City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

June 23, 2017

June 20th

Summer

First Day of Summer

External Link to Image

Comparison of City Creek Canyon Road near Mile 1.1 in Winter on November 24th and on the First Day of Summer, June 20th.

6:00 p.m. It is nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit on this first day of summer. Although this is the longest day of the year, and the amount of total light is four times the amount of light that occurs on the winter solstice (March 21st), this is usually not the hottest day of the year. The Earth continues to absorb the sun’s heat by melting at the poles, and thus, the hottest days of the year with 100 plus degrees Fahrenheit are lagged by three or four weeks to the end of July. But the recent heat wave is an unusual preview of the coming summer hottest days. Today, and more typical of late July, the heat boils the water from the land, and in the afternoon, great cumulus clouds rise and re-deposit the day’s water during the cool of the evening. As I approach the canyon, the sky to the west is gray and boiling. The bottom of the cloud layer swirls in confused eddies and circles. Winds rage and the trees wave back and forth as if they are in a current below the surface of the ocean. Only the large Common whitetail dragonflies (Libellula lydia) hover in the strong breeze. From the safety of the leaf screened branches, Song sparrows, Chirping sparrows and Black-headed grosbeaks call. First, the air smells of summer, but then it mixes with the rain primed, fresh moisture. Small spatters fall, and then a brief deluge comes. Runners on the road, including myself, jog without their shirts on. The afternoon storm passes, the air clears, and all is renewed.

Along the first mile road, Milkweed plants have grown large, fecund seed heads.

* * * *

Although Thoreau declares summer to begin informally on June 1st (see his “Journal” on June 1st, 1853), astronomically summer begins on June 20th. Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 20th, 1840, he sees mica particles glittering in sand. On June 20th, 1852, he notes blue-eyed grass flowers are closed in the before sunset, and he hears an American Bittern drumming on wood. He notes that grass fields are red tinged because the grass has gone to seed. On June 20th, 1853, he sees meadow-sweet flower and water lilies. During a full Moon walk, he admires how water reflects black under moonlight. He encounters a skunk. He notes that elm leaves and trunks have the same hue under moonlight.

* * * *

On June 20th, 2011, the Salt Lake Tribune published a historical article on George Ottinger, founder of Salt Lake’s fire department and later in the early 1900s, Salt Lake City’s Superintendent of Waterworks. He lived in an adobe house on 3rd Avenue and E Street. As a young man, Ottinger was an adventurer. He traveled as a sailor to China, Hawaii, the Indonesian Islands, and Panama, before returning for a late California Gold Rush (id). Omitted from this article is Ottinger’s witnessing of the last 1887 lynching of a man in downtown Salt Lake City. On June 20th, 1999, Utah Jazz assistant coach Mark McKown was injured while speeding down City Creek Canyon a bicycle (Salt Lake Tribune). He was accompanied by Utah Jazz star basketball player Karl Malone. On June 20th, 1998, City Creek Canyon was closed for three days after torrential rains caused a mudslide (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 20th, 1908, City Engineer L.C. Kesley budgeted 9,000 USD to extend an iron pipeline from State Street to City Creek Canyon Road and 50,000 USD for a distributing reservoir in City Creek (Salt Lake Herald). On June 20th, 1896, ore samples taken from the Willard Weihe claim in the Washington mine group, 1.5 miles north of Eagle Gate in City Creek Canyon, assayed at 94 and 84 USD per ton (Salt Lake Herald).

June 19th

Filed under: Astronomy, Birds, Geology, Insects, Mammals, Microbes, Mollusks, Plants, Seasons — canopus56 @ 9:18 am

Last Day of Spring and a Walk Through Time

3:00 p.m. It is the last day of astronomical spring, and the canyon has completed its seasonal growth spurt, has become pregnant, and is readying itself for the coming stress of summer’s heat. Today, as I sometimes do, I see a walk through nature as a walk through geologic time and the history of life. The canyon contains living refugees from each major geologic period.

The seep below picnic site 6 contains slimes, molds, bacteria and protozoa from the Hadean Eon to the Precambrian period in the Neoproterozic, 530 million years ago. There are 2.2 x 10^30 prokaryotes in the 4 kilometers of Earth beneath my feet from that era (December 20th), and another 7.2 x 10^24 microbes in the 4 kilometers of air above my head (id). The orange lichens on the Gambel’s oak trees also come from this time. The mosses also that adorn the oaks and that live on rocks in the stream come represent life’s first steps onto the land in the Ordovician period 485 million years ago. The trout in the stream represent the arrival of fish in the Silurian period 443 million years ago. The horsetails by the side of the road represent the vascular plants that also migrated to the land during the Silurian periods.

Insects first appear during the Devonian about 400 million years ago. The canyon’s conifers represent the Carboniferous period beginning about 350 million years ago. The Permian period beginning about 290 million years ago when mollusks arrived is represented by the Common garden snails seen crossing the road. The Permian is also when insects like the Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies arose.

The Mesozoic era, including the age of the dinosaurs during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, began about 250 million years ago. Presently, the dinosaurs are represented by their descendants, the many birds of the canyon. The many flowering plants and trees in the canyon first appeared during the Cretaceous, 130 million years ago. The late Cretaceous is represented by the canyon’s Western rattlesnakes and Western ground snakes (Sonora semiannulata). Small mammals like the Rocky Mountain deer mice and Rock squirrels also first appeared during that period.

The Cenozoic era, including the Paleogene period that began forty million years ago, is represented by the canyon’s many butterflies. The Neogene period that began about 25 million years ago is represented by the grasses along the road. The early Quaternary period, the Pleistocene, that began about 2.5 million years ago, are represented the canyon’s coyotes, mountain lions and black bears. The late Quaternary, the Holocene, is represented by homo sapiens, myself and the other walkers and runners on the road.

In the last 500 million years, the Earth has rotated around the core of the Milky Way two times. Life remains persistent, infinite, incomprehensible, and irrepressible.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 19th, 1852, he notes that clover, buttercups and geraniums are at their peak. Grapes and mullein are blooming. He hears robins and walks across a summer-dried swamp and collect orchids. On June 19, 1853, blue-eyed grass, a small iris, is blooming. He sees a blue jay, a tanager, and a cucokoo. He hears a night warbler and a bobolink. On June 19th, 1854, he admires a distant thunderstorm. On June 19th, 1859, he observes a squirrel nest and its young, and he sees a partridge. On June 19th, 1860, he follows a fox track back to its burrow.

* * * *

On June 19th, 1993, the 14th annual Wasatch Steeplechase was won by Tom Borschel with a time of 2:02:50 (Salt Lake Tribune, June 20, 1993). On June 19th, 1992, the City and the L.D.S. Church develop a master plan that proposed a five block parkway with City Creek raised to the surface (Salt Lake Tribune). The Tribune notes an enlarged underground conduit was installed after the 1983 floods along North Temple (id). On November 19th, 2006, a human skill was found by tree-trimming crews working in City Creek Canyon, and a subsequent search failed to find any other remains (Deseret News). On June 19th, 1925, the City condemned land at the mouth of City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 19th, 1917, the City reopened City Creek Canyon after initially closing the canyon out of concerns that terrorist saboteurs might harm the City’s water supply (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 13, 1913, in support of a national education convention held in the City, Parks Commissioner George D. Kesyer plans to open City Creek Canyon road to automobiles (Salt Lake Tribune). Prison labor will be used to improve the road (id). On June 19th, 1903 in a lengthy statement, City Engineer L. C. Kelsey described the risk to the City of flooding from a cloudburst after hundreds died in a cloudburst flood in Heppner, Oregon:

“A part of the city is located at the mouth of City Creek canyon in such a position that a heavy cloudburst in the canyon would send a wall of water into the city that would cause a heavy loss of probably both life and property.”

“I understand that cloudbursts in former years have done considerable damage, but nothing of that kind has ever happened while I have been here.”

“A cloudburst of any considerable magnitude would do almost incalculable damage, and I cannot see how it could be avoided.”

“There is no possible way to divert such a stream without an enormous expenditure of money. If unlimited means were at hand the question would have to be most carefully considered. I would not suggest any means of reaching this end without studying the situation. Means, however, could certainly be devised.”

“A war of water coming down the canyon, similar to that at Heppner, would sweep everything before it. Residences in the canyon’s mouth would fall like card houses and the wave would then sweep down North Temple and State streets. The greater volume would go down the former and the wall surrounding Temple square would melt before it.”

“The Temple itself, the basement at least would be inundated and havoc would be played there. The water going westward would soon spread, but incalculable damage and perhaps heavy loss of life would mark its path.”

“The lesser volume would go down State street, spreading ruin in its course, until it, too, had dissipated.”

“While such a thing is not probable, it is altogether possible, as the city in a climatic belt where cloudbursts could be well expected. Such things cannot, however, be foreseen” (id).

On June 19th, 1895, Watermaster Commissioner Heath reminds citizens that no fishing is allowed in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 19, 1894, the Lady Rosalind Stearns bicycle race was held up City Creek (Salt Lake Tribune). Three racers went up the canyon at full speed, and the winner was forced by exhaustion to dismount at seven miles up the canyon (id).

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).

June 1, 2017

June 1st

Genetics of Angiosperm Leaf Out Times

6:30 p.m. This is the first day of summer as defined by convention in the 1800s and as used by Thoreau. Modern astronomical summer begins on June 20th, and ecological summer, the estival or hottest season of the year, begins on June 15th. A summer-like storm approaches, the sky is overcast, but the warm temperatures only threaten, but do not bring, rain. The stream is lower today. The SNOTEL station at Lookout Peak records that only about 10 inches of snow containing 5.8 inches of water remain in the high elevation snowpack. Since May 1st, the snowpack at the peak has declined from 82 inches of snow containing 36 inches of water equivalent. Per SNOTEL records on average, it will take another 8 days before the remaining balance will be gone, but my feeling is the snowpack melt will be complete in half that time. Then life in the canyon will have to rely on water stored deep underground below the Salt Lake salient.

As I leave Guardhouse Gate, grey clouds have turned to low dark clouds, horizontal lightening jumps between black clumps, and a light rain begins to fall. Birds are silent with few exceptions. Below picnic site 1, a lone Plumbeous vireo sings, and a Song sparrow calls at mile 0.4. At milepost 1.0, a lone robin tweets. Lightening increases, strong winds blow, trees wave, and the rain turns heavy. The stream swells in response. It is wet, soggy, and shirtless, but refreshing, jog back down canyon. Bicyclists stream down canyon squealing with glee. A single Chirping sparrow complains from a rain soaked River birch. As I reach the Gate again, the storm is clearing, high grey clouds return, and a Warbling vireo again sings.

Tracey Aviary’s Bryant Olsen and his team returned to the canyon May 25th. In addition to the current cast of avaian characters (May 20th), they see two new birds: the Northern rough-winged swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) and the Western wood-peewee (Contopus sordidulus). The diet of both consists of almost entirely of insects, and their arrival is consistent with rising temperatures and flying insects increasing numbers. Mountain chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Black-capped chickadees, who dominated winter birds and who survive the winter on conifer seeds, are now rarely heard.

Today, the United States executive branch announced action to withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, on the grounds that American manufacturing and energy production must be unshackled from excessive regulation so the nation can compete with China and India. Implications are discussed below.

* * * *

The Blake edition of Thoreau’s “Journals” resume on June 1st, and continue with respect to his Concord observations through July 10th. Per the convention of his time, Thoreau declares summer to begin informally on June 1st (“Journal” on June 1st, 1853). In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 1st, 1852, he notes sounds during a full Moon night including night-hawk, crickets, peet-weets, and a whippoorwill. He notes that the river waters are at their summer low level. On June 1st, 1853, he notes that the season has changed. Blooming is over and a period of rapid growth begins. Bees are swarming. Most trees are covered in leaves and berries are forming, and plants are quickly growing. White oaks have red tinge on the sun-exposed side. He examines a gall on a tree. Conversely, he notes that lupines are in full bloom, and sees snapdragons, geraniums, and lambkill. Birds are at low numbers. He examines a night-hawk nest and its eggs, and the parent night-hawk strafes his head to drive him from the nest. On June 1st 1854, he notes that within two weeks, a forest leaf canopy has developed and the forest floor is covered with new shoots. The new shoots are being eaten by numerous worms and insects. On June 1st, 1857, he examines a redwing nest and he hears a bobolink.

* * * *

Spring leaf out is governed by genetics but fall leaf loss is governed by environmental factors. Panchen and colleagues recorded the leaf out times of approximately 1,600 woody plants at eight temperate arboretums spread around the globe (Panchen et al 2014), and after controlling for latitude, they organized the average leaf out dates into phenological clade diagram (id, Table 5 and Fig. 6). Members of the Rosaceae family began leaf out on average on the 87th day of the year (s.d. 7.72 days), and this includes Woods rose, serviceberry and chokeberry in the canyon. Members of the Fagaceae family, which includes Gambel’s oaks, leafed out on average on day 109 (s.d. 1.93 days). Other relationships by tree family emerged. Angiosperms leafed out on average 19 days before gymnosperm trees. Shrubs leafed out 10 days before trees. Panchen’s team also investigated the leaf-loss, called leaf senescence or abscission at four of the eight temperature arboretums (Panchen et al 2015). Unlike spring leaf-out, autumn leaf-loss is much more variable and cannot be not organized by tree families (id, 871).

This is seen in the canyon’s Gambel’s oaks. Within broad elevation based, Gambel’s oaks turn at once. Conversely, within bands, the effect of lower temperatures at altitude are apparent. The oaks at Guardhouse Gate are fully leafed out, but broad swaths of oaks on the high slopes at mile 5.0 have not yet begun to bud.

* * * *

Today, the United States executive branch announced action to withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, on the grounds that American manufacturing and energy production must be unshackled from excessive regulation so the nation can compete with China and India. Long-term national polling indicates that the country is not behind the executive branch as more than 50 percent of citizens in each of the 50 United States are in favor of the Agreement (Leiserowitz et al 2017), and prior to the announcement, local cities and governments issued press releases indicating that they would further the Agreement notwithstanding the federal position. I am having a disconnect while watching a broadcast of the announcement, which occurs under a clear, blue skies and beautiful spring day on the White House lawn. The World AQI monitor page shows an AQI index near Washington, D.C. of 36, but over much of China and India the AQI scales are between 150 and 400. Delhi, India has monitors reading 621 and two at the meters reach the maximum of 999. Huangshan, China, near Shanghai, that nation’s largest industrial center, reads 291. As I noted back on February 8th, one consequence of the decision in the 1980s to de-industrialize the United States through globalization in the 1980s was the transporting of pollution to other countries, and Americans have grown accustom to relatively clean air. The source of my disconnect with the President’s broadcast is that it does not acknowledge the trade-off. Bringing back heavy industry under current technology will return United States’ air quality now seen in India and China. The broadcast would have been visually more honest if it had been done against the backdrop of a Beijing bad air day. Conversely, United States de-industrialization did offshore jobs, reduced the middle class, and increased income inequality. That is not a politically stable path for the nation. But these social and economic trends also represent an opportunity, different from that of the current federal executive branch, to correct the missed vision and path at the end of Jimmy Carter’s 1979 administration. Then the vision for America’s future was energy independence and transition to a service economy with clean industries. Omitted from that vision (and later abandoned by the Reagan administration) was the development of clean manufacturing technology for basic necessities. Globalization simply moved pollution intensive manufacturing to with countries with lower pollution standards, and economists claimed, ignoring non-economic impacts, that this was more efficient, but including non-economic impacts it is not. Investment and research in clean manufacturing is the way forward; it is necessary; but it will be more expensive for the American consumer than simply exporting pollution or than the United States racing to the bottom to match India’s and China’s low pollution standards.

For the birds in the canyon, this executive action weighs in favor of further declines in continental bird populations based on Soykan and colleagues’ 2016 study (May 28th; Soykan et al. 2016). But for the canyon, this may mean increases in western bird populations as species continue to migrate north and to retrench around the best watered habitats, e.g. – City Creek Canyon. The executive branch is out of step with the rest of America and is representing a vocal minority. It remains to be seen how the matter will play out in the future.

* * * *

On June 1st, 1921, Mayor C. Clearance Nelsen and city officers inspected the City Creek watershed and reported more snow and lake water than average (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 1st, 1920, Dr. Will Ellerbeck urged the creation of a highway through City Creek Canyon to connect Salt Lake and Morgan counties (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 1st, 1919, the Salt Lake Tribune promotes a new automobile using City Creek as the backdrop. On June 1, 1904, two young men became lost in City Creek and Emigration Canyons while horseriding (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 1st 1903, fifty prisoners were assigned to work on the City Creek Road over the summer (Salt Lake Telegram).

May 5, 2017

May 1st

Start of the Vernal Season

2:00 p.m. The first of May marks the start of the ecological vernal season. It ecological season in which most plant growth occurs, and is sometimes also called the pre-estival, that is the time before the hottest time of the year (Feb. 16th). This warm, sunny day is a good marker of the change, and in response, the parking lot is again full on a Monday. May 1st also marks the time in which total solar influx on an average day reaches three times the amount received during the winter solstice month of last December (March 29th). It is the cross-quarter day, that is the mid-point between the start of spring and summer. Plants, insects and people respond accordingly. Where trees have extended leaves, the leaves are growing quickly. Near mile 0.3, a red maple tree, that I had thought leafless two weeks ago, now sports a full set of three inch leaves. Below mile 0.5, all of the trees have leafed out except for the Gambel’s oaks, and the road looks about fifty percent of its maximum green. Immature sedges and the weeds Dyer’s Woad (Isatis tinctoria) dandelion, grow along the roadside, and all are being fed upon by butterflies, moths and bees, including White cabbage and Painted Lady butterflies. Near dandelions, two millimeter bees feed alongside the larger unidentified brown, furry bee, and a black and white butterfly with checkerboard-like wings, probably the Checkered white butterfly (Pontia protodice)

Most notable among the moths today is one similar to the White-lined sphinx moth, also known as the Hummingbird moth (Hyles lineata). Today, it floats between the dandelions. It is an impressive sight with large brown forewings, orange rear wings, and white and orange-brown alternating abdominal segments. The wings beat faster than the slow motions of the butterfly, but slower than the invisible high-speed flaps of the bee. During motion, its wings are visible as smears of color, but is sufficiently fast that like bees and hummingbirds, the white-lined sphinx is capable of hovering and flying backwards. Its mass is too large to land on flowers, so it hovers mid-air and extends a lengthy proboscis in order to sip nectar. It is another fantastic, unbelievable insect, like the Giant Ichneumon seen during the summer (August 26th).

It is Monday, but the parking lot is full.

* * * *

On May 1st, 1994, two joggers reported a mountain lion stalking a cougar in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, May 11, 1994). Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officer Steve Phillips commented that, “Putting a sign up City Creek Canyon saying there are cougars in the area is kind of like putting up a sign on Interstate 80 saying there are cars in the area. . . .” (id). On May 1st, 1993, the Earth Day Spring Pedal Cup sponsors a bicycle race up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, April 26, 1993). On May 1st, 1918, City Water Commission C. Clarence Nelson reported that 1,000 Lodgepole Pines had been planted in City Creek Canyon, and that he will shortly cause another 1,000 Norway spruce to be planted in the canyon. The Norway Spruce will be planted in Cole and Barney’s Hollow and in the vicinity of the high line station (at elevation 5030 feet) (Salt Lake Tribune). (Barney’s Hollow is near mile 2.2, and in 2016, some Norway Spruce can be seen at picnic site 12 near mile 1.7.) (See January 10th, 1918, Salt Lake Tribune and Herald, regarding the original proposal.) On May 1st, 1909, city construction contracts were bid, including one for the reconstruction of a screening tank and house for the Twentieth Ward City Creek pipeline (Salt Lake Herald). On May 1st, 1905, Land and Water Commission Luce recommended the widening of the road up City Creek and that the mouth of the canyon be turned into a park (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 1st, 1888, the Salt Lake Herald in an editorial approved of the City commissions resolution to build a carriage road up City Creek Canyon. The Herald proposed that the canyon be closed to stock and fishing. The Herald reported that the stream had been fished out of trout.

April 13, 2017

April 12th

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

First Gambel’s Oak Bloom

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

April 9, 2017

April 9th

Filed under: Glacier lily, Seasons, Weather — canopus56 @ 5:46 pm

Glacier Lily Expansion

5:15 p.m. Last night and this morning, a heavy rain storm blanketed the valley and canyon, and at night a snow storm left an inch of fresh whiteness on the ground. Another front containing more rain and snow is moving in from the west, but this afternoon is warm and clear. In the canyon, the snow is mostly melted, but it retards flowering cultivars. This daily pattern of alternating rain and sun (April 4th) still controls the arrival of spring in the canyon, while in the city with its artificial selection of cultivated trees and shrubs, the landscape, including most trees is a green landscape. Being distracted by the demands of a working-life, I have always experienced spring in the city as an almost instantaneous event. In the city, springs seems to arrive in a few days, but its pace in the canyon is a more subdued and drawn out affair. Glacier lilies are normally found only above the road bank on the west side of the stream’s first mile, but at the Red Bridge, there is one lily that has managed to establish itself on the east of the stream bank.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on April 9th, 1953, he sees a sparrow and watches a pine warbler feeding on flies. Clowslips are blooming. on April 9th, 1855, he notes blackbirds. On April 9th, 1859, he watches the ripple pattern that wind makes as it blows across water.

* * * *

On April 9th, 1904, residents presented a petition to widen City Creek Canyon Road where it connects to State Street (Deseret Evening News). On April 9th, 1902, the City considered a resolution to eject (homeless) squatters from the mouth of City Creek Canyon and to create a park at the mouth (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 6, 2017

April 4th

Filed under: Butterfly, Seasons, Weather — canopus56 @ 3:03 pm

It is enough. This is the Right [Natural] Place – Part I – Lessons from the Past

External Link to Image

Jet Stream Forecasts Near the Start of each Season. Source: California Regional Weather Service (2017).

1:30 p.m. There are four or five types of butterflies in the canyon today. Two are small, two inches across, and flit constantly. Near mile 0.6, finally one of these types rest in the sun by the roadside. It is slate grey with brilliant yellow eye patches near the tail. There are several days forecasted of warm sunny weather, and this breaks the alternating days of sun and rain that began on the first day of spring (March 20th). It is a pattern that I have watched for many years. What causes this spring stable pattern of alternating rain and sun?

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on April 4th, 1852, he admires water running over a cliff that makes a habitat for lichens and mosses. On April 4, 1853, he sees yellow and purple grass. He notes a number of birds including red-tail hawk, song-sparrows, jays, crows, bluebirds, robins, and blackbirds. On April 4th, 1855, he sees a gull and ducks.

* * * *

My own feeling is that March and April’s alternating days of rain and sun are related to changes in chaos and turbulence in the atmosphere as the seasons change. This is best seen in daily jet stream forecast graphs of the California Regional Weather Service. (The forecasts closely predict the actual jet stream’s location, and the forecast circumpolar graphics are easier to visually interpret than actual satellite images.) The circumpolar jet stream graphics show how the jet stream, which diverts storms to cross or bypass the canyon, changes with the seasons. In spring when the Sun evenly heats the Earth as the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the Sun’s rays, the balance of heat and cold still favors the north, but the balance is sufficiently unchanging that a stable jet stream forms on a latitude across the bottom of the United States. This allows the Coriolis effect storms to march with regularly across the canyon’s ridgelines. As summer arrives, the Earth tilts toward the Sun, and the input of heat increases two-fold (March 21st, NREL). This dissipates the jet stream and days are dominated by bright cloudless skies and afternoon showers from evaporation created cumulonimbus clouds. In the fall, the Earth’s axis is again perpendicular to the Sun’s rays, and the advancing cold resestablishes a coherent west-to-east jet stream that is choatic and turbulent. This chaos is evidenced by the severe storms of September (September 22nd).In the winter where the Sun’s energy is one-fourth that of summer’s peak (March 21st, NREL), a new stable jet stream forms along the southern latitudes of the United States, and the stream is the strongest because the temperature difference between the cold artic air and the warm tropical air is at its greatest. With this stability, regularly spaced storms of December and January reappear, but the water arrives in the form of snow and not rain.

* * * *

Compared to its virgin state before the arrival of the Euro-American colonists, there is enough left of the canyon’s natural state to make it a refuge for both wildlife and people. The Euro-American colonists made many choices, some intentional and some accidental, that caused this result. What preserved City Creek from development seen in other canyons such as Emigration, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons was a convergence of historical accident and difficult lessons learned about maintaining water quality. Had Brigham Young not exercised control over the early canyon and Baskin’s free market vision of designating City Creek as unrestricted open public domain land had prevailed, it is probable that City Creek would have become so encumbered by private inholdings seen today in other canyons, that the tide of development could not have been held back. Conversely, Young’s control illustrates the difficult of merging private interests and the public good into one person. Young was both head of state in Utah, head of a religious order, and the head of his own substantial, multiple private businesses. The potential for conflict of interest, even assuming that Young was always a well-intentioned fiduciary of both the interests of public citizens and the members of a private religious group, where Young the monopolist businessman and where Young as Territorial Governor start and stop was never transparent. The conflicts inherent in his multiple roles and lack of transparency, when coupled with an out spoken personal style, inevitably led to distrust by non-Mormon colonizers. This is a lesson that is repeatedly applicable to governance, including in today’s political economy.

As the City expanded, it needed City Creek as a primary water supply, but in 1870 through 1918, the City was still plagued by high rates of water borne illness. The pressure of disease created and maintained a social consensus, still seen today, that City Creek should remain undeveloped and patrolled regularly to prevent water pollution. The result of these forces is the canyon minutes from a major metropolitan center that remains in a relatively natural state. What remains is enough. What remains is enough to experience what Thoreau saw and felt in the early 1800s in Concord.

James Amasa Little records another version of the many quotes of Young on his first few of the valley on July 24th, 1847: “This is the Right Natural Place. It is enough, drive on” (Little, 98 at ftn. 57 quoting Woodruff)

* * * *

On April 4th, 2008, Democratic mayors Ralph Becker and Peter Corroon held a press conference in City Creek Canyon regarding their planned appearances as speakers at the 2008 Democratic convention (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 4th, 1935, the Salt Lake Flower and Garden Club proposed planting 3,000,000 hollyhock seeds in the foothills and up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 4th, 1913, City Water Commissioner W. H. Korn proposed building a large dam near the up-canyon end of City Creek Canyon, and he was opposed by the street commissioner who feared that if the dam failed, the city would be destroyed (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 4th, 1902, the City Street and Public Works Department planned for the creation of a new park at the mouth of City Creek to be called “City Creek Park” (Salt Lake Tribune).

March 22, 2017

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).

March 18, 2017

March 18th

Filed under: Arrowleaf balsamroot, red bridge, Seasons, Sounds, Stream, Woods Rose — canopus56 @ 7:24 pm

Modern Distractions

3:00 p.m. Only a few reminders remain of this morning’s 300 person St. Patrick’s Day scenic fun run from the Capitol and down City Creek Canyon below Bonneville Drive. Running and bicycling events are common in the modern canyon, and I estimate that there are about twenty held each year. Today’s eighty degree temperature is another record breaking high, and the canyon and its wildlife is in new uncharted terrain. The stream remains well below flood stage, but runs high and loud. All I can hear is the stream. The sounds of the few birds in the canyon are muffled under the stream’s white noise. On a whim, I decide to hike along part of the route of the 1880s water pipeline that runs along the south east wall of the canyon from the red bridge to the Morris Reservoir in the Avenues. There is no trail. There is just a path made by re-burying the water main, and at points along its route, the two-foot diameter iron pipe is exposed. Confusingly, this gravity feed water pipeline runs uphill to Morris Reservoir, although its intake pipe at the water treatment plant is higher than its low point at the red bridge. If gravity fed, pipeline must act as a four mile long siphon.

While hiking along the pipeline, I notice several Wood’s rose plants who, like the one I saw a few days ago near mile 0.2, have opened their buds and extended small leaves. Along this south-west facing sunny hillside, there are many broad leaf ground plants, including Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata Nutt.), have begun to poke up through the earth. Returning down-canyon, I examine dirt areas more closely, but only a stretch near mile 0.1 on the west side of the road shows similar growth by new ground cover plants. These are signs of the coming spring.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 18th, 1853, he sees a blackbird and a song-sparrow, and on March 18th, 1855, a gull. March 18th, 1858, he records many song-sparrows. On March 18th, 1860, he notes skunk cabbage is in bloom.

I have almost reached my third full year of daily jogging in the canyon. During the first nine months, I ran with headphones and listening to music, and today, I estimate for runners more than half run with digital devices playing music, and for bicyclists, about one-third ride listening to music. After the first nine months, I came to feel that the music was a distraction from experiencing the canyon. In a 2014 study, University of Utah psychologist David Strayer, who regularly walks in City Creek Canyon, and his colleagues Ruth Ann and Paul Acthley of University of Kansas, published a study comparing the pre- and post-creativity scores of two small groups of women before and after four day nature hikes where digital devices were banned (Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 14, 2012; Strayer 2012). Test scores in this small study supported new effects of the Attention Restoration Theory (ART) hypothesis. The ART hypothesis is that immersion in nature has a restorative effect on the brain’s depleted pre-frontal executive attention mechanisms. In obvious non-research terms, going outwards restores the soul and replenishes the body. No news there since Lord Byron invented the Grand European Tour to the Alps. But Strayer and colleagues’ small size study also found a new additional effect: immersion in nature is not just restful. Several days without technological devices increases creativity and problem-solving scores measured by a generally accepted psychological test by fifty percent. However, the study size is small and has not been replicated. Medical proof usually requires larger studies or many smaller studies that reproduce the original effect. Usually, I regard the results of one-off small-sample-size studies and their conclusions as provisional, and the results of such studies are are frequently found to be incorrect in follow-up research using larger sample sizes. But while jogging today, I happy to accept Strayer and the Acthleys’ findings, even if it may just be my ego’s confirmation bias seeking self-approval of my decision to ditch my music player. After two-years of running without music and, as today, listening to the sound of the stream, I see runners with cell phones strapped to their arms as disconnected from the canyon experience. But I am being haughty and judgmental.

On March 18th, 1996, Salt Lake City hydrologist Dan Schenck reported 64 inches of snow in upper City Creek Canyon, more than 130 percent of normal (Salt Lake Tribune).

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