City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

June 22, 2017

June 14th

Filed under: Foxglove beardtongue, Horsechestnut, Seasons, Western salisfy, Wild carrot — canopus56 @ 9:20 pm

End of the Vernal Season

6:45 p.m. This is the last day of the vernal season, or the time of the year in which plants grow at their greatest rate (Feb. 16th). An early heat wave near 100 degrees Fahrenheit has fallen on the city, and I have come to the canyon for a short run in the cool evening air. At the end of the vernal season, early spring flowering plants in the first mile have largely passed and their thickened ovaries grow pregnant with this year’s seeds. Wood rose blossoms are shriveled or have have dropped their leaves, revealing bulbous green spheres beneath. The largest of these are the infant berries of the chokecherry bushes. Western salisfy, also called Giant dandelion, has almost all gone to seed. Its blossom have transformed into a large compound head of achenes – larger version of dandelion weed seeds. The small floating seeds grow out equally spaced from an inverted saucer-shaped head. A result of the large floater seeds competing for limited space is that the giant dandelions’ spherical heads form geodesic dodecahedrons.

The base leaves of the Wild carrot (also called Fernleaf biscuitroot) plants that line the first mile have turned turned yellow and orange, and their blossoms have formed seeds that are turning from green to a light purple. Their fibrous tap roots extend beneath the surface for about a one foot, and they were widely used by First Peoples throughout the Intermountain west (Natural Resources Conservation Service 2011). Great Basin Indians ate the seeds and boiled the roots to make a drink. Other tribes used the first shoots in a salad (id). Modern city “foodies” also collect the plants.

A new delicate penstemon, Foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) has appeared overnight along the road. This is an eastern native, and in the canyon, it first appears with white flowers that turn a streaked pink as the flowers age. This is a later spring replacement for the many failing flowers along the first mile. Horsechestnut trees now bear sprays of its spiked fruit, but these new fruits are miniature one-inch diameter versions of falls’ three inch spheres. This year’s growth has returned and the land is pregnant.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 14th, 1852, he notes that “[t]he twilight seems out of proportion to the rest of the day.” On June 14th, 1851, he lists birds heard on a twilight walk including bobolink, swallows, fifteen whippoorwills, blackbirds, a robin and night hawk. He contrasts the evening song of the robin with crickets, and notes fish rising in a stream to feed on insects. On June 14th, 1852, he sees a wild rose bush. On June 14, 1853, he hears the season’s first locust and observes aphids on tree leaves. He sees white lily, blue-flag flower, mosquitoes, and fish in the stream. He sees hummingbirds and hears a cuckoo, a red-eye, and a wood thrush. On June 14th, 1854, he sees a cicada. On June 14th, 1859, he sees a grosbeak and a pout’s nest.

* * * *

A cousin of Foxglove beardtongue, Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), is the source of digitalis heart medication. Digitalis is commonly used to strengthen the contractions of the heart muscle in the aged.

* * * *

On June 14th, 1914, the Salt Lake Tribune describes various outdoor hikes around Salt Lake City, including to Big Black Mountain. On June 14th, 1908, the L. H. Murdock of the U.S. Weather Service reported a storm with one-half inch of rain and heavy snowfall in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 14th, 1908, Mayor Bransford, City Engineer L. C. Kesley, Waterworks Superintendent Hobday and Street Supervisor Jake Raleigh discussed steps to abate current flooding from City Creek Canyon (Intermountain Republican). Raleigh defended his use of manure embankments to contain the flood waters (id).

May 13, 2017

May 10th


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.

* * * *

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 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).

April 26, 2017

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 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).

April 9, 2017

April 7th

Filed under: Guardhouse gate, Horsechestnut, River birch — canopus56 @ 5:02 pm

It is enough. This is the Right [Natural] Place – Part IV – A New Preservation Force

2:00 p.m. A new approaching front has created overcast skies with the threat of snow tonight, but the air is flowing up canyon with warmth. The river birches below picnic site 3 are fruiting. What I had supposed were two or three inches long seeds bloom into a complex inflorescence of about thirty tiny flowers, each with ovary and stamens. At Guardhouse Gate and at picnic site 1, the horsechestnut tree buds have swelled, and several have exploded into five radially distributed ovaries. These mimic the circular pattern of the leaves that will fill these trees as they leaf in.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on April 7th, 1854, he notes hazel trees blooming and finds the first sedge grass shoots. On April 7th, 1855, he see a large flock of goldfinches and sparrows. On April 7th, 1860, he sees a purple finch, and he sees many pickerel swimming in shallow water.

* * * *

The city has been changing its character in the last two years. After the 2007 arrival of new 240,000 acre feet of trans-basin Central Utah Project water, construction in the county has filled in most of the valley such that is now a familiar mimic of California. The older city center resisted with change. I was there in 1978 when a new form of government, a city council, took control from long standing commissioners. The new council was elected by a new generation of city residents from the 1960s who were concerned that development was destroy their tree-lined streets with apartment buildings. Over the years, those good intentions along with increasing economic inequality have transformed the city’s soul into a dark spirit of exclusionary zoning. The older Salt Lake City proper is a city of trees; its streets and boulevards lined with great seventy-year to one-hundred year old publicly-owned cottonwoods. This characteristic of the city along with the nearby City Creek canyon attracts biophiliacs, that is persons who love nature and the force of life, and it distinguishes the old city with surrounding modern suburbs that have fewer, smaller privately owned trees planted close to the walls of homes. But the darker side of Salt Lake resident’s spirits was revealed by community face-contorted hatred and opposition to re-constructing the capacity of an 1,200 existing homeless shelter for the poor. The result is that the city will reduce the capacity of existing shelters to around 800 persons. They opted for exclusionary zoning practices despite have received over $35 million in federal funding since 1978 to construct low income housing for both low-income renters and homeowners. Most of the benefits of the funds were streamed into homeowner only programs.

Commensurate with this cultural development and the aridity of region, two other forces are reshaping the city into a treeless city of gentrification, as has occurred in so many other western cities. First, in order to conserve the limited 240,000 acre feet of new water, the residents have allowed construction of many box-like apartment buildings and condominiums along its major roads and in its former industrial areas. A single family home requires about 1 acre foot of water per year, but apartments only need about one-tenth that amount. In order to accommodate developers, the buildings are constructed right up to the lot line and provide no space for the broad shade trees that so define the old city. The rents in these new apartments are beyond the wages of existing local residents. The second force is the arrival of internet-based short-term rental units that compete with hotels. A new bill was passed in the legislature that will take effect on May 2nd that will void an existing city ordinance that prohibits apartment and homeowners from participating in short-term rental sales. This statute was promoted by a conservative Utah legislator from the suburbs, again citing Mormon historical values of hyper-free-enterprise and Tenth Amended (March 20th) freedoms from governmental control. In other cities in the west and around the world, conversion of apartments to speculative individual internet-hotel rentals has doubled both a city’s rents and the number of its homeless persons. Yesterday, I met my first speculator, a woman who flew in from San Francisco, who has bought two condominium-rentals and was spending two days in Utah to outfit them as internet-based hotel rooms. She was returning to the west coast today to run her business remotely.

The result of these present decisions will transform the future city into into one in which a substantial portion of residents will be deprived of nature in their daily lives. In 1984, Nobel laureate Edward O. Wilson proposed a socio-biological theory – the biophilia hypothesis – that humans have an inherent genetic drive to seek out natural areas (Wilson 1984, Wilson 1993, Kellert 1993). Modern residential and commercial architecture with its planned unit developments and eco-certified construction have incorporated the theory by including natural areas and vistas in their design. But the new box-apartments of Salt Lake City do not, and this design feature of the multi-family buildings of future residents’ dwellings will foster a new increased utilization of close-by natural areas like City Creek Canyon and will result in increased political forces to assure the canyon’s future preservation.

* * * *

On April 7th, 1997, Tony Cannon, who logged 22,175 miles running in City Creek Canyon, passed away (Salt Lake Tribune). Cannon was a descendant of the Mormon advance party of 1847. The Tony Cannon Memorial Trails Foundation was formed (id). On April 7th, 1909, a movie company was scouting locations to shoot a film in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald, Salt Lake Tribune April 8th, 1909). On April 7, 1919, University of Utah geology Prof. Fred J. Pack gives a lecture on the geology of Utah and describes how City Creek was carved out by the recession of Lake Bonneville (Salt Lake Herald).

March 30, 2017

March 30th

Filed under: Birds, Gambel's Oak, Horsechestnut, Plants — canopus56 @ 4:17 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part XI – More Water Infrastructure

1:30 p.m. Another Coriolis effect storm is approaching, the sky is overcast, and as I drive along the lower canyon, two Gambel’s oaks have bloomed. The overcast skies reduces residents using the canyon, and it is a quiet day of solitude, except for a singing House sparrow perched at the top of the Horsechestnut tree below Guardhouse Gate. At picnic site 6, two large trees have bloomed at the uppermost branches one-hundred feet above the ground. They are only two in the first mile. During the last half-mile, the storm brings with a mild rain, and it is expected to turn to snow in the night.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 30th, 1853, he excavates a woodchuck burrow. March 30, 1856, he sees a purple lake grass, shunk cabbage, golden saxifrage, marigolds, and sedge grass. On March 30, 1858, he sees fifteen sheldrakes. On March 30, 1859, he sees a red squirrel and two sheldrakes.

* * * *

Increased recreation use in the canyon led to further water infrastructure improvements. In 1950, fecal coliform counts in the canyon waters had grown to high levels (Hooten, 30), and the Public Health Service threatened to prohibit use of Salt Lake’s drinking water at facilities involved in interstate transportation, i.e. – bus stations, train stations and the airport (Salt Lake Telegram, December 27, 1951).

As noted previously (January 5th), in 1952, the Salt Lake City Commission approved a plan to increase its drinking water quality as required by the U.S. Public Health Service (Salt Lake Telegram, Jan. 5, 1952). The plan included closing City Creek Creek above any water intake pipe, building a water filtration plant, moving all toilet facilities at least 50 feet away from the stream, and patrolling the canyon for watershed violations. The water filtration plant was built in 1952 and 1953. All public access to City Creek Canyon was closed until 1965 (Hooten). In 1965, the City reopened public access to the water plant at mile 3.4, but the canyon above the plant remained closed. In 1975, public access to the entire canyon was restored (Hooten).

* * * *

On March 30, 1994, three prison escapes were arrested at the mouth of City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

November 19, 2016

November 19th

Filed under: Crabapple trees, Guardhouse Gate picnic area, Horsechestnut, Plants, Weather — canopus56 @ 8:37 pm

Where Have All the Crabapples Gone?

Yesterday’s snow has completely melted on the south facing slopes of the canyon, but snow still lingers on the north facing angles and in the most shaded portions of the narrow, lower portion of the canyon. This begins the process of restoring soil moisture in the canyon. Previously, the summer sun evaporated almost all of the water from the ground. Even after a Fall storm, the sun was strong enough to remove the newly fallen water from the soil column. But now the Sun has lost its power, and from now until spring, repeated snow fall and melting will again make the first few meters of soil saturate with water. At mile 1.1, a wind-protected south facing slope that is covered with trees that still retain their leaves, is a contrast of white and orange-brown leaves.

It is warm enough that runners have returned to wearing only shirts, and the parking lot is packed and overflowing with cars. There are even two horseback mounted bow hunters on the road. During this warm recovery, only three insects are seen: an unidentified moth at the parking lot, an immature Box elder bug, and a miniature Thin-legged Wolf spider.

At the Guardhouse Gate picnic area, I notice an overlooked cultivar: a fifteen foot crabapple tree that was previously hidden behind the leaves of the horsechestnut trees. In its highest branches, there are still twelve apples. I throw a stick in the tree, and dislodge one. It is in good condition despite the recent cold weather, rain, and snow. This is my second canyon apple for this year.

Back on October 5th at 2:00 p.m., as usual I am jogging while looking down at my feet. As I look down near picnic site 6, I see a small red crabapple without any blemishes sitting on the road. It looks identical to one that I purchased at a local supermarket earlier that day, only slightly smaller. Looking up, I was standing underneath one of the canyon’s cultivars. Historically, domestic fruit trees have been planted along the road about every three-quarters of a mile. These non-native trees could have planted when an enterprising Mormon pioneer first forced a road up the canyon in 1853 to start a saw mill, or at some later time, e.g. – in the 1950s when the water treatment plant was constructed. There is no historical record of the planting.

This afternoon, I am standing next to two green crabapple trees near the old Pleasant Valley Reservoir site at mile 1.7. Last year in October, both were full crabapples. During October through early November, each day I would pick a green crabapple from the high branches above the browse line of deer for a snack. This year, there are none here or at two others between here and the water treatment plant at mile 3.4. These crabapple trees stayed green through October 15th, and then over a short four day period, they turned a bright yellow and their leaves fell. Today, they are all sleeping leafless trunk and twig.

This year, I had to make do with my two red crabapples – which were both delicious, instead of the usual twenty. Where have all the green crabapples gone?

October 29, 2016

October 29th

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

The Golden Living Room

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

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

October 17, 2016

October 17th

Filed under: Guardhouse gate, Horsechestnut — canopus56 @ 6:21 pm

Horse, Nuts!

4:00 p.m. Cold rain fell for the previous night an into this morning. Then the front passed. The cold has re-accelerated leaf turning.

The Horsechestnut trees, another cultivar, at guardhouse gate parking lot have been unleashing their nuts for the last six days. The nuts are encased in spiny protective shells, called conkers, but these do not fall. The conkers split open and the chestnuts fall out, as one just has done, falling 20 feet and ending with a resounded thud on the roof of my car. The spiny outer conkers fall to the road later in the season. The parking lot is covered with tire crushed chestnuts. As noted on September 26th, the leaves of the horsechestnuts at the parking lot have turned differently than those up the canyon that have grown directly in or next to the stream. With more water, those horsechestnuts’ leaves have turned a bright golden yellow. When the wind (Oct. 14th and 16th) scoured the lower canyon of leaves, those horsechestnuts retained their bright garb. Horsechestnuts at picnic site 1, at mile 0.4 and mile 0.9 appear more bright than before because they now contrast against thickets of grey branches and not against green leaves.

The horsechestnut is an ornamental and is not a true chestnut. It is toxic to horses and man. Its use as an ornamental began in Germany, where it was planted over subterranean vaults that fermented lager beer. The horsechestnut has shallow roots, but provides shade that kept the underground beer vats cool.

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