City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

July 23, 2017

July 20th

Smuggler’s Gap

11:00 a.m. To escape the estival heat wave, today I decide to jog and hike up the switchback trail to Smuggler’s Gap on Little Black Mountain. At the end of paved canyon road and after a short three-quarter mile jog, the trail to Smuggler’s Gap begins to wind up a a fifty degree slope on the western side of the Salt Lake salient. This also marks the beginning of the ridgeline that divides the City’s Avenues neighborhood from the canyon. Because of its step angle and orientation to the Sun, this slope is in perpetual shade, and that makes for both the cool hikes on a hot days and a micro-climate that supports the giant Lodgepole pines on either side of the trail. The Smuggler’s Gap trailhead is partially washed away, and the hike begins with ill-footing and unplanned slips and slides before the Civilian Conservation Corps era resumes. The trail is firm and well-packed, despite being unmaintained for several decades. This is also the result of the climate and Lodgepoles whose chemical containing needles prevent other plants from sprouting. Hiking in the Wasatch Mountain Range always involves steep vertical gains, and the quick rises always provide a physical metaphors for rising spirits traveling to an emotional release from daily life. Here, going “higher” means more than simply walking uphill. This slope is also the domain of the canyon’s population of Stellar jays (Cyanocitta stelleri). Over the 1,000 foot elevation gain to the ridge, I count about 30 jays in various groups. All are loud, raucous, and characteristically complain about by my intrusion into their home. The clean air clears the mind.

One of the last switchbacks turns at a “U” shaped gully about 30 feet across that descends precipitously back to the end of the road. In late spring of 1985, this gully was still choked with a 100 year snowpack event, and as I then starred down its tube, approaching storm clouds obscured the view after the first one-hundred feet. Wearing late winter shell clothing, I pulled out my ice axe and jumped. About ten minutes later of high-speed sliding and ice-axe arrests, I arrived at the parking lot and a long walk out the canyon.

Today, there is no ice and snow, and after another 100 feet altitude, I reach the pass at Black Mountain. After a fifty foot rock scramble, I reach the 200 million year old limestone fin that defines the first one-half mile of the ridgeline of Little Black Mountain.

The Utah State Department of Health announced yesterday that a another invasive has reached Utah – the microorganism West Nite virus (Flavivirus family). Health department sampling has found five mosquitoes in Salt Lake valley. Although the department has not stated where the samples were located, tree holes in the canyon mark sites from which samples are collected (Nov. 7th). Like its predecessor, the dry, brown Cheat grass on the hills above the canyon and on the City’s northern foothills, this new invasive species has the potential to dramatically change the landscape, if it is not checked early.

* * * *

On July 20th, 2004, a female runner allegedly disappeared while jogging in City Creek Canyon (Deseret News). On July 20th, 2004, three-hundred volunteers search City Creek Canyon for a jogger, Lori Hacking, who was reported missing by her husband (Salt Lake Tribune, July 20, 21 and 24, 2004, Deseret News, 1,200 searched). Eventually, 4,000 people will participate in the search (Salt Lake Tribune, August 1, 2004). The husband later pled guilty to killing her and of disposing of her body elsewhere (Salt Lake Tribune, April 15, 2005).


July 14, 2017

July 14th

An Upside Down Side Canyon

2:00 p.m. Today, I drive 4.3 miles up-canyon to Freeze Creek, an north trending side canyon that begins at Lower Rotary Park. The side canyon leads uphill to Mueller Park below Unnamed peak at 8283 feet. The trail was probably constructed in the 1920s by the Rotary Club, and the canyon supports piping and a cement encased natural spring that delivers water to the picnic area below. What I like about the Freeze Creek hike is that the canyon is, botanically, upside down. Because the canyon rises towards the north, it spends most of its time in perpetual shade, and thus, the canyon is colder at the bottom than at the top. The hike begins at its lowest elevation along a stream and through a grove of Lodgepole pine, a tree that normally grows at colder and higher elevations, and then ascends through tall maple trees and Quaking aspen trees. Off in the distance of this lower part of the Freeze Creek, I can hear the taping of a Downy woodpecker(Picoides pubescens). Then as the trail exits higher into warming sunlight, open grassland appears that ends at an impenetrable forest of Gambel’s oaks. To the east of the oak forest, a Birchleaf mountain mahogany grove can be penetrated, and after a few minutes of effort, access to a trail that leads to Mueller Park Grove is gained.

* * * *

On July 14th, 1906, the Salt Lake Herald published two panoramic photographs of Salt Lake City by George Mortimer Gutch. One contrasted downtown Salt Lake City at 200 South Main and the second was taken near the top of Smuggler’s Gulch on Black Mountain, City Creek Canyon. On July 14th, 1886, City Engineer George Ottinger and work crews were cleaning out the City Creek stream bed of debris in order to increase water quality (Salt Lake Herald).

June 14, 2017

June 13th

Filed under: Black Mountain, Ensign Peak, Grandview Peak, Little Twin Peaks, People, Weather — canopus56 @ 4:55 pm

Artists’ Eyes

2:00 p.m. A cold front races into northern Utah, temperatures drop to the fifties overnight and sixties during the day. Cold rain falls beginning at night and into the afternoon. Today, I have not gone to the canyon, but rather have gone to State Capitol to see an exhibition of maps about Utah and Salt Lake City called “Utah Drawn”. Bird’s eye views of cities were popular forms of city maps during the nineteenth century. In such maps, an artist renders a three-dimensional view of a city map and the surrounding country-side as if the city were seen from an airplane. Today’s exhibition has three. Ever focused on the notion of Mormons as an exceptional people, the curator’s notes focuses on how the Mormon Temple is rendered in each map. I am more interested in what the artist’s rendering of City Creek Canyon and Little Black Mountain in the background of each map says about how City residents’ viewed their closest canyon.

Between this exhibition and those on file with the Library of Congress, there are four such bird’s eye view maps:

A Bird’s Eye View of Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, 1870, by Augustus Koch. The Koch 1870 maps renders lower City Creek Canyon in great detail with each mill house shown individually. The south Salt Lake salient with Little Twin Peaks and Little Black Mountain are rendered in realistic proportions. The detail of the lower canyon reflects its significance as water source and location of industry. The mountains and canyons are not shown as distant, inaccessible places.

A Bird’s Eye View of Salt Lake City, Utah, 1875, by Eli Sheldon Glover. Glover’s view of the City looks from Ensign Peak to the south west and does not show City Creek Canyon. An irrigation ditch is drawn that takes water from the canyon down to 400 East and First Avenue, then called Fruit Street. The canyon is unimportant in this image.

• Salt Lake City, Utah, 1887, attributed to Augustus Gast. The 1887 view, probably also done by Augustus Koch and incorrectly attributed to Augustus Gast, is my favorite. City Creek Canyon and Little Black Mountain are done in a style evocative of a Chinese ink painting. Little Black Mountain is shown disproportionately as high mountain peak. The mountains and canyon are mysterious, inaccessible places. This map is on display at State Capitol.

Salt Lake City, Utah, 1891, by Henry Wellge. Wellge’s painting is unique in that it is the only bird’s eye view that also includes the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island in the background. Lower City Creek Canyon is again shown in great detail, reflecting its relative importance. Ensign Peak and Little Twin Peaks on the southern Salt Lake salient at shown in great alpine peaks. Little Black Mountain is wholly missing, and Grandview Peak looks more like the Grand Teton. Here, the mountains are rendered as grand imaginary lands. The State Capitol exhibition curator attributes this map to the Salt Lake Real Estate Association, and notes that its purpose was attract buyers to the City’s then real estate boom.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 13th, 1851, he describes a moonlit walk, sees fireflies, and hears a whippoorwill. On June 13th, 1852, on notes several flowering plants along a river including blue bead lilies, red osier dogwood, and a carrion flower that emits a strong scent that attracts gnats. He hears bluebirds and robins. On June 13th, 1853, he describes two young hawks and their nests. He notes violets have past peak bloom and wild rose is blooming. He sees a rose-breasted grossbeak. On June 13th, 1854, he describes colorful yellow and red blooming plants. He sees minnows in a stream and hears crickets. On June 13th, 1860, he notes sycamore trees are losing their leaves.

* * * *

On June 13th, 2013, the City reported on a new enforcement push to remove homeless tent camps in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 13th, 1914, City Commissioner W. H. Shearman, Water Supply Charles F. Barrett, and City Engineer Sylverster Q. Cannon planned to the headwaters of upper City Creek in order to determine if a reservoir could be built at the site of an existing natural lake, that in 2017 does not exist (Salt Lake Tribune). The Tribune described the lake in City Creek as:

“The lake in City Creek Canyon is located in a land-locked basin near the head of the canyon. It has no natural outlet, and the water seeps out through the bottom, rising again several miles down canyon in great springs which form the City Creek Creek stream. A glacial moraine blocks the lake from a natural outlet and caused the lake to form. The lake assumes large dimensions at this time of the year, although it shrinks to a mere swamp later in the summer.”

On June 13, 1908, City Water Superintendent J. R. Raleigh described how his crews were raising 18 inch embankments along City Creek for about three-quarters of a block through the city in order to contain flood waters (Salt Lake Herald). Raleigh recommended constructing a 36 inch aqueduct pipe to remedy the problem. On June 13, 1908, Ben Jones drank five pints of whiskey at a saloon on Second South, passed out in the street, and was sentenced to work on the prison road gang working on boulevard in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 13, 1899, high waters in City Creek prevented closing of irrigation diversion gates out of fear that the city would be flooded (Salt Lake Herald). On June 13, 1898, the Utah National Guard held practice battles in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 13th, 1883, a petition to support a waterpowered marble polishing plant in City Creek Canyon was presented to the City Council (Salt Lake Herald). On June 13th, 1883, the Salt Lake Herald reviewed the manufacturing of silk at waterpowered looms in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald).

April 11, 2017

April 10th

Time Limit

1:30 p.m. The canyon’s ridgeline retains a slight covering of snow, but it is heavier on Black Mountain and Scott’s Hill. The highest mountains on the Wasatch Front Range received two feet of new snow, but the gauge station at Louis Meadows has only a small uptick of one-inch in equivalent water precipitation, and this suggests at most two or three inches fell in upper City Creek Canyon. Some trees respond by covering the road with small broken twigs with leaves. Freezing overnight temperatures retain this snow, but the cool day is overwhelmed by the new bright sunlight of spring. Sunrise begins at six a.m. and sunset arrives at eight p.m., but it is the new height of the noon sun that gives spring its force. It is still unsuccessful at pushing back on winter’s control, but the tide turns in its favor. The noon-time light is simply so much more brighter than on vernal equinox almost three weeks ago. It almost hurts the eyes, and the intense light reminds that summer will eventually arrive. Under this light, what I had supposed was the over-wintering yellow fruit of the canyon’s ubiquitous poison ivy patches burst in small flowers. A single cultivar of purple grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum), which is common in the city, blossoms along the first mile road.

Yesterday, there was a large predator scat pile on the road. Predator wildlife scat is easily distinguished from the feces of domestic dogs that also frequent the road because predator scat is full of the fur of its mouse and squirrel prey. Predator scat also ends in a narrow tip, unlike the rounded ends of domestic dog scat. Given the size of the pile, it may have been deposited by a mountain lion. But today, as I leave the car at Guardhouse Gate parking lot, on the heavily traveled canyon road between Bonneville Drive and the lot, a coyote expertly bonds down a steep slope, crosses the stream, and bolts into the thicket on the far east side of the stream. Come to think of it, I have not seen two rock squirrels, first viewed in the parking lot about a week ago, for some days. From thickets on the side of the road, Black-billed magpies and other song birds are heard.

The coyote, rock squirrels, mice, and I share a common bond of all mammals as a result of our common genetic heritage. Our time in the canyon and on the Earth is limited by a pre-programmed number of heart beats: about one billion for most mammals and uniquely about 3 billion for humans. Like the canyon’s coyote, my time in the canyon a mortal limit. I only have at most 700,000,000 heart beats left to live and to see the canyon.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on April 10th, 1841, he remarks “How much virtue is there in simply seeing?” On April 10th, 1853, he notes that saxifrage is blooming.

* * * *

The hearts of mammals regardless of size beat between 1.29 and 0.17 billion times (mean: 0.73 +- 0.56) over their life (Levine 1997, Cook 2006). For humans, lifetime heart beats average about 3 billion (Cook). But adjusting for heart rate, body mass, and longevity, over a lifetime, the heart of a 2 gram mouse delivers the same amount of total oxygen per unit of mass as that of 100,000,000 gram blue whale (id). As the mass of mammals increase, their heart rate decreases and their longevity increases. The 2 gram mouse’s heart beats 500 times per minute, but the mouse only lives one year. A loin’s heart beats at about 50 times per minute, but it can live for sixty years. This well-defined log-linear relationship between resting heart rate and longevity varies systematically from the small (mouse, hamster, and rat) to the large mammals (horse, lion, and elephant), except for humans (id). Plotting the log of resting heart rate or metabolic energy per kilogram of mass against longevity for various mammals gives a nearly straight line (Atanasov 2007, Cook 2006), but the 3 billion beats of the human heart for 80 years of life sits as a distant outlier from the other mammals (Cook 2007). The 2 billion extra beats allotted humans, like our brains, sets us apart from other mammals. But for both humans and other mammals, the above suggests that at cellular level, there is a genetically pre-programmed length to all mammalian life.

It would wrong to conclude that human life can be extended by not exercising because the hearts of people who do not exercise will beat less. The relationship between a lower resting heart rate, general good health, and increasing longevity is well-known (Cook). For a person who does not exercise and has a resting heart rate of 90 beats per minute, their heart will beat about 3.8 billion times over eighty years. For a person who exercises for two hours per day at 110 beats per minute and who has a resting heart rate of 70, their heart will beat 3.1 billion times over eighty years, or about 80 percent of the effort of the non-exercising person. For high functioning athletes with resting heart rates of 50 beats per minute, their hearts will beat about 2.3 billion times in eighty years, or about 60 percent of the effort of the non-exercising person. For unknown reasons, ultra-fit humans, who have the lowest amount of body fat and the lowest body mass indices (BMI), have higher mortality rates similar to the obese and higher than the ordinarily fit of persons of normal weight (Lorenzini 2014). Lorenzini’s review should be read cautiously. Higher mortality of abnormally low-weight persons may be a cofounding artifact of terminally-ill patients losing weight as they expire. But the implications of exercise for not developing debilitating health problems after age 50 are self-evident, since the health of other organs depend on a healthy blood circulation provided by the heart. Among older men, exercise has a protective effect against developing cardio-vascular disease and thus, reduced general circulation and increased mortality (Kodama). This cardiac protective effect is known to be dose dependent amongst men with Type 2 diabetes (Church). More exercise provides more protection. This is only one physical benefit of several types of benefits from being actively connected to nature and the canyon.

* * * *

On April 10th, 2007, the AAA as part of its Great Battery Roundup program, pledges a $2 donation for City Creek Canyon Rehabilitation for every automobile battery delivered to the club (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 10th, 1927, Frank Robinson, a student from Coalville, won the annual marathon up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 10th, 1916, L.D.S. Church members held a running race up City Creek Canyon. Non-Mormons, called “gentiles” by the Mormons, held a separate race along the East Bench (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 10, 1911, Water Commissioner Frank Matthews announced that dogs will not longer be allowed in City Creek Canyon unless they are kept on a leash because dogs have been swimming in the water supply (Salt Lake Telegram, Salt Lake Tribune, April 11, 1911). On April 6th, 1906, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that “streams of people” went up City Creek for recreation by horse carriage, on foot, and by bicycle (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 10th, 1898, the Utah Forestry Association and the City made plans for the experimental planting 300 ash trees in moist areas of City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

March 16, 2017

March 16th

The Character of Light

1:30 p.m. It is another warm clear workday, but again the pre-spring canyon is full. There is palpable change in the character of the warming light: it is overwhelmingly bright. I feel as if I am moving through a substance and not that I am viewing the reflected particles. This is another sign of the coming of spring. In the first one and one-half miles of the canyon, the west side contains a sprinkling of a compressed white-chalk rock. They are the remnants of polished boulders from the streams of an ancient now vanished mountain range to the west. On the west hillsides above milepost 1.5, this white rocks now shine brilliantly against the wall’s green grass. The last three days have been what valley residents would call prefect spring days. The air is warm, clear and pollution free, and the high peaks of the Wasatch Mountains are frosted with snow. In the canyon, so too are Scott’s Hill and Black Mountain covered with snow that intensely reflects the new light. Today, Black Mountain’s snow pack has begun to dissipate, the mountain’s flank is beginning show a patchwork of white and brown.

As I jog, two Mourning Cloak butterflies do a mating dance a few feet away. They do tight aerobatic turns and loops, and then together they fly high up into the trees. On the road, there is small rust-brown caterpillar with a black rectangle on the side of segment that is surrounded by a white bar. The first large beetle appears, and it has a body plan similar to a Consperse Stink Bug, but this beetle has a brownish back and a gold strip at the end of its wings.

It occurs to me why earlier in the month the City decimated the cattail field at flood retention pond (March 5th). The pond is now a mathematically pure bowl, but devoid of life. There will be no summer hummingbirds there and a kingfisher who annual visits will not be returning. February and March have had record warmth, and the City probably feared that the canyon might flood. But there was never any risk. The water level at the exit pipe of the flood retention ponds has risen only a foot or so, and is indicates that stream flow is still below 30 cubic feet per second. There is four more feet of exit pipe to fill. The City has also forgotten lessons from the past. In the 1890s and 1900s, City Creek maintenance meant removing the many dead and overhanging trees from stream (Salt Lake Tribune, January 4, 1908; Salt Lake Herald, January 31st, 1894). In the 1983 flood, snags and overhanging limbs were swept down City Creek and where log jams formed, the road was washed out. The flood down State Street started when logs jammed the underground City Creek conduit (Personal recollection). The first two-miles from the gate to above Pleasant Valley contains many fallen limbs, and the stream bed has not been cleared of trees since the 1990s.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 16th, 1840, he sees a flock of ducks. On March 16th, 1854, he notes that trees are filled with singing robins, blackbirds and song sparrows. he observes shelddrakes. On March 16th, 1855, he finds a woodchuck burrow and follows several woodchuck tracks. March 16th, 1859, he notes that the ground is a bare brown and winter snow is gone. This is a marker of spring. On March 16th, 1860, he sees a flock of shelddrakes and two gulls.

January 27, 2017

January 27th

Filed under: Black Mountain, Elk, milepost 1.5 — canopus56 @ 8:18 pm

Black Mountain, Yellow Mountain

4:30 p.m. It has been the first clear day of blue sky in almost one week, and I have forgotten what Black Mountain looks like. In the lower canyon, the snow-covered high walls are covered in deer or elk tracks, but I do not see either mammal directly. On parts to the south ridge, a three or four feet cornice has formed. Near sunset at milepost 1.5, Black Mountain comes into view. Normally, the Black Mountain is black or dark green due to its heavy coverage of Lodgepole pine and Douglas firs, but today the mountain is completely snow-blasted white. This makes Black Mountain look more fierce and crag-like than it really is, and, as the sun sets, the mountain becomes ablaze in yellow light.

At mile 0.5, I pass two anterless elk hunters coming down-canyon. They drag a sled that contains at most thirty-forty pounds of meat. They have not butchered well and have left two-hundred to three-hundred pounds of meat rotting in the watershed. Later, I discover that this is possibly an illegal take. Near mile 1.3, their sled tracks and footprints trudge up and back down the mountain side, but legal rifle hunting in the canyon does not begin until after mile 4.0. This may also explain why I see no elk or deer. The anterless elk hunt ends on January 31st.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on January 27th, he sees small nests of wasps made from mud. (These are probably nests of the mud dauber wasp.)

December 19, 2016

December 18th

Filed under: Black Mountain, Geology, Grandview Peak, Light, Places — canopus56 @ 2:16 am

Salmon Sunset

5:45 p.m. I am in Taylorsville about ten miles to the west of the canyon, and not in the canyon itself, as the sun sets. From this vantage point, I can watch the salmon colored sunset line rise through clear skies and up City Creek Canyon’s walls. Normally, I only witness the rising line from below and, usually have a more limited view. From the west side of the valley, Grandview Peak at the head waters of City Creek and the open bowl beneath it are fully visible.

Down canyon of Grandview Peak, the trees both on the unnamed peak at 8283 feet and Black Mountain are are frosted with blown snow. The unnamed peak at 8283 feet was probably called Scott’s Hill in historical records (Salt Lake Tribune January 19th, 1875). Scott’s Hill was probably named by miners after General Winfred F. Scott, a popular national figure in 1850 after his successful campaign in the Mexican-American War that resulted in Utah and City Creek being ceded by Spain to the United States. What we now call Black Mountain was historically called “Little Black Mountain” (Utah Daily Chronicle, January 18, 1929), and this would mean that Grandview Peak behind it was “Big Black Mountain”. Grandview Peak is the hidden treasure of City Creek Canyon. It dominates the canyon, but from both downtown Salt Lake City, from within the lower canyon, it is hidden behind “Scott’s Hill”. From the trail through the upper canyon, Grandview Peak is also hidden from the hiker have a cliff and thick trees.

But Grandview Peak’s bowl, which falls for over one-thousand feet beneath the peak, is treeless, and unlike Black Mountain, which is covered on its north side with a dark forest of lodge pole pines, Grandview cannot be described as “black” anything. The absence of trees may be natural or it may be the result of extensive logging in City Creek’s early colonization history. Mormon pioneer Fredrick Kesler built three saw mills in the canyon for Brigham Young in order to provide the lumber to build the first generation of the homes of early Euro-American Salt Lake City (Day 1988), and in the 1870s, miners added their own temporary mills to obtain shoring lumber for their shafts. (According the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, Fredrick Kesler is the Kesler of “Kesler’s Peak” in Big Cottonwood Canyon.) At Grandview’s base is the Treasure Box mine; a mine that was active during the 1910s and 1920s (Salt Lake Herald, January 5, 1918), and further up the canyon from Grandview Peak was the Red Bird Mine which had a 1,300 foot tunnel (Salt Lake Tribune January 23rd, 1901) shored with timber harvested from City Creek Canyon. Although the canyon was partially reforested in the 1918 (Salt Lake Telegram January 9th, 1918, Salt Lake Tribune May 10th, 1918), the extent of this reforestation is unknown. All of the available historical drawings and lithographs post-date this early era of resource exploitation. Thus, Grandview Peak’s open upper bowl may be the result of deforestation, but whether this is so is lost to history.

This view from the western valley of a salmon sunset line rising up the grand front of the Wasatch Front Mountain Range, shows Creek Creek Canyon and Grandview Peak in their larger geologic context. With today’s good visibility, I can see the straight line of the Front from Ben Lomond Peak in the north to Mt. Nebo in the south, and the Front’s flat, rising face is only broken by the Traverse Mountain salient. From this vantage point, City Creek Canyon is seen in its geologic place as one of many canyons created by the 200 mile long Wasatch Fault. The Fault creates the Wasatch Front Range, and the mountain range made Salt Lake City possible. Whatever the canyon’s economic history or macro-geology, this view of the reddish winter sunset line rising uniformly up one-hundred or more miles of the Wasatch Front Range, with City Creek at my visual center, is something that I always cherish seeing.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 18th, 1859, after a rain, he notes that the lichens have again turned green.

On December 18th, 1951, the State Health Officer reported that occasionally City Creek water was unsafe to drink, and he urged that the City construct a water filtration plant in the canyon as recommended by city Department of Public Utilities’s consulting engineers (Salt Lake Telegram). On December 18th, 1908, G. Geiger urged Salt Lake City to adopt a new park plan that would create a large park from all of the then city-owned land around Ensign Peak (including the current site of the State Capitol) and continuing up into City Creek Canyon. This park would be connected to a Fort Douglas park via a showcase tourist road now, Bonneville Drive and 11th Avenue (Salt Lake Telegram). On December 18th, 1907, the Forest Supervisor of City Creek Canyon denied application to cut hundreds of small evergreens from City Creek in order to provide Christmas trees to poor children on the grounds that it would endanger the watershed. The trees were instead taken from Big Cottonwood Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On December 18th, 1907, Deputy Water Commissioner Matthews impounded seven cows found illegally grazing in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). The City had an impound lot specifically for stray animals. On December 18th, 1900, the City Council, after resolving a jurisdictional dispute between City Engineer Kesley and the city Board of Public Works, opened a bid to replace the high-line pipe from a City Creek head gate to the water distribution tanks in the high Avenues (Salt Lake Herald).

November 30, 2016

November 29th

Scrub Oak Forest With Snow

4:30 p.m. The day after a major storm, the road is clear and dry or damp, and the canyon is covered in six inches of new snow. In the high mountains, three feet has fallen. Although the Sun comes out in the afternoon, the temperatures in the canyon remain in the upper twenties and low thirties, and as a result, branches in the scrub oak forest is covered in three to five inches of snow. But because of the low temperature, the snow will not melt. At mile 1.0 on the high north-west ridge, are four female deer and at mile 1.3, six mule deer are digging through the snow for grass hidden underneath. In the distance, the pine and fir trees on Black Mountain and the unnamed peak at 8283 feet have been blasted and are frosted with a layer of fresh snow.

Since the Pipeline Trail is covered with fresh dry snow, I decide to return by jogging down the trail before rising temperatures turn it into watery mud. Three or four other runners have already broken trail, but there is enough fresh snow that I get to enjoy the soft sound of a few inches of powder under my feet. It is slow going, but is still an enjoyable jog. The Gambel’s oaks arch from the left and the right over the trail, meeting at the top, and thus, they form a natural snow covered arch in the dimming twilight. By taking the trail, I am rewarded with the evening calls of a group of chukars (Alectoris chukar) high on the north-west canyon wall.

A third of a mile before the gate, I am greeted by clear skies and a brilliant Venus hanging as a guide star above the trail and twenty degrees above the horizon against a deep blue twilight sky. It will continue rising in the evening sky until its maximum elongation from the Sun and a peak brightness of magnitude -5.1 on January 12, 2017. This is midway in brightness between the brightest star, Vega (magnitude 0.0), and the full Moon (magnitude -10). I am reminded that although my feet are comfortably chilled by jogging through snow powder, on Venus the high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has raised temperatures to where lead flows like water.

October 18, 2016

October 18th

Hidey Poison Ivy

6:45 p.m. When driving from my home towards the canyon, trees in the domesticated Avenues are now turning and when driving towards Guardhouse gate along Bonneville Drive, all of the Gambel’s oaks have turned. In the far distance on the high west slopes of canyon, groves of Gambel’s oak all look grey and possibly leafless. Towards evening a storm band held back by the heat of the day moves over the canyon and on to the Wasatch Front mountains. The wind comes and goes in pulses, and this strips more leaves off of the trees in an incremental process. As one runs up canyon, if you are lucky, one of these pulses of wind blows twenty or thirty leaves off of a tree, and you then run through a gentle falling “rain” of of leaves. After-work runners and bicyclists, who exercise with purpose and efficiency, have come and gone, and I am alone as I reach Pleasant Valley at mile 1.5. The lower half of the canyon, the part that I am in, is dark and foreboding under the front clouds, while the Black Mountain is in the light of the setting Sun. I am treated to a display of swiftly changing light and darkness as the Sun descends. The upper canyon is in mist, while a single light cloud moves at 30 or 40 miles per hour over the top of Black Mountain. While jogging out in twilight, I surprise two mule deer as they are crossing the road. It is only three days to the start of the main deer rifle hunt.

Western poison ivy along the road has all turned. Poison ivy is a chameleon plant. In the canyon, western poison ivy dominates along the stream bank above the flood line along with scouring rush horsetails (Equisetum hyemale), and now almost all the ivy has changed from its earlier bright red to bright yellow and then to a light-brown. Western poison ivy has an oval leaf that stands either singly or in groups of three on the end of a straight three or four foot tall stalk. Eastern poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is also present in the canyon. Eastern poison ivy has the star-shaped, jagged-edge tri-leaves, and grows in creeping flats. This is the ivy that most of us associate with the words “poison ivy”. It is also present in the canyon, but more frequently in the spring. Now, in the autumn across from picnic site 6, one spread of Eastern poison ivy at the base of a Boxelder tree blazes red, and only one vine climbs up and wraps around the trunk displaying bright red leaves. At only one tree in the lower canyon, Western poison ivy has climbed up along the tree’s trunk to a height of ten or more feet, and its tri-oval leaves hang mimicking its Eastern cousin, the vine.

September 21, 2016

September 8th

The Mountain Who Lost It’s Backside

4 p.m. Today I decide to drive up to the end of the paved road and trail jog to the end of the canyon. The canyon will be closed to cars at the end of September, and I usually do one of these trail runs at this time. (A second is done in early June.) The paved road ends at mile 5.75 and the trail continues for another 4.25 miles before it descends into Wasatch County. But today I decided to only go to trail mile 3.5 where one can see that part of the backside of Grandview Peak is missing. It is the sheer vertical cliff about 200 feet high.

Through trail mile 1.0, the stream is wider and flat. The trail is about 100 feet off to one side and passes through box elder and maple groves. The trail, actually a dirt road that is fading away, crosses the stream at two iron bridges and passes the Smuggler’s Gap trailhead. Then the trail changes character. The trail becomes a disused single track that sits two or three feet to the north of the small fast-moving creek. The creek flows over a series of algae covered rock jumbles into small pools. Both the stream and the floor of the trail are broken Mississippian and Permian slate. At times the stream and trail wind through boughs of river beech trees. Here, a red Admiral butterfly floats between the stream, bushes and the shade of the trees.

Grandview Peak is to the left and the north, but its view is blocked by the steep v shape of the creek gorge and by stands of aspen. To the right and south is the ridge between City Creek and Red Butte canyons. On the city side the ridge is a near-vertical wall that sits in perpetual shadow. Thus, it is covered in the thick healthy stand of cold tolerant Douglas fir. In contrast, the Sun exposed Red Butte side is a thick drought tolerant Gambel oak forest.

I round a bend near trail mile 1.6 and startle a Cooper’s hawk that is napping in a tree grove. Attempts to fly away but is trapped in the tangle of branches that it is resting in. It waits anxiously for about 30 seconds. Seeing that I am no threat, it picks a route out of its lair, and then like an owl, expertly flies through the forest understory to freedom.

At trail mile 2.1 the canyon opens into the first of four hanging meadows. Each is divided by gradual inclines. This first meadow hosts a SNOTEL weather station, and in the second at trail mile 2.6, the bushes are flattened in a series of circles. Here a moose can usually be found, and today is no exception. As I am exiting the meadow, I hear something crashing through the brush, and turning around, a frightened female moose is careening into the safety of the forest. There is little sign of deer in this part of the canyon because there is little grass forage to support them. In each of these hanging meadows there are bushes of mountain blueberries that provide refreshing forage for me.

The character of these meadows has changed dramatically since I last ran through them in June. Then the brush was so profuse that it reached my neck and overhung and obscured the trail. Jogging was an act of faith and was more like swimming through a sea of green. You hoped that the trail was underfoot and sometimes it was not. Now the meadows are a sea of tan. The trail is plainly visible, but the trail floor is a pallet of dark browns and tans from dried and crushed brush punctuated by accents of fallen bright and muted red-orange aspen and maple leaves. I am jogging over an 18 inch by 300 foot canvas painted by the randomness of nature.

At trail mile 3.6, I am climbing past the last meadow and towards the ridgeline at the end of the canyon. My goal for the day is visible on the north side of canyon. Here a series of spur ridges come down from Grandview Peak and end in rounded noses, but one nose is cut off. It ends in a sheer vertical cliff about the size of two or three football fields. At its base is a 200 foot tall talus field. Here, some geologists believe an ancient earthquake may have shorn the mountainside away. One can see other examples along the Wasatch Front. The shear north face of Mount Olympus has a rubble pile at its base which is now the Mount Olympus subdivision. This reminds us that the West is earthquake country and there work 14 earthquakes in Utah of greater than magnitude 5 during the last century. In 2008, geologists Francis X. Ashland and Gregory N. McDonald investigated the Grandview Peak landslide in order to determine the most cost-effective method of dating the mountainside’s failure. They concluded that the remoteness of the site and the depth of the talus field made it impractical to retrieve rock samples from deep underneath the talus field in order to accurately date when the slide occurred.

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