City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

January 10, 2017

January 10th

Wooden Noises

3:00 p.m. Last night media was concerned that flooding may occur because of the heavy rain and continuing high temperatures. Most of the snow is gone from south facing slopes and the snow left along the road is saturated with water. It has remained warm, so no crust has formed on the snow’s surface, but everywhere the snow is covered with bits of bark, leaves and dirt from a high wind. There is no sign of the potential flood; the stream has not risen; but, for the remainder of the season the risk of avalanche in the high Wasatch Front Mountains will be high. At higher elevations, this water soaked layer will form a base on which further snow layers will accumulate, and this can form a fracture zone in which back country skiers can be swept to burial. At Guardhouse Gate, a chickadee is sings a bright note. The sky is overcast and gives off a uniform diffuse light. For some stretches of the stream, I see hints of the silver ribbon (Dec. 26th).

Where the snow bank is partially eaten away, the bunch grass is exposed, and the dried tan grass is mixed in with still growing green shoots. Although recently soaked in water, this time the tips of the oaks and maples do not turn red-tinged (Dec. 11th), and the trees make no start at growth in response to the water. Although I had thought that mosses had stopped growing, at the down-canyon end of picnic site 4, I find two trees where on the west side, they are covered in bright orange lichen and on the east side, they are covered in a thick mat of dark-green moss.

From this weather, at picnic site 9, the Bald-Faced hornet nest is reduced to the size of a large grapefruit. At picnic site 1, the hummingbird nest is dissipating. I can partially see through its weaving.

Another storm front is approaching, and at mile 1.3, the wind gusts at 30 miles per hour while six anterless elk graze on a west hillside about three hundred feet away. The Gambel’s oaks creak and groan. Leaves rustle, and a single leaf loudly tumbles across the surface of the snow. There is a fourth sound. Where the wind causes two small branches to collide, they make a subtle dull and hollow thud sound, similar to tone of musical wooden xylophone. In their resting state, it sound as if the branches of trees are empty of water.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on January 10th, 1957, he records a -8 degree F. temperature with heavy snows that have trapped him at home. He recalls summer. On January 10th, 1858, Thoreau prescribes the snow-covered beauty of catkins as a remedy for winter seasonal affect disorder. He notes that any sight of “catkins, birds’ nests, insect life” is welcomed in winter. He observes a sunset in which pink light is reflected off of snow.


November 4, 2016

November 4th

Filed under: Brown Trout, Flood retention pond, People, picnic site 1, Stream — canopus56 @ 7:05 pm

No Where to Hide

4:00 p.m. Today, the lower canyon is without leaves. The chestnuts have dropped almost all their leaves, and The Golden Living Room at picnic site 1 is gone (Oct. 29th). Except for one or two shoots, in the flood retention pond at mile 0.0, the cattail grove has turned completely brown.

During the spring and summer, the stream is illuminated only by indirect light, and without polarizing glasses, the stream presents a blue reflective surface. Trout can easily hide in under this reflective surface. But today, most of the undergrowth foliage has also died back, and the stream is now exposed to shafts of low-angle sunlight, and this light makes the stream transparent. From thirty-feet away, I can seen into the stream clearly, and trout are easily visible. Instead of running up the road on the pavement, I jog along its dried leaf covered shoulder, while peering into the stream whenever possible. In the first mile, I look into the stream at seventeen locations. Of those seventeen, ten locations meet all three of the following criteria: at least six inches deep; contains slack water; and, is illuminated by low angle light. Of those ten, eight pools contain ten brown trout. Previously, I had thought that were perhaps one to three trout in the first mile of canyon stream. During the summer, many anglers can be seen along this first mile of stream bed, and these trout are what they have been chasing with their expensive sunglasses and fly rods.

October 29, 2016

October 29th

Filed under: Colors, Horsechestnut, picnic site 1, Seasons — canopus56 @ 2:32 pm

The Golden Living Room

1:30 p.m. At picnic site 1 about 150 yards from guardhouse gate, a set of stairs made from rail road ties leads down to a 30 foot wide bank at the stream. A late season horseschestnut tree, that has not lost its golden leaves, stretches over the entire bank. This chestnut and the other surrounding trees have also laid a three inch layer of light-brown leaves that completely cover the stairs and the bank. I clear off a spot on the stairs, sit, meditate, and enjoy this golden living room, and this gives me a moment to center before I reenter everyday life in the city.

It is an unseasonably warm day, and as is typical for Fall, there are about ten insects visible in the first two miles: three dragonflies, a stink bug, two unidentified moths or butterflies, a cricket, and some immature Boxelder bugs. Scrub jays, black-eyed chickadees, and North Flickers calls can be heard in the surrounding thickets. On the road, there are about 35 walkers and runners and three hunter vehicles.

Create a free website or blog at