milepost 1.5, Mule Deer, Owl, Sounds — canopus56 @ 4:18 am

Owl Calls

5:00 p.m. The city air is increasingly poor as the inversion layer builds, and the bad air seeps up into the canyon. I endeavor to jog high enough to reach above it, and since it is a holiday, there are many runners on the road with the same goal. On a late evening jog to milepost 1.5, there are two deer grazing at mile 0.3 on the snow melted south wall of the canyon. Because it is a holiday, there is no city rumble. The noise feels at a minimum, but I measure background noise at 40 decibels. Footfalls can be heard as individual steps for each passerby. Near milepost 1.0, I photograph the sawed-off end of a large tree trunk, intending in the future to count its rings. In the silence at milepost 1.5, the two owls heard on January 11th again call to each other in the twilight. Going down canyon, a third is heard near mile 0.4.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on January 16th, 1857, he describes sedge grass encased in a thick layer of ice. On January 16th, 1860, he describes a feeding technique of sparrows. They grab branches and shake them to cause the seeds to fall to the ground.

On January 16th, 1878, a group of citizens led by H.P. Kimball had proposed to the city that the city lay a waterline over the City ridge, probably to the high Avenues. The Avenues were then called the “Dry Bench” because homeowners had to haul water by hand to their homes from the lower Avenues. A committee appointed by the City Council to examine the matter did not recommend adoption of the proposal (Salt Lake Herald).

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