City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

May 8, 2017

May 5th

Filed under: Box Elder Tree, Dogwood, Gambel's Oak, Horsechestnut — canopus56 @ 11:24 am

Leaf-Out and Phenology

5:00 p.m. The first day astronomical spring was marked by the first bursting of Woods rose buds (March 20th), and they where followed quickly by buds of the red-osier dogwood and sap rising in the non-native willow tree (March 22nd). This also corresponded with the early leafing-out of young suckers at the base of the larger trees (March 22nd). These can be sacrificed in a harsh spring without endangering the survival of the parent tree, and the understory of the first mile forest quickly filled out. Next, buds of the green apple trees and the native Box Elder trees burst (March 24th). Next came the river birches (March 26th). These were followed by bud busting on cultivar horsechestnut trees at Guardhouse Gate (April 7th). On April 12th, although and early anomaly, the first Gambel’s oak trees budded and leafed (April 12th). On April 22nd, I made rough notes on the percent of leaf-out at mile 0.0, mile 0.5 and mile 1.0 along the road:

• At mile 0.0: Cottonwoods – 0 percent; Horsechestnut – 50 percent with small leaves; Red ozier dogwood – 70 percent with small leaves; River birch – 90 percent with inflorescences; Gambel’s oak – 0 percent to mile 1.5; Box Elder – 50 percent with catkins.

• At mile 0.5: Cottonwoods – buds swelling, 10 percent; Red ozier dogwood – not applicable, none; River birch – 100 percent with inflorescences; Gambel’s oak – 1 plant with leaf blooms.

• At mile 1.0: Cottonwoods – 0 percent; Red ozier dogwood – not applicable, none; River birch – 10 percent with inflorescences; Gambel’s oak – 0 percent.

Next, significant increases in leaf length for the cultivars and Box Elder trees occurred, interrupted by cold weather snaps (April 24th). Leaf-out in the red-osier dogwood and chokeberries paused, but then by May 1st, they, along with Wood’s rose have mostly filled-out with growing leaves. By May 2nd, much of the first mile had the appearance of a partially filled-in (sixty percent) green tube, and today, it is the tops of the larger trees that are bursting with catkins and inflorescences.

* * * *

Phenology is the study of cycles in plants and animals, and for trees, that study focuses on the dates of leaf-out in spring and leaf senescence during fall. Thoreau’s observations of the dates of bud swelling and leaf-out provided the basis for researchers to conclude that leaf-out dates for 43 species near Concord, Massachusetts have advanced by one week since the 1860s (Miller Rushing and Primack 2008). A literature search turns up no data for spring leaf-out of the Gambel’s oak specifically, but since the 1990s, leaf-out has become an area of intensive study as an indicator of climate change (Polgar and Primack, n.d., United States Phenology Network 2017). High quality studies on the autumnal leaf senescence or abscission by tree species and for Gambel’s oak also exist (October 11th).

Leaf-out is being studied by human observation in forest reserves (Polgar and Primack, n.d.), using orbital satellite imagery (Richardson et al 2009), using automated ground-based cameras coupled with image analysis (Richardson et al 2009, Yang et al 2017), and through citizen-science data collection (U.S. National Phenology Network 2017). Partial results include mathematical models of regional forest leaf-out (Schwartz, Ault, and Betancourt 2013).

Tree leaf-out in temperate forests is primarily controlled by a few factors: temperature, photo-period, winter-chilling, and the anatomy of a species (Polgar and Primack 2011). Some, but not all, trees respond primarily to temperature, but others ignore temperature and respond only to the changes in the length of the day and intensity of sunlight. All require some minimal level of winter chilling in order cycle through dormancy and spring rebirth. Trees with smaller diameter vascular systems better survive winter cold, and they can on the earliest rise in temperature being to leaf. This ability provides them with an ecological advantage and niche, but such trees also run the risk of an early frost. In the canyon, the horsechestnut tree is an example that bloomed, but then had its leaves wilted by a cold snap. Conversely, trees with larger diameter vessels are subject to more internal circulatory damage during winter freezing, and such trees, like the Gambel’s oak, need a longer resuscitation period in which to repair that injury before they can swell buds and produce leaves (Polgar and Primack 2011).

* * * *

On May 5th, 1994, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a historical piece by Jack Goodman on the Anderson Tower, a 54 foot tall granite tower that stood at 303 A Street in the Avenues between 1882 and 1932 and that was built by Robert R. Anderson. The tower looked down into City Creek Canyon, at the Temple grounds through its 1894 completion, and later at the State Capitol Building. The tower was featured as a tourist attraction as part of the City’s grand scenic boulevard for horse carriages built up City Creek and around 11th Avenue completed in 1906. Anderson lived at 5th Avenue and A Street. (In the present, the west plaza of the State Capitol serves as a similar scenic viewpoint). 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).

May 6, 2017

May 2nd

First Dragonfly

4:00 p.m. For the first half-mile, cottonwood trees all have inflorescences, but at picnic site 1, there is one with one inch leaves. Box Elders are leafing out and providing the beginnings of shade. Red ozier dogwoods have two inch leaves and now look like a true bush. The same occurs for Woods rosa. The first quarter-mile of the road begins to look like a green tube. The stream runs three inches over the top of the rocks that makes the pond at picnic site 5, but it is also three inches below its highest mark on the Zen Rock.

I see the first dragonfly of the season: a reddish-brown about three inches long; it is an immature Variegated Meadowhawk. In the canyon today, there are two examples of the White-lined sphinx moth. A Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) swims by with its bright yellow wings flashing under the sunlight.

Bicyclists dominate the road. There are over forty in groups numbering between two to eight riders. They speed down the road, and although I am on the right-side of the road, one misses me with an emergency skid and tack maneuver.

* * * *

On May 2nd, 2008, the Utah Rivers Council plans to hold a clean-up of City Creek Canyon’s stream bed (Deseret News). On May 2nd, 2007, the Utah Rivers Council plans a stream clean-up in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 2nd, 1910, A. B. Sawyer, owner of the Little Giant Mine in City Creek, sought a lease from the city to construct a boarding house for miners 12 miles up the canyon in order to work a mining claim (Salt Lake Herald, Salt Lake Telegram). On May 2nd, 1899, the City Creek Canyon water patrolman put out a fire caused by an abandoned camp fire (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 2nd, 1897, the Salt Lake Herald suggested City Creek Canyon as a site for May day picnics.

April 26, 2017

April 24th

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

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

* * * *

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

* * * *

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

* * * *

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

April 21st

Biophilia – Part III – Nature Fearing Studies

External Link to Image

Collage of City Creek Wildflowers, April 2017. Source: Author. Plant names are in text.

6:00 a.m. Rain showers including sleet fell last night and through the morning. From the city floor on the westside of the valley, I have a sweeping view up City Creek Canyon and along the mouths of the six other Salt Lake County Wasatch Front canyons. The rain falls in periodic sheets and microbursts that, with the morning light, color the canyon with curtains of delicate and varied gray tones. The canyon and the front are a series of paintings that rival the old Renaissance masters and Rubens.

4:00 p.m. As the front passes, the afternoon has given way to bright sunlight, but the canyon is still empty and full of solitude. Painted lady butterflies play tag, and one follows me up the road for about fifty feet, stops and then resumes its trailing track. It repeats this behavior four times before flying off. Two mallards streak down canyon skimming just above the trees and flying directly above the road. The road is their marker. The sleet has wilted all the long new 4 inch leaves of the horsechestnut trees. The Box Elder leaves are barely effected, and the Gambel’s oaks do not notice because they remain largely in their winter slumber. The water marks on Zen Rock show the stream is six lower than maximum notwithstanding last night’s downpour.

All is green and fresh and more spring wildflowers bloom both along the road and along the Pipeline Trail: Starry solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum); Golden currant (Ribes aureum); Purple milkvetch (astragalus agrestis); Arrowleaf balsamroot; (Balsamorhiza sagittata); and western pink and blue-purple Longleaf phlox (Phlox longifolia Nutt.)

* * * *

The biophillia hypothesis has a binary opposite: biophobia. And the existence of biophia also can be proof of the existence of a genetic compulsion to be in and to like nature. Biophobic responses are adverse reactions to threats from the environment like spiders or snakes. Biophobic human reactions provide more definitive results because the body’s automatic response to negative experiences is more pronounced and easier to measure. Human negative responses can also be more easily conditioned in controlled experiments. Biophopia studies involve viewing pictures of threatening predators or poisonous animals while being conditioned with mild electric shock treatments. Psychologists then measure how quickly the body forgets the conditioning. If a person takes a comparatively longer period of time to forget the electro-shock conditioning, this is taken as evidence of a genetic predisposition for enhanced awareness of threats in a natural setting, genetic biophobia, and the biophilia hypothesis. Ulrich summarized many of the biophic studies through 1984 (Ulrich 1993):

* Involuntary physical responses to adverse conditioning when viewing natural threats such as spiders and snakes are more persistent than the response to neutral geometric shapes (Ulrich, 78).

* People exhibit stronger defense reactions when observing others’ fear reaction to threatening scenes like spiders and snakes versus neutral scenes (Ulrich, 79).

* After mild electroshock conditioning, a person’s autonomic body responses to spiders subliminal images of spiders and snakes embedded in films still takes a longer time to unlearn as compared to embedded images of non-threatening settings (Ulrich, 80).

* After mild electric shock conditioning, the autonomic body responses of persons viewing open natural settings are more persistent than when viewing low depth heavily forested scenes. This is interpreted as a genetic remnant of human evolution on the African savannas (Ulrich, 82-83).

There is an irony to these experiments, or its seems as I continue jogging down canyon. Showing a genetic basis of liking nature by shocking people with electric prods as they view photographs of nature in a controlled laboratory experiment seems far removed from the clean spring air and blooming flowers of today’s canyon. But these biophobic studies do lend more weight to the proof of a genetic basis for biophillia than the indirect proof of liking studies.

* * * *

On April 21st, 2006, snowpack in upper City Creek is 200 percent of normal (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 13, 2017

April 12th

Filed under: Box Elder Tree, Gambel's Oak, People, Seasons — canopus56 @ 1:52 am

First Gambel’s Oak Bloom

1:00 p.m. Yesterday along Pipeline Trail, I find the first Gambel’s oaks with blossoms. The first on the trail near mile 0.8, but the overnight freezing and snow have turned the blooms to dust. The blooms dissolve when touched. A quarter-mile down canyon, I found a freshly blooming oak. Some of its buds swelled and a few have opened to reveal a small compact grouping of green leaves. These oaks have awakened early, and given their sensitivity to cold, I can now see why the oak forest is waiting to rise. Further down this sun exposed track, immature three inch Box elder trees have more developed leaves than those lower near the terrain shaded stream. Its leaves and multi-headed ovaries hanging on long threads have wilted under the low temperatures.

At picnic site 3, two separate broken 4 inch diameter trunks lie on the ground. They are blooming despite being connected to their base by a thin layer of inner bark. Both are blooming leaves and flowers. They are making a last attempt to reproduce. Life struggles to the end. Scanning the west cliff walls for raptor nests, I find two or three seeps. In one, solid rock has been fractured horizontally by some past earthquake or other force. Water seeps from the fracture.

Someone has built and is maintaining eight or nine rock cairns along the first mile. Others disassemble them, but the builder returns and restores them the next day. Since they are not placed with respect to any geographical landmark or trail, I suspect the cairns are stupas that have a religious or emotional significance to the builder. The stupas may be the work of a recently-arrived, mentally-ill regular walker who talks to herself as she goes up canyon.

Although it is a Wednesday and a work day, the canyon parking lot is overflowing and the road is heavily used by both bicyclists and walkers.

* * * *

On April 12th, 2007, the City closes City Creek Canyon so stream debris can be trucked out of the stream’s water treatment plant (Salt Lake Tribune, April 13, 2007). On April 12th, 2002, 91 year-old Eldon McEntire passed away, and he was a former Chief Engineer for the Salt Lake City Water Department. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 18, 2002). In 1952, he invented a machine to cut lime deposits away from the inside of water pipes, such as the calcium deposits shown obstructing 80 percent of a City Creek Canyon water main in a November 1944 Salt Lake Telegram photograph (id, Salt Lake Telegram, Nov. 1, 1944). On April 12th, 1911, the City extended the lease for the gravel pit in lower City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

March 27, 2017

March 27th

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part VIII – Water Infrastructure

9:30 a.m. Another great Coriolis effect band of clouds and rain that stretches from central Canada to New Mexico sweeps over the canyon. This is the second in three days, and it rains continuously overnight and into the morning. The canyon freezes overnight. Except for a single gnat, insects are absent. A lone robin and chickadee calls from the thicket far from the road. Some plants respond, but most canyon trees continue their wait for spring’s true warmth. A lone river birch below picnic site 3 blooms, but along the stream, many small birch shots have bloomed and extended small leaves. Service berry bushes are among those that thrive despite the early spring cold. They have bloomed and in the last few days have grown one to one-and-one-half inch leaves. The forest understory is greening first. Whether beneath Box Elder or Gambel’s oak trees, small sucker shoots are blooming with leaves. Their mature parents stay dormant. Near mile 0.1, buds on an unusual tree swell and prepare to open. When sap surged up its grey trunk and branches, the wood’s skin has turned a dull orange. The rain floods the canyon with a pleasing earthy smell.

The events of the last week reveal the pattern of early spring in the canyon. Plants respond primarily to the lengthening of daylight, but insects are waiting for overnight temperatures above fifty and daytime temperatures in the sixties. Days alternate between sun and cold nourishing rain with an overall pattern of increasing temperatures, but an early heat wave fools the insects into an early exit from winter’s hibernation. All wait for the dominate forest trees to swell their buds and to deploy this year’s leaves.

The last few days have also given me a new appreciation for the few water seeps and springs in the first mile of the canyon (January 20th). They are signs of the larger sub-surface migration of water from the surrounding canyon walls and beneath the Gambel’s oak forest. Refreshing rain falls on the high ridges and leeches through the high sandstone layers picking up minerals, and these nutrients then seep underneath the earth to the stream below. Along the way, forest roots dip below to sip the mineral rich broth to obtain the necessary building blocks of life.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 27th, 1842, he sees birches and pines reflecting light as they wave. He watches two fledgling hawks and an eagle. On March 27th, 1853, he notes flowering hazel. On March 27th, 1859, he notes alder trees are in bloom. On Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 28th, 1858, he sees a flock of shelldrakes, a flock of ducks, two dippers, and two herring gulls.

* * * *

The third era of utilization of City Creek Canyon was water infrastructure development. As previously noted (Dec. 27th), City initially developed infrastructure in the canyon between 1870 and the early 1900s. Construction began in 1872 with the installation of an enclosed piped water main up City Creek, dug by City prison labor (Cater, 94). Three enclosed take-off points were developed that went to the business district, Central City, the low Avenues below 6th Avenue, and the Ensign Peak 20th Ward. The “high-line” went from a head gate in City Creek at 5030 feet in elevation to a reservoir in the high Avenues and provided water to the high Avenues district. The “mid-line” went from a head gate at 4712 feet to the low Avenues and Central City districts. A second head gate at 4676 feet went to Capitol Hill and west-side districts. The “low-line” went from a head gate at 4579 feet to serve the business district (Hooten, 21-26; Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 27, 1903). Two take-offs in City Creek from the main pipeline still serve Capitol Hill and the high Avenues. The take-offs are at westbound water line trail at picnic site 4, mile 0.5 at the site of the old Twentieth Ward aqueduct head gate, and a southeast bound line at the red bridge on the south side of the road at mile 0.9, the site of the old mid-line headgate. In 1915, the City completed construction of the 5,000,000 gallon reservoir at the up-canyon east end of Pleasant Valley (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 2, 1916).

* * * *

On March 27th, 1920, the snow depth at the High Line station in City Creek was 17 inches (Salt Lake Telegram). On March 27th, 1900 in order to increase the City’s water supply, the City Board of Public Works approved the bid of Moran Construction to install a 30 inch iron water main from City Creek Canyon for $61,854 (Salt Lake Herald).

March 26th

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

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

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

* * * *

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

* * * *

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

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

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

* * * *

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

March 24, 2017

March 24th

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part V – Timber Harvesting

2:00 p.m. Spring returns with today’s bright warming sunshine and temperatures regain half yesterday’s the thirty degree drop. Last night’s rain has washed away the carcasses of yesterday’s earthworm explosion. The creek still runs high, and between the stream’s loud white noise, the sun’s warmth, and my own feelings of exhaustion, I am compelled to rest. I find a place next to the stream in the Sun, and fall in a meditative mood, and meld into the moment. Yesterday’s two inches of freezing rainfall, although small by eastern standards, sets a new Salt Lake City precipitation record. March has turned out like February’s unusual weather: record setting warm temperatures for the first few weeks, followed by catch-up rain and snow that regresses to a nearly average year. After the freezing rain, again, the return of insects resets. There are one or two tentative White cabbage and Painted Lady butterflies, and a few stoneflies and gnats reappear.

For plants, the snow, which has now melted except on Black Mountain, stunts the grow of the Wood’s roses for a day. But other trees bloom. A red-osier dogwoods higher up the canyon blooms, and below picnic site 6, the first Box Elder tree blooms at its highest top branches. Further down canyon cultivars bloom. A new tree’s buds open with leaves are covered with small hairs, and more searching finds one that has a desiccated apple attached. These are crabapple trees (Nov. 19th). Their distinctive leaves allows me to do a census: including one tree below Guardhouse gate an two at the up-canyon end of Pleasant Valley, there are five apple trees in the first 1.5 canyon miles. Another new blooming tree has a deep purple ovary at the bud’s center. High in the trees near picnic site 6, migrant song birds sing, but frustratingly, I am unable to see them with my monocular.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 24, 1855, he records a rock slide and describes how rivers erode hills. He summarizes the signs of spring: maple sap, willow and alder catkins, grass on south banks, cowslip, and maple buds. On March 24th, 1858, he hears song birds and sees a flock of twenty shore larks.

* * * *

Early immigrant John Miller described lumber harvesting in City Creek, an activity done during the winter, principally for the purpose of selling or using timber as firewood:

In the first place, Brigham Young laid claim to the entire canyon. There were two gates through which all must pass to enter the domain. One was the Eagle Gate and the other was at the mouth of the canyon . . . There was a gate-keeper at the inner gate and he took one-third of every load of wood that came down out of the canyon. This was Brigham Young’s toll. . . . .

Brigham Young had a great wood yard just inside the inner gate, with a circular saw run by the waters of City creek. There the toll wood was cut up into stove lengths and after that it was distributed among the president’s numerous wives . . . .

There [the logs] where taken by teamsters, and hauled to the city after paying Brigham Young toll at the gates. . . . .

After cutting down a tree, we would cut it into lengths of ten or twelve feet. Then we would point one end of it and start it down the hill on the snow. It would go down like a streak of lightening . . . There were forty of us working up in the mountains, and each one would put a private mark on his logs to enable him to settle with the teamsters below. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1903, Apr 5).

* * * *

In a March 24th, 2004 letter to the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City resident Jay S. Bachman argues in favor of banning cougar hunting in City Creek Canyon. On March 24, 1900, the City Council directed the Police Department to provide prisoners to work on creating a boulevard up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

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).

January 16, 2017

January 15th

River Birch Rivendell

(Originally October 20th) 3:30 p.m. Rivendell was the mythical land of the elfin in Tolken’s “Lord of the Rings.” The canyon’s Rivendell is a short stretch of stream located about 100 feet along a trail at the end of the picnic site 11. There the stream runs slow, flat and wide across moss laden rocks. The stream banks is covered in dense scouring rush horsetails and is surrounded by ten to fifteen river birches with green and yellow leaves. The trail runs parallel to and about 20 feet north of the stream. The trail is overhung by less water tolerant Rocky Mountain maples with bright red leaves. The trail itself is covered in a patchwork of fallen Red Maple and yellow River Birch and Box Elder leaves. Shafts of low-angle afternoon sunlight pierce through the upper branches of trees and illuminate parts of the stream. Black-Hooded Chickadees flit between nearby branches.

From this canyon Rivendell, the trail winds parallel to the road through moves groves of horsetails until it opens into the northeast end of Pleasant Valley.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on January 15th, he again sees numerous fleas on top of winter snow. On January 16th, 1857, he describes how a winter sparrow’s song lifts his spirits, and he sees tracks of mice on top of winter snow.

On January 15th, 1926, the University Hiking Club announced a planned hike to the top of Black Mountain and then to slide down over the snow in City Creek (Utah Daily Chronicle).

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