City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

May 29, 2017

May 28th

It is enough. This is the Right [Natural] Place – Part VI – Future Population Growth

5:30 p.m. I have misjudged the reopening of the road; it has opened to traffic today, but only a few cars come through the gate even though it is a beautiful blue-skied day. The road will also be open to cars tomorrow, Memorial Day. From the gate to mile 0.2, Warbling vireos sing, and I get a Black-headed grosbeak to respond to my playing of bird song audio recordings. When I return down canyon an hour later, a female Yellow warbler is at the top of what I now calling “Perching Tree”. The Perching tree is below picnic site one; it is about 40 feet tall; but the last 15 feet of its vertical branches are bare. Various birds like to perch there in the warm evening sunlight (May 19th, Lazuli bunting; May 23rd, Western tanager). The perch gives the birds a clear view of the surrounding landscape, and although it exposes them to attack from the hawks above, the bare branches prevent other birds from approaching unseen from below. Near picnic site 3, a Chirping sparrow, a Song sparrow and a House finch are heard.

In this lowest part of the first mile road, the blossoms of red ozier dogwoods and chokecherry shrubs are failing or are closed. The leafless ovaries are swelled and pregnant. At picnic site 3, blossoms on one dogwood are three-quarters gone and the remaining one-quarter is mobbed by a one-hundred nectar drinking 1-2 millimeter flies. But further up canyon at mile 0.7, the red ozier dogwoods are still in full bloom. As with the chokecherry, the pregnant ovaries have swelled in preparation for seed making. At the seep around the bend from picnic site 6, a cattail has grown to six feet high. Near the Red Bridge, a Box Elder tree is festooned with this season’s new catkins, full of seeds. Near mile 1.1, Wild geraniums are smaller than those found lower at mile 0.2, and there is a strain of white, not purple, colored blossoms at this higher and drier site.

Near mile 0.4, there is a small grove of new horsetails whose top buds are fully expanded. These horsetails appear different from the predominate variety in the canyon. They are larger in diameter and light, instead of dark green in color. When I tap one with my finger, it gives off small clouds of dense white spores. That horsetails give off spores means that they reproduce asexually and not sexually through seeds. Other horsetails in the canyon do not have these new season buds. Horsetails are primitive plants that originated in the Devoian period about 400 million years ago.

At the tunnel seep below picnic site 6, there is a small brown butterfly with a black pattern along its leading wingtips. It is a Sleepy duskywing (Erynnis brizo burgessi). About eight others are spread out along the first mile. At mile 1.1, they are joined by a single Yellow swallowtail butterflies and a lone Red-rumped central bumble bee. Near mile 0.6, a diarrhetic bird was laid a series of thick spots on center of the road, and a Stink bug is busily cleaning up one by feeding.

Near mile 1.1, eight unidentified large raptors are circling about 300 feet overhead and around the meadows on the south-east Salt Lake salient. They are too high for identification. They are black from above, have a black body with dark tails, but their trailing underwings are a dirty white with black leading edges. The beak is not raven or crow-like. That they are flying high is good, for I hear loud chirping coming from underneath the shelter of a nearby low plant whose broad leafs are about 12 by 18 inches wide. It is a mallard chick. As newborns, mallard chicks look like their mothers. They have a brown back and a brown eye-strip across a light brown-yellow face, but their breast feathers are a lighter yellow. This chick appears lost. It clutch-mates are not near as it moves from underneath its hide and pathetically sits in the open. The chick sees me as a large parental figure and wants me to help. As I regrettably leave, I can only hope that its mother is gathering food in the nearby in the stream and that she will return before a predator finds her young. I also hope by leaving that the chick’s protective instincts will reassert itself, and the young bird will return to wait quietly underneath its leafy hiding place.

After some research at home, I find that my “raptors” are not raptors after all. They are Turkey vultures. Turkey vultures eat only carrion and not eat live prey. The mallard chick was safe from them. This is a beginner bird identification mistake.

* * * *

On April 6th and 7th, I alluded to how the Mormons have many important choices to make regarding the canyons of Salt Lake valley, including City Creek Canyon. Many of these will be population driven. On the one hand, Mormon Utah has a propensity to have large families, and this creates high pressures for rapid development, and that might lead to increased demand for developing water, the evaporation of the Great Salt Lake (May 27th), and decline of bird populations (May 26th). Other meta- or mega-trends suggest an opposite course. Although the Earth is on a path to add 3 billion more persons and to reach by 2050 a global population of between 8.5 and 13 billion persons with a mean forecast of about 10 billion persons. A mega-trend for all developed countries and developing countries except Africa is that the total fertility rate has declined below the sub-fertility replacement threshold (United Nations 2015). This includes China, the United States, the Russian Federation, Japan, and Germany. This means that their populations will decline in the future and that future populations will age and that and capitalism, which has been rooted in ever expanding markets, must adapt to negative yields. Early effects of this are seen in Japan, which elected to not permit the importation of foreign workers, and that decision was one cause of Japan’s stagnant economic growth since the 1990s. Capital, fearing Japan’s negative growth population structure and hence negative yield outlook, has been flowing out of the country. The United States and the European Union responded differently by, in the case of the United States allowing massive illegal immigration, and in case of the European Union by having large legal guest worker programs.

In the United States, Utah is an exception due its Mormon heritage. In 2014, Utah’s total fertility rate is 2.33, or about 0.5 higher than the national average of 1.86 (Perlich 2016). But even Utah’s rate continues to decline as rapidly as the nation’s, and in the near future even Utah may drop below replacement fertility of 2.1.

These general population trends for the global, for the United States, for Utah and the canyon suggests several alternative long-term outcomes for recreation use in City Creek and the other Salt Lake valley canyons. The trend also has implications for public support for their continued preservation as a natural areas. In one scenario, the global population continues towards the 10 billion forecast and Utah’s population continues to age. As Utah has more older citizens, they will be less able or interested to take long weekend journeys for outdoor recreation. They will become more interested in preserving areas like City Creek and the other Salt Lake valley canyons in order to have an adequate supply of nearby outdoor recreation opportunities. Second, the United States could embark on a massive immigration program in order to sustain the historical population increases on which modern capitalism demands in order to maintain positive investment yields. In that case, continued population growth will fuel the demand for more water in the Bear River Basin and more land development in the nearby canyons. Third, population trends could move towards the high end the United Nations’ forecast of 13 billion persons by 2050. The result in Utah would be the same as in second scenario.

Faced with such uncertainty, government could decide to either make plans with definite functional objectives on the state of the future environment or make, what I call “non-plan” plans. In a non-plan plan, governments merely state that they meet their minimum legal obligations, e.g. – constraints imposed by the Endangered Species Act – and that the governmental entity will study issues as the baseline state of the social, economic or physical environment changes. Most of the governmental plans previously discussed, such as the 2013 Utah Department of Natural Resources Great Salt Lake Management Plan or the recent draft Salt Lake County Resource Management Plan fall into the “non-plan” plan category (Salt Lake County 2017). The other approach is to define functional objectives or desired states, and the 1986 Salt Lake City Master Plan for City Creek is an example, e.g. – the City will operate the canyon as a natural area. A consequence of ambiguous plans is that clear signals are not sent to stakeholders, and the price of such plans is that instead of having stability, citizens must remain vigilant against never-ending attempts by better funded development interests to revisit previously settled matters (April 28th).

* * * *

On May 28th, 2010, the City announces that it will close City Creek Canyon while helicopters spray the herbicide Milestone on the Starthistle infestation at City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). (From 2011 to 2017, the City will hand spray Milestone on selected small areas of about 20 acres.) On May 28th, 2008, Samuel Stewart announced that he would host President George Bush at his home overlooking City Creek Canyon in order to raise funds for John McCain’s presidential race (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 28th, 1881, the Union Pacific and the United States will survey City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). The Union Pacific owns a federal land grant of twenty-miles of land on either side of the railroad in Morgan County interspersed with Forest Service sections, which includes parts of City Creek (Salt Lake Tribune).

May 13, 2017

May 10th

Flies

Midnight. In the valley, temperatures are in the low sixties, and this means overnight temperature in the canyon is in the fifties. Everything is in place – water, soil, nutrients, leaf, flower, and life – and the great vernal explosion of growth has begun. My pen and typewriter feel inadequate to the task. With the vernal explosion, everything in the canyon is changing so rapidly, and it is possible only to record a fraction of and a general impression of what is occurring.

4:00 p.m. As I exit the car at the parking lot, a Peregrine falcon zips overhead traveling west to due east. As I start up the road, a Red-tailed hawk is soaring overhead, hovering effortlessly and then moving to the west at a few miles an hour. A down canyon wind just balances it needs for lift and forward propulsion. There about thirty bird calling and singing in the first mile. I can hear the songs of the Dark-eyed Junco, a Western tanager, and the Lazuli Bunting. The bunting also makes separate chirping call. All the song birds are unseen and hidden in the forest.

Woody shrubs are the most prominent flowering plants, and along the first road mile simultaneously, Red-ozier dogwood, serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.), and chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) bushes are blossoming. When heated by sunlight, chokecherry blossoms give off an enticing vanilla odor, but it is not produced when the bush is in shade. On a dogwood complex funnel-like inflorescence, a Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) feeds. At Guardhouse Gate and at the Red Bridge, below Horsechestnut inflorescences, waxy seed pods form. River birch leaves have grown to two or three inches and with hot sun, now are covered in a shiny, wax layer. This may be an adaptation to retain water. At picnic site 1, a pretty flowering invasive, the Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum L.), has about ten blossoms close to the ground. This bulb perennial has small white star-shaped petals that surround a green rim and a set of second interior white petals.

There are about twenty recently common butterflies in the first mile: White cabbage; Painted lady; Zerene fritillary (doubtful); Desert Elfin; and, Western tiger swallowtails; and, Spring Azure. Three examples of new unidentified moth appear. Moths are distinguished from butterflies as they rest. Butterflies fold their wings vertically after landing; moths spread their wings horizontally flat. This small one to two inch moth is light brown, but has a rectangular medium dark brown bar above the trailing edge of its wings.

Ants are active on the road: a tiny black species and larger Carpenter ants (Camponotus sp.). One of the tiny black ants crosses the road carrying a transparent fly wing in its mandibles.

Over the last week and again today, I see a small furry brown bee hovering over the road. To my eyes, it is suspiciously off somehow; the “bee” only has two and not four wings. This is the Black-tailed bee fly (Bombylius major). This fly also has a distinctive long-straight proboscis for sipping nectar, and it lays eggs on bee larvae. I am feeling ill and diarrhetic, and today, for the first time in over two decades, I am compelled to run into the bushes to defecate. Bags that I use to pick up dog droppings from the road are used to remove the mess from the watershed. While this in the category of too much personal information, there is a lesson to be learned. Within less than a minute, the waste mound is covered in over seventy-five flies of three different types, but I make no attempt to identify them. Normally, bees are unseen along the canyon roads and trails, except near waste containers or deer dung piles, but today’s accident reveals that there are hundreds of flies hiding in the bushes and leaf litter. They are both pollinators and nature’s important garbage collectors. Although they favor mule deer and my human droppings, they are less quick to visit canine waste piles left along the road. The flies in turn become food for birds. About ten miles to the west at the Great Salt Lake flats, brine flies fuel the Utah portion of the Pacific Flyway of migratory birds. In a month at the Lake, beaches and lake bed flats will covered in brine flies such that the surface appears to move. Birds wade through the living mass, gorging themselves. In the canyon, the flies restrict themselves to the cool forest understory, and hopefully they feed the Lazuli buntings, warblers and other song birds.

While the flies in the marshes and beaches of the Great Salt Lake support millions of birds, the density of flies in the canyon may be too low, and canyon flies can only supplement canyon the birds’ diets. Assuming based on my accidental experience that there is about one fly per square foot to a depth of fifty feet on either side of the stream and that each fly weighs 12 micrograms, then the first mile holds about 6.3 kilograms of flies (0.12 x 2 x 5,280 x 50). If there are about 50 small birds living in the first canyon mile and each weigh about 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces), then the bird’s mass is about 5 kilograms. Flies alone are insufficient to support the small birds’ higher trophic level.

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A 2010 Tibetan study of the ecological role of flies and beetles quantifies their effectiveness in removing animal waste from prairies. Wu and Sun placed 248 gram patties of yak dung under screens that allowed either flies alone, beetles alone, or flies with beetles in Tibetan alpine meadows for thirty-two days. Over one month, the beetles removed sixty-seven percent (168 grams) of dung and the flies removed fifty-one percent (127 grams) of the waste. Using Black solider flies, similar results have been obtained by farm management scientists who have used the flies to reduce the volume of livestock waste by 42 percent (Diener, Zurbrugg and Tockner 2009). In the canyon, I have anecdotally noticed similar rates of removal of Mule deer scat by flies and beetles.

What ornithologists know about what birds eat comes in part from a remarkable series of studies by F. E. I. Beal of the United States Department of Agriculture from the first half of the twentieth century in which birds were actively killed and then the contents of their stomachs were examined (Beal 1900, 1911, 1915, 1918). For example, ten robins were taken alfalfa fields in Utah, presumably in the valley and in the region of the canyon, and twelve percent of their stomach contents were beetles (Beal 1915, 6). Thoreau also recorded bird stomach contents. Although he would not kill himself, when his neighbors shot local birds, he sometimes examined the contents of their stomachs (e.g. Thoreau, Journal, January 11, 1861). In a more humane era, non-destructive direct observation of feeding habits and bird feces are studied (e.g. White and Stiles 1990).

* * * *

On May 10th, 1910, the City Commission argued over Chief Engineer’s expenditures to study how to increase the city water supply, and the Commission order all work to stop on waterworks improvements in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald).

May 10, 2017

May 7th

Iridescent butterflies

4:00 p.m. Red-ozier dogwoods are blooming. Gambel’s oak trees at picnic site 1 have leafed-out to between two and four inches, but some of these oaks higher at mile 1.0 have no leaves. At Pleasant Valley, grasses are twelve inches high and move in waves in response to breezes. The high canyon walls are all covered in these green waves. Along the Pipeline Trail, red maples have leafed out to four inches. Mullein stalks are beginning to rise. Along the Pipeline Trail, 20 or 30 birds can be heard, but only yesterday’s male Black-chinned hummingbird puts in an appearance at its usual post on the powerline. No soaring raptors are seen today.

The thirty or forty butterflies in the first mile are dominated by Orange Sarah tops and Desert Elfin (Incisalia fotis fotis) butterflies. Below picnic site 1, an unidentified red-brown caterpillar hangs from a Box Elder tree by a twenty-foot long silk thread, and as the wind blows it sways back and forth in large five foot arcs. It does not know whether to go further down or up. At picnic site 3, an unidentified beetle lites onto a table, and in a ray of sunlight, a patch on its back radiates a bright lime green. Near mile 0.5, a small black ant drags a dead lime green caterpillar back to its nest. Along the Pipeline Trail, a Common sulphur butterfly moves between and drinks from Arrowleaf balsamroot blossoms, and more than ten Stink bugs are active on the trail. I miss nearly stepping on one that is laid out, legs splayed wide, on the trail. My foot alarms it and it springs up and lands in a defensive posture. Back at the Guardhouse Gate, I notice a Cabbage white butterfly fly into a bush, inexplicably struggle, and then frenetically fly off. Close examination shows the circular web of an orb weaver spider (Araneus sp.). This unidentified spider has wonderful orange, white and black spotting on its abdomen, but I am unable to photograph. My autofocus camera only sees the background and refuses to make a sharp image of the tiny spider in the foreground.

Just before Guardhouse Gate, two mallards, one-male, one-female, are standing right next to the road unafraid of humans. The male is half-asleep and appears contemptuous of people. The female is feeding on roaches under the leave litter. She digs through the leaf litter and rapidly opens and closes her beak. This separates the chaff of the dead leaves from the wheat of the small bugs. In the Guardhouse Gate parking lot, an immature Rock squirrel is browsing in the middle of the road. I pull out the car and chase him back into the brush with flashing lights and a honking horn. I am teaching the squirrel to be afraid of cars. For this squirrel, there will be no repeat of finding it dead on the road, as seen last summer.

* * * *

Butterflies also have ultra-violet vision used in differentiating flowers, but some may use iridescence and the uv spectrum to communicate between themselves (Doucet and Meadows, 2009; Buront and Majerus, 1995). Butterfly wings are covered in miniature scales that like the feathers of birds make colors have diffraction. In 1968, an experiment of Obara and Hidaka at the Tokyo Institute of Agriculture and Technology demonstrated that male Cabbage White butterflies locate their mates primarily by visual clues (Obara and Hidaka, 1968). They sealed females and male dummy butterflies in Petri dishes in order to prevent the males from finding their mates by smell. Since male and female Cabbage whites look nearly identical in the visual spectrum, how could the males tell them apart? Ultra-violet photography revealed that the wings of female Cabbage whites are white or patterned and the males are totally dark. On 2008, Obara and colleagues repeated this experiment, but noted that females have subtle changes in their UV color during the summer, and males preferentially mate only with the summer-colored females (Obara et al 2008). In 2000, Knuttel and Fiedler at the Universitat Bayreuth suggested that this was not a universal principle. They found that many species of butterflies appear different in the visual and uv light, but the variations within species where larger than between species and were not so great as to be a means discriminating between or within species (Knuttel and Fiedler, 2000; Buront and Majerus, 1995, same). Iridescent differences in the visual spectrum is dominant in butterflies when distinguishing between individuals (id). Butterflies also have iridescent colors in order to confuse predators or to warn them that the insect is poisonous (Doucet and Meadows, S124).

* * * *

On May 7th, 1996, Utah Partners in Flight plan migratory bird watching in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 7th, 1910, the Salt Lake Telegram published a photographic spread on City Creek Canyon and extolled the canyon’s virtues. The Telegram argued for a City Commission proposal to widen the road using prison labor and to make other park improvements (id).

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).

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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 15, 2017

April 15th

More Blossoming

2:00 p.m. Several cultivar cherry trees blossom. They range in size from small bushes to two specimens with the first quarter-mile that are between twenty and thirty feet tall. In these larger trees, the gray birch-like pattern to their bark in addition to their bright white flowers are the keys to identification. More Box Elder shrubs have bloomed. One of the three horsechestnut trees at the Guardhouse gate parking lot have exploded, and each bud reveals a radial pattern of leaves surrounded by a cone-shaped green compound set of ovaries. Red ozier dogwood bushes that have leafed out have grown small compound blossom heads that look like heads broccoli. Chokeberries have resumed blooming and one near mile 0.2 is festooned with hanging flowerless blooms at the end of multiple heads at the end of long thin stems. Two immature rock squirrels betray themselves as their run over dry crackling leaves above the roadbank. A shadow across the road reveals to small hawks racing over the road. Their flight is so fast that identification is not possible, but front-wing line has a rounded shape. One seeking to increase its diving speed, folds its wing in to transform itself into a bullet shape. In an instant, they are gone around a ridge. Painted Lady butterflies are joined by a another cousin: a small dusky black butterfly that deep black triangular wing-tips with white spots. After yesterday’s warmth, the snow-melt fed stream today flows at it highest level.

The parking lot is overflowing with cars and their are sixty or seventy people along the road. The watercress gleaners have returned (October 16th) and they are carrying out bags of this edible that they removed from the seep below picnic site 6. I have changed my opinion on this practice: watercress is an invasive that chokes the stream, and if it is overharvested to the extinction, the stream may improve for native fish.

As I jog up-canyon, two young men bicycle down-canyon. They are wearing packs with hi-tech two-part snowboards strapped to the back in a triangle formation. They have ridden to the end of road and then hiked up to Grandview Peak for spring skiing. I did a similar 17 mile road trip ski tour and hike in the 1980s, and it is heartening to see the next generation of young men who would test themselves not in the arena of commerce or in sports against other men, but against the power of the nature. I give the trailing rider a big thumbs up, acknowledging what they have done. But he sees not as a kindred spirit, but only an old man on the lower road to which he gives no return glance.

* * * *

On April 15th, 1909, a brush fire broke out at four miles above Eagle Gate in City Creek Canyon (Deseret Evening News). On April 15, 1906, boxer Young Corbett trained in City Creek (Salt Lake Herald). This was probably Young Corbett II, who later became the world Featherweight boxing champion. On April 15, 1898, the Utah Forestry Association planned to assist in planting trees in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). On April 15, 1896, negotiations between the City and the Salt Lake and Ogden Gas and Electric Light Company broke down, prompting the City to further consider constructing an electric power station in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

March 27, 2017

March 26th

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

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

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

* * * *

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

* * * *

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

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

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

* * * *

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

March 22, 2017

March 22nd

Filed under: Cottonwood tree, Dogwood, Light, Woods Rose — canopus56 @ 6:43 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part III – City Land Acquisition

3:00 p.m. A spring storm brings rain to the canyon while I jog, and it stains the River birch trunks half soaked dark, half dry light. In the spring afternoons through May, low lying clouds back up against the Wasatch Front Mountain range, and slowly a thick bank of clouds builds over the valley and City Creek Canyon. As occurred today, then there is about twenty minutes of loud thunder and a cool, heavy rain. The clouds reduce their weight, this allows them to rise, and then they cross the high peaks. This is followed today by a special light. The remaining thin clouds and moisture filled air, backed by the sun, makes a diffuse light that is augmented by the Sun’s direct rays, and in this light details in the surrounding rocks and trees come alive. A single chickadee calls hidden in a thicket. At mile 0.4, I find first red-osier dogwood buds blooming and opening. Since I have found this tree as it is first opening, the buds are in various stages of development. One or two are in their closed winter state. Two small inner casing leaves surround a small circular mass, and two large outer casing leaves enclose the inner mass. The bud swells from within, and the outer casing starts to transform into green leaves. The inner leaves unfurl as miniature formed leaves. Many are fully opened, a light green central mass sits surrounded four points. The Wood’s rose open buds have developed further. Extending from the end of a twig, they are bilateral and each half has expanded into a five miniature leaves. Another bush uses and elevator technique to grow. The initial leafed bud rises on a stalk, and at its base, another set of leaves develop.

The first trees respond to the light. At Guardhouse Gate, a lavender blossomed plum tree stills on a hillside, out of place in the midst of grove of cottonwoods. A the low branches of a willow tree below picnic site 6 have turned a light green, and this indicates that sap is being pumped into the ends. The buds along the twigs at the ends of the branches have begun to open. Above picnic site 6, the first mountain cottonwood leaves appear. The older trees have not opened their buds, but the young suckers at their base have. The buds on one maple tree have opened. On the ground, parsley-like stalks rise everywhere, and on test tasting the smallest tip of one aromatic leaf, the plant is bitter and clearly toxic.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 22nd, 1853, he hears a woodpecker. On March 22nd, 1855, he captures a flying squirrel in its snag-tree nest, closely examines it, and then takes it home. On March 22nd 1860, he notes that in March, temperatures rise, snow melts, and frost appears on the ground. On March 22nd, 1861, he records a driving snow storm.

* * * *

After the creation of the Territory, the Territorial Legislature sought to clear title granted by the State of Deseret by requiring land claims to be submitted by 1854. Otherwise lands would revert to being open public domain (Hooten, 19). On June 12, 1872, Congress cleared title to land within Salt Lake City limits by Land Patent 710, and that patent included a grant of all “accrued” water rights. The City interpreted this as giving title to water flowing from the canyon to the City and not Young. Title to the land above Brigham Young’s Lion House farm remained unclear, and the matter was further complicated by railroad land grants. Section 3 of the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 and subsequent expansions to the Act granted 10 square miles of land around each mile of track laid except in existing towns or cities. Thus, when the railroad came to Salt Lake City, City Creek was nominally open public land and title to much of the City Creek in the upper canyon vested in the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1883, the City negotiated the purchase of two square miles of City Creek from the railroad (Hooten, 29; Salt Lake Herald Dec. 12, 1883). On January 23rd, 1901, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the City had received a proposal to purchase 240 acres of land in City Creek owned by an eastern bank. After a series of land purchases between 1907 through 1947 (Hooten, 29), the City presently holds title to 56% of the land in City Creek; the U.S. Forest Service owns 29%; and remainder is private lands principally down-canyon of approximately 0.7 miles above Bonneville Drive (Salt Lake City, 1999a at 51). On 2006, the City acquired 57 acres at the base of the west slope of the City Creek ridgeline, in part, to create a winter wildlife refuge that is contiguous with the canyon (Salt Lake City, 2010b). In 2016, the City acquired another 305 acres in and near City Creek, including 144 acres above Ensign Peak and another 160 acres on the ridgeline (Salt Lake Tribune, July 29, 2016). There are small unused mining inholdings at and around the abandoned Treasure Box Mine below Grandview Peak. (id).

* * * *

On March 22nd, 1898, the City Council refused to confirm John T. Caine as Waterworks Superintendent on the grounds that as the City’s former recorder, he is a political appointee of the Mayor with no expertise in engineering (Salt Lake Herald).

March 20th. Spring.

Filed under: Astronomy, Dogwood, Seasons, Woods Rose — canopus56 @ 6:25 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part I – Control of the Canyon

A note on formatting in this and future entries: Each daily entry consists of at most four parts:

• Daily nature observations in the canyon;

• Nature observations by Henry David Thoreau on the corresponding days of the year;

• An essay on science or history of the canyon; or,

• Digest of newspaper articles related to City Creek Canyon.

Each part is separated by a divider:

* * * *

3:00 p.m. It is the first day of astronomical spring, and for the next six months, light predominates over darkness. In response to this signal, changes in the small bushes of the canyon are dramatic. The first Wood’s rose bud opened a few days ago, but now all of the buds on all of the rose bushes in the first mile have opened in union. Seemingly overnight, their buds have swelled, burst out of their winter shells, and small leaves between one quarter and three quarters of an inch have unfurled. During the winter, the bare branches of Wood’s rose blend in with red-osier dogwood. The two plants, both with red branches, have an affinity for each other, but the rose can be distinguished by the protective gray spikes near its base. But now, only the Wood’s roses have bloomed, and it easy to distinguish them from the tangle or red dogwood and rose branches. This makes it easy for me to take a quick informal census of this wild rose. There are about one-hundred and ten wild Wood’s rose bushes in first mile. Wood’s rose also grows intertwined with service berry which is the other major bush that has bloomed. Herbaceous annuals and perennials with broad leaves, which yesterday were limited to the canyon’s southwest facing slope, poke up through the soil on both sides of the road. A parsley-like plant grows at the base of a tree, and the waxy seeds of poison ivy radiate lime-green light. Grasses, depending on their location in soil and with respect to sunlight, are an inch to five inches tall. Other woody plants, the trees, still hold back.

Winter has served its purpose for these new small herbaceous plants. Snow melted in place, and digging my heel into ground reveals that two inches below the surface, the soil is saturated and wet. The surface layer is dry, but spring rains and what little snow there is to still come, will wet this. The young, shallow plants will reach down to the moisture below. All is primed for the green explosion to come.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 20th, 1853, he records life-everlasting plant, ribwort, and birch sprouts. He sees quail and redpolls. On March 20th,1858, he revels over the tree-sparrow’s song. He admires willow catkins. He notes that fish are migrating upstream. On March 20th, 1859, he observes song-sparrows sheltering from the wind.

* * * *

City Creek Canyon is a remarkable natural environment. It is even more remarkable given its extensive history and modification through human use and exploitation. The history modification of its natural environment begins with the arrival of the initial Euro-American colonists in 1847, and it came in several waves: First, timber harvesting and irrigation development. The first dam was built in City Creek for irrigation purposes on August 2, 1847 (Hooten; Bancroft 261). Second, mining. Third, water infrastructure development. Fourth, road development and recreation use from the 1880s to the 1950s. Fifth, the present modern era of recreation and watershed use. The first wave was intimately tied to the second Mormon prophet, Brigham Young and the L.D.S. church objective of establishing a theodemocracy – that is governmental power led by spiritual leaders – in the valley. As part of establishing initial government in the valley, Brigham Young asserted both personal and beneficial ownership over all of City Creek Canyon on January 15, 1950.

Shortly after arriving in the valley on August 7, 1847, by declaration certain preferential land allotments where made to each of the Twelve Apostles of the L.D.S. Church, including Young (Neff, 90). Young’s award included the current site of the Lion House and extended up along First Avenue and down into Memory Grove. By the allotment, Young obtained control of the entrance to City Creek Canyon. He also was granted all of the City Creek drainage.

At the time of the first party arrival in July 1847, the Salt Lake Valley was part of Mexico, not the United States (Hooten 19). The United States was at war with Mexico, a war that in 1847 most expected it would win. On February 2nd, 1848 the war with Mexico ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the legal status of the Salt Lake Valley changed to become part of the unorganized public lands of the United States. “Unorganized lands” means public lands of the United States that have not been organized into a formal territory by the United States Congress pursuant to an organic act. However, the initial Euro-American colonizers where here in 1847 and they moved out of practical necessity to self-organize a government based on a theodemocratic model. In October 1847, they formed a municipal government, called the High Council, with George Smith as president (Hooten, 8; Bancroft, 297). Young left the valley on August 26, 1847 to return east and organize for further immigration parties (Neff, 98). In October 1848, an elected county government replaced the High Council (Bancroft, 287), and municipal authority was transferred from the Council to the new government. On March 12, 1849, by general election a new “state”, the State of Deseret was formed. Brigham Young had a unique legal interpretation on the right of individuals residing in unorganized lands to form a new state:

[In Articles IX and X of the U.S. Constitution,] it is definitely stated that “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. The power not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or the people.” . . . . We have a right to settle in any unoccupied and unclaimed part of the public domain owned by our Government, where the machinery of the Government has not extended, and there govern and control ourselves according to republican principles; and the Congress of the United States is not authorized in the least, by the Constitution that governs it, to make laws for the new settlement, and appoint adjudicators and administrators of the law for it, any more than we have a right to make laws and appoint administrators of the law for California, Ohio, Illinois, or Missouri.

Remarks of L.D.S. Church President Brigham Young (March 9, 1862). In Journal of Discourses, X:39-40, Salt Lake City (Ashton, xii, reprinted).

The new entity had no actual legal status under United States law; Young was simply wrong in his view. Only Congress could authorize the creation of a new territory or state from unorganized lands. Nevertheless, the new Assembly of the State of Deseret began passing various laws and ordinances, again out of practical necessity. On Sept. 9, 1850, the United States Congress passed the Utah Territorial Organic Act (Hooten, p. 18), but initial organization and appointments where not made until the spring of 1851. That included the appointment of Brigham Young as governor by U.S. President Fillmore.

Among the provisions of the Utah Territory Organic Act was Section 6, which provided that the Territorial Legislature would pass no law “interfering with the primary disposal of the soil . . .”

* * * *

On March 20th, 1915, the Burroughs Nature Study Club of Utah scheduled a celebration of Bird Day at Liberty Park on April 3rd with Heber M. Wells, City parks commissioner. The following pledge was recited, “In God’s name, and by these exercises, we dedicate Liberty Park . . . City Creek Canyon . . . and the Fort Douglas Reservation as bird sanctuaries sacred to the life and growth of the birds of all species for all time” (Salt Lake Telegram). The ceremony was held on April 3rd, 1915 (Salt Lake Herald and Salt Lake Telegram, Salt Lake Herald, April 4th, 1915). On March 20th, 1910, a group of twelve children had an outing in City Creek (Salt Lake Tribune). On March 20th, 1881, the Salt Lake Herald reported that the Old Henry Mine in City Creek Canyon has been storing valuable ore over the winter and are ready to bring the ore to market once snows recede (Salt Lake Herald).

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