City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

June 23, 2017

June 16th

Partial Success in Treating Starthistle

3:00 p.m. The field at lower Pleasant Valley (mile 1.2) where the Utah Conservation Corps and the city watershed officials have done Starthistle abatement (May 17th, May 21st, October 16th) has both succeeded and failed. The horizontal field at Pleasant Valley has filled in with new native grass, Wild bunchgrass (Poa secunda), many smaller wildflowers and also the invasive Western salisfy. The lower field is an idyllic scene, but because the field has been sprayed with Milestone herbicide (Aminopyralid), the Peregrine falcons are not hunting here for Rocky Mountain deer mice as in prior years.

The green of the lower field climbs up the hillside, and this is also an area where the Utah Conservation Corps manually pulled starthistle weeds. I cross the field to the slope to take a better look, and to my surprise, the treated vertical slopes have three or four times the density of starthistle plants as compared to the slope’s pre-treatment state last year. Other treated steep slopes to the west of Pleasant Valley are in a similar condition. Limited to steep slopes, the abatement project is a failure. Probably only a burning with reseeding can rehabilitate such slopes, but citizens in nearby residential areas rejected a burn control approach proposed in 2010 (see Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities 2010). Conversely, expensive manual pulling in conjunction with Aminopyralid spraying worked on horizontal fields (see Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative at May 21st).

I am also concerned that the use of Aminopyralid might be detrimental to the Peregrine falcons, Cooper’s hawks or Western screech-owls that utilize this field. Earlier this year, while with the Tracey Aviary bird count team (May 6th), I saw a Peregrine falcon hunting above this area, and in spring of 2015, a pair of peregrines would regularly sit on the power line wires above the field. One afternoon, one of the pair dived on the field, and then slowly rose beating its wings while grasping a fat deer mouse in its talons. The second falcon left its perch, swooped up from below of the first falcon and extended its talons. This startled the upper falcon and caused it to release its catch. The lower falcon, while flying inverted, expertly caught the mouse and flew off with its prize. Research later in this evening locates a 2007 United States Forest Service sponsored assessment of the effect of this herbicide on birds, principally by literature review (Durkin 2007). Since birds have a short-life span (Peregrines and Cooper’s hawks both live about twelve years), testing consists of applying a variety of doses of the chemical to test species. In the instant of Durkin’s review, a 2003 prior study force fed quail with a 50 percent lethal dose of Aminopyralid (id, pp. 96-97 and 4-1 to 4-6). The quail grew disoriented in the short term, but survived. In another study using high doses on hatchlings, success to viability declined up to 30 percent. Other lower dose studies did not find any significant effects. The consultant recommended exposure levels for humans, birds, and mammals based on prior works. Based on this limited study, my concern about using Aminopyralid around Peregrines and Cooper’s hawks were assuaged. Aminopyralid is not another DDT.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 16th, 1852, he records a morning fog with singing birds, and he remarks on how evening mornings are now hot. In the night, he sees an aurora borealis to the north. On the morning of Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 16th, 1853, he hears robins, birds, other birds, and crickets. He sees sunlight reflecting off a stream that makes the stream appear as silver metal (compare Dec. 26th, in main text, above). He extracts a red squirrel from its underground nest. Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 16th, 1854, he sees fleabane. The Utah version is Utah fleabane, Eigeron utahensis. He sees white lily and two variants of wild rose. He hears a cherry bird. Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 16th, 1855, he sees young squirrels. Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 16th, 1858, he smells blackberry blossoms, and on June 16th, 1860, he notes summer thunderstorms are now a common occurrence.

* * * *

On June 16th, 1997, the U.S. Forest Service revives the Anschutz Ranch East Pipeline Environmental Impact Analysis after a consultation disputes Chevron’s claim that an existing pipeline has sufficient capacity to handle all loads for the next fifty years (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 16th, 1919, there was a large grass fire in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). On June 16th, 1915, bids were opened for the construction of the reservoir at Pleasant Valley (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 16, 1910, the Little Giant Mine petitioned the City council to open a mine in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). On June 16, 1904, a bear destroyed a camp at the forks in City Creek Canyon, and Ben D. Luce and party hunted the bear (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 16, 1881, J.J. Branch, a former L.D.S. Church member who was present at Joseph Smith’s death, now turned evangelist, held a revival at a tent in Salt Lake City, at which he predicted that God would send a great flood from City Creek Canyon and destroy the City in retribution in retribution for the “wickedness and lying and blasphemy and abomination” of the L.D.S. church (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 16, 1897, George Crimson, a still living 1847 pioneer, relates his biography (Salt Lake Herald). In the spring of 1848, Crimson and his father built the first grist mill in City Creek Canyon, and sold the same to Brigham Young (id). He left for the California gold rush in 1849.

June 22, 2017

June 15th

First Day of the Estival Season

4:30 p.m. It is the first day of the Estival ecological season, the time of greatest heat (Feb. 16th). Astronomical summer begins on June 20th. The late spring heat wave continues and temperatures in the low nineties. I drive to the canyon for short jog, and as I exit the car, my senses are assaulted. The top of a large Douglas fir is heavy with new cones. A Rock squirrel scampers across the parking lot. Curly dock is turning its summer brown. Several Western tiger swallowtails chase each other. Cabbage white butterflies wind between tree branches. A Song sparrow sings loudly. For the first time this year, the air smells of summer and of greenery under hot a sun. All of this occurs within the first quarter of a minute.

The stream’s flow is dropping, but its depth is medium. At the base of the fir, its pine cones also show the Fibonacci whirl pattern seen in bull thistle blossoms (June 10th). The blossoms of Solomon seal plants along the first mile are fading, and some of the plants are beginning to brown.

With the addition of the last summer quality, heat, the canyon is transformed by insects. Previously, light has been increasing throughout spring, and melting snow and violent storms have added water. Heat is last elemental that completes the canyon’s return to prolific life after last winter’s sleep. The first mile has become a boulevard of butterflies. There is a mini-explosion of Cabbage white butterflies in the first quarter mile, and about twenty line both sides of the road. They are joined by Painted lady and Spring azure butterflies. An unidentified yellow butterfly with a black band on its trailing wing line flutter. In the Yellow sweet clover and Red clover weed (Trifolium pratense), which is a purple-blue invasive in Utah, are laced with Yellow-jacket wasps and domestic Honey bees. Above my butterfly escorts, a new large, brown dragonfly with black-spotted wings has matured. These are massive for a flying insect – about three inches across. These are female Common whitetail dragonflies (Libellula lydia). A large four inch mosquito, the common Floodwater mosquito (Aedes vexans), has perished on the road, and since it is unmoving, I can examine its otherworldly structure. This nationally-distributed Floodwater mosquito is a secondary vector for dog heartworm, and more recently in states other than Utah, it has been implicated as transmitting West Nile virus. In Utah, the common House mosquito (Culex pipiens) is the primary vector of West Nile. I am walking through a garland of butterflies.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 15th, 1840, he admires the reflections of trees in water. On June 15th, 1851, he sees the first wild rose of the season, blue-eyed grass, yarrow, blooming lambkill, and Solomon’s seal. He lists a series of spring flowering plants. On June 15th, 1852, he hears crickets and sees dandelions, fleabane, sorrel and purple orchids blooming. He hears a seringo and a hawk. At night, he sees fire flies and the reflection of a bright star in water. On June 15th, 1853, he notes that clover is at its peak and sees many wild roses in bloom. On June 15th, 1854, he notes that birds are singing less. On June 15th, 1858, he notes wool grass growing in a meadow.

* * * *

On June 15th, 1909, a teamster, William Luther, had his legs crushed in an truck accident while hauling gravel along City Creek Canyon Road. On June 15th, 1902, the Salt Lake Tribune argues in favor of residents using filters to better purify domestic water, in part coming from City Creek Canyon.

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 14, 2017

June 13th

Filed under: Black Mountain, Ensign Peak, Grandview Peak, Little Twin Peaks, People, Weather — canopus56 @ 4:55 pm

Artists’ Eyes

2:00 p.m. A cold front races into northern Utah, temperatures drop to the fifties overnight and sixties during the day. Cold rain falls beginning at night and into the afternoon. Today, I have not gone to the canyon, but rather have gone to State Capitol to see an exhibition of maps about Utah and Salt Lake City called “Utah Drawn”. Bird’s eye views of cities were popular forms of city maps during the nineteenth century. In such maps, an artist renders a three-dimensional view of a city map and the surrounding country-side as if the city were seen from an airplane. Today’s exhibition has three. Ever focused on the notion of Mormons as an exceptional people, the curator’s notes focuses on how the Mormon Temple is rendered in each map. I am more interested in what the artist’s rendering of City Creek Canyon and Little Black Mountain in the background of each map says about how City residents’ viewed their closest canyon.

Between this exhibition and those on file with the Library of Congress, there are four such bird’s eye view maps:

A Bird’s Eye View of Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, 1870, by Augustus Koch. The Koch 1870 maps renders lower City Creek Canyon in great detail with each mill house shown individually. The south Salt Lake salient with Little Twin Peaks and Little Black Mountain are rendered in realistic proportions. The detail of the lower canyon reflects its significance as water source and location of industry. The mountains and canyons are not shown as distant, inaccessible places.

A Bird’s Eye View of Salt Lake City, Utah, 1875, by Eli Sheldon Glover. Glover’s view of the City looks from Ensign Peak to the south west and does not show City Creek Canyon. An irrigation ditch is drawn that takes water from the canyon down to 400 East and First Avenue, then called Fruit Street. The canyon is unimportant in this image.

• Salt Lake City, Utah, 1887, attributed to Augustus Gast. The 1887 view, probably also done by Augustus Koch and incorrectly attributed to Augustus Gast, is my favorite. City Creek Canyon and Little Black Mountain are done in a style evocative of a Chinese ink painting. Little Black Mountain is shown disproportionately as high mountain peak. The mountains and canyon are mysterious, inaccessible places. This map is on display at State Capitol.

Salt Lake City, Utah, 1891, by Henry Wellge. Wellge’s painting is unique in that it is the only bird’s eye view that also includes the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island in the background. Lower City Creek Canyon is again shown in great detail, reflecting its relative importance. Ensign Peak and Little Twin Peaks on the southern Salt Lake salient at shown in great alpine peaks. Little Black Mountain is wholly missing, and Grandview Peak looks more like the Grand Teton. Here, the mountains are rendered as grand imaginary lands. The State Capitol exhibition curator attributes this map to the Salt Lake Real Estate Association, and notes that its purpose was attract buyers to the City’s then real estate boom.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 13th, 1851, he describes a moonlit walk, sees fireflies, and hears a whippoorwill. On June 13th, 1852, on notes several flowering plants along a river including blue bead lilies, red osier dogwood, and a carrion flower that emits a strong scent that attracts gnats. He hears bluebirds and robins. On June 13th, 1853, he describes two young hawks and their nests. He notes violets have past peak bloom and wild rose is blooming. He sees a rose-breasted grossbeak. On June 13th, 1854, he describes colorful yellow and red blooming plants. He sees minnows in a stream and hears crickets. On June 13th, 1860, he notes sycamore trees are losing their leaves.

* * * *

On June 13th, 2013, the City reported on a new enforcement push to remove homeless tent camps in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 13th, 1914, City Commissioner W. H. Shearman, Water Supply Charles F. Barrett, and City Engineer Sylverster Q. Cannon planned to the headwaters of upper City Creek in order to determine if a reservoir could be built at the site of an existing natural lake, that in 2017 does not exist (Salt Lake Tribune). The Tribune described the lake in City Creek as:

“The lake in City Creek Canyon is located in a land-locked basin near the head of the canyon. It has no natural outlet, and the water seeps out through the bottom, rising again several miles down canyon in great springs which form the City Creek Creek stream. A glacial moraine blocks the lake from a natural outlet and caused the lake to form. The lake assumes large dimensions at this time of the year, although it shrinks to a mere swamp later in the summer.”

On June 13, 1908, City Water Superintendent J. R. Raleigh described how his crews were raising 18 inch embankments along City Creek for about three-quarters of a block through the city in order to contain flood waters (Salt Lake Herald). Raleigh recommended constructing a 36 inch aqueduct pipe to remedy the problem. On June 13, 1908, Ben Jones drank five pints of whiskey at a saloon on Second South, passed out in the street, and was sentenced to work on the prison road gang working on boulevard in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 13, 1899, high waters in City Creek prevented closing of irrigation diversion gates out of fear that the city would be flooded (Salt Lake Herald). On June 13, 1898, the Utah National Guard held practice battles in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 13th, 1883, a petition to support a waterpowered marble polishing plant in City Creek Canyon was presented to the City Council (Salt Lake Herald). On June 13th, 1883, the Salt Lake Herald reviewed the manufacturing of silk at waterpowered looms in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald).

June 12th

Filed under: Weather — canopus56 @ 4:48 pm

High Wind

4:00 p.m. The jet stream has broken the late spring heat wave, and as the forces of heat and cold attempt to equalize, high winds again whip through the canyon. Trees wave back and forth violently. In the city, trucks overturn, tree limbs crack and fall onto houses. Winds over sixty miles an hour are recorded.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 12th, 1851, he records summer plants including golden senecio, marsh speedwell, foreget-me-nots, blue flag, blue-eyed grass, red sorrel, and lupines. He sees a flock of swallows. On June 12, 1853, he hears a wood-thrush, disturbs a partridge with brood, examines a hawk’s nest, and sees rattlesnake plantain and wild moss rose. On June 12, 1854, notes that red clover is blooming. He sees a kingfisher. On June 12, 1855, he sees redwings and examines a vireo nest. On June 12, 1859, he records red sorrel.

* * * *

On June 12th, 2003, the Salt Lake Fire Department tested the water in lower City Creek Canyon after the creek turned green (Deseret News). A water testing chemical, florazine, was the suspected pollutant. On June 12th, 1915, the City Commission noticed contracts to construct the 5,000,000 gallon reservoir at Pleasant Valley and to reenforce the old High Line Water Tank (Salt Lake Herald). On June 12th, 1912, the connection between water tanks 1 and 2 in City Creek were replaced with 12 inch iron pipe (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 12, 1883, a new marble polishing plant was being built above the old Empire Mill site (Salt Lake Herald). The marble source was located in City Creek (id).

June 11th

Filed under: Ants, Canadian cicadas, Crow, Song sparrow — canopus56 @ 4:46 pm

Harassed Crow

7:30 p.m. Today, I just do a short, evening run to milepost 0.5. The heat wave continues to abate, and cool breezes run down the canyon. On this Sunday, there are only a few people, mostly couples, strolling along the road. The half devoured husk of a Canadian cicada is on the road, covered with ants. Going down canyon, an American crow skims the tree tops. Above the crow, a single Song sparrow flies about five feet above the crow and is repeatedly dive bombing the larger bird that is at least 20 times its size. The small bird is winning, and the pair moves together flying out over the low eastern ridge near the canyon’s mouth.

For avian life, I have noticed that invasives, such as starlings and House sparrows, are not really that competitive with native birds in the non-urban canyon environment. In the more natural setting of the canyon, native birds dominate, and invasives are rare. In contrast, invasive birds dominate around my home and in urban environments. Song sparrows occur, but are rare in the city compared to starlings, House sparrows and Mourning doves. Warbling vireos are almost non-existent in the morning chorus that I hear through open my windows while still half-asleep. Invasive birds might be said to be better adapted to human environments than to the land.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 11th, 1851, he describes how objects look different under moonlight, and he observes that whippoorwills are not found in urban areas. On June 11th, 1852, red-eyes are the most common bird and he hears an oven bird, a thrasher and crickets singing. He sees lupines, snapdragons and bladderwort. He observes some red maple leaves giving way to spotting disease and wilting. On June 11th, 1853, he notes that grass fields are loosing their deep green color and red sorrel is dying. Blackbirds are numerous. On June 11, 1856, he finds a bream’s nest with eggs and sees a partridge followed by its brood. On June 11, 1860, he notes the contrast between evergreens and deciduous trees. He again notes fungi growing on maple leaves. He observes that the green leaves of younger trees are lighter in color.

* * * *

On June 11th, 1952, the City Department of Water Supply and Waterworks in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service promulgated new watershed protection rules, including camping and building fires only in developed campsites and no wading in the stream when fishing (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 11th, 1887, the Salt Lake Democrat recommends that office workers take short camping trips in City Creek Canyon in order to rejuvenate themselves.

June 10th

Sego Lilies and Cheat Grass

6:30 p.m. The jet stream has reconnected over the Intermountain west to its usual spring route, and this has brought back strong, cooling breezes. This evening, I drive to the end of the road at North Terrace Hills Drive to walk up the trail from the Avenues to the south ridgeline of the Salt Lake salient that looks down into City Creek Canyon. I am looking for the Sego lily which blooms this time of year. One-quarter mile below where the trail intersects the road, I find patches of this Utah state flower (November 30th) among the parched Cheat grass. It is a bulb flower that rises from the hard ground sometimes without any leaves, and its four inch blossoms have delicate cream petals that are yellow at the base surrounded by splashes of dark red-purple. Against this central yellow backdrop, contrasting thick, white-colored stamens rise. I estimate about 80 lilies along are within a 100 feet along the trail for one-half mile below the ridgeline. Like most native desert wildflowers, it is a metaphor for beauty under adversity.

Also along the road are blossoming Canadian thistles (Cirsium arvense). Although a weed, its three inch light purple blossoms are a visually pleasing example of complexity in nature. Hundreds of small, spike like petals surround a central circular whirl of about 150 short, cylindrical, vertical stamens. The whirl pattern in its stamens betrays two counter-spirals of stamens that are arranged in left and right spiraling Fibonacci series.

Near the Sego lilies, there is a 10-inch diameter coyote burrow in the road bank to the west of the trail. That it sits along a heavily traveled mountain biking trail – perhaps between 50 to 100 people traverse this route each day – is unusual. It is not clear whether the burrow is currently occupied. The mouth of the burrow shows no recent signs of entry or exit, but there is contrasting excavated soil radiating below the entrance.

Below the ridgeline back over a mile to the trailhead, Gambel’s oak forest covers most of the land to the west of the trail, but the oaks only cover patches of ground to the east. Birds sing from their hiding places. I see Black-billed magpies at the trailhead and a Green-tailed towhee within the first quarter-mile. Near the ridge, Song sparrows, Black-headed grosbeaks, a hummingbird, and chukars are heard. From their calls within one-third of a mile of the ridgeline, I estimate 150 birds are present. None appear to be flying.

I reach the east-west running ridgeline and begin to climb another 150 feet to a small peak to the east of the intersection of trail and ridge. As with my last visit to this peak (January 5th), wind is blowing strongly from the north. The reason for the song bird’s grounding becomes apparent: in the steady wind, an avian farmer, a Cooper’s Hawk, hovers motionless about 20 feet above the ridge. The low Sun is filtered through clouds to the north, and its light sets the yellow molted breast feathers blazing. The hawk continues for hover for another minute, turns and glides off to the east just below the ridgeline.

From the peak, which bears a concrete and metal Salt Lake City survey corner marker indicating an altitude of 4,905 feet, or about 900 feet above the valley floor, there is a clear view down 20 miles of Wasatch Front Mountain Range from Grandview Peak and Little Black Mountain on the north, to Lone Peak on the south. In the evening light, the two sandstone geologic “U”‘s synclines that define Red Butte Canyon, Emigration Canyon, and part of Parleys Canyon are easily seen (January 9th). These sit on top of a larger deeper “U” shaped syncline of limestone that stretches from City Creek Canyon on the north and emerges again in Millcreek Canyon on the south. Perhaps this geology also explains why the streams in Red Butte and Emigration canyons reduce to trickle. Unlike City Creek and Millcreek with their limestone upper canyons, the surface bedrock of Red Butte and Emigration are porous sandstone. (Parleys Canyon contains two dams that hold back the stream.) Underground water may not be trapped along limestone layers. This is speculation, and another possibility is that Red Butte and Emigration canyons, unlike City Creek, were never reforested after the foresting and mining eras of the last half of the 19th century. Summer surface water may simply evaporate. To the west, the jet stream is marked by a fast moving line of clouds that extends from the southwest to the northeast.

Looking at the lands around the peak, they are one-third green oak forest, one-third dried brown Cheat grass, and one-third still green native brome. It must have been an impressive spring sight of green meadows before the invasive grasses arrived. The peak itself is covered in Cheat grass about six inches deep, and because of this year’s heavy winter snow, an acquaintance reports stands several feet in height along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail below this peak. The cheat grass is read to burn, and within the last week across the state, six large cheat grass wild fires of over 1,000 acres have burned. Several smaller cheat grass fires of a few acres in size also occurred in Salt Lake Valley over the last week, but those were quickly suppressed. Although overgrazing immediately after the Euro-american colonization of the valley in 1847 quickly converted fire resistant native bromes and bunch grasses to non-native adventive grasses spotted with sagebrush (March 13th), cheat grass was not present in the valley or on the Avenues ridgeline. This weed grass was introduced in California in 1870 (id), and the grass followed along the railroads lines east (Monson and Kitchen, 1992, p. 24), but may have also traveled as a contaminant in feed grain (id at 33). Cheat grass was first collected in Utah in 1894 by M. E. Jones on Provo, Utah (Barbour and Billings, p. 264; Monson and Kitchen). How fast it overtook native grasses statewide is unclear, but in 1932, Pickford of the Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station noted that while Cheat grass, which he called Downy brome, was found in all areas of the north half of the state, it was only dominate in the Great Salt Lake area (Pickford, 1932; Monson and Kitchen, 24). Pickford found that Cheat grass was most dense (11 percent coverage) on plots that had been both grazed and then subjected to a grass fire, but it was absent from plots that had never been grazed or subjected to a burn. What makes Cheat grass different is the higher frequency of its burn cycle and the higher temperatures at which it burns (Monson and Kitchen, 24). There is a direct relationship between the level of the prior winter’s precipitation and cheat grass fires in the following summer (Monson and Kitchen, 24). One-hundred and twenty-three years later, this hot burning grass covers the Avenues ridgeline, more than half of the City Creek canyon walls of the Salt Lake salient, and much of the State. The state and federal agencies spend about 83 million USD per year fighting wildfires in Utah (Stambro et al, 2014, Chap. 9), and much of that total is related to cheat grass fires.

The peak is also covered in unidentified, one-half inch nymph crickets. When walking forward, every step raises five or six nymphs that jump forward to avoid being crushed. They are marvels of camouflage, and their dark brown, light brown, dusky yellow and dirty white colors perfectly match the surrounding dried grass. They move at the slightest provocation and it takes several attempts to locate one for a photograph. Even knowing where it is, I have to stare at the brown grass for fifteen seconds before I can make out the cricket’s outline.

Despite the invasives, the expansive view of the surrounding hills and mountains is inspiring, and I return home a happy and contented person.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 10th, 1853, he notes honey locust, black willows and blackberries are in bloom. He hears a robin. On June 10th, 1856, he watches a huckleberry bird and finds a pigeon woodpecker nest with young. On June 10, 1857, he sees a snake. On June 10, 1860, he examines a bat suspended in the daytime forest.

* * * *

The Fibonacci series seen in the whirls of the center of a bull thistle plant reappears in many plant contexts, including how seeds are distributed around a pine cone (Klar, 2002) and how branches are radially distributed around on tree (Nelson 2004). The study of the arrangement of leaves on a plant is called phyllotaxis. There are several competing hypotheses for how leaves self-assemble themselves themselves in a Fibonacci series, and the prevailing theory is that these spatial patterns are the result of most-efficient packing solutions (Klar). Hormonal diffusion is also theorized but the actual mechanisms are unknown (id). Limited progress has been made in defining the theoretical mathematics of how a circle of undiffentiated meristem plant stem-cell tissue can transform into a spiral pattern and on identifying candidate biochemicals that control the process (Flemming, 2002).

Restoring areas contaminated with cheat grass has proven difficult and expensive in terms of both capital and labor (Barbour and Billings, p. 264; Monson and Kitchen). Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have spent over 150,000 USD since 2008 trying to rehabilitate about 180 acres (0.3 square miles) in City Creek and Parleys Canyons that are contaminated with both Yellow starthistle and Cheat grass (see May 21st). The best strategy for restoration is reseeding following a cheat grass fire, but its effectiveness is limited to level areas (Barbour and Billings, 264-265) and not the steep slopes of City Creek Canyon and the Salt Lake salient. Although the city considered a controlled burn program in City Creek in 2010 (Gray and Harrison, 1999; Salt Lake Dept. of Public Utilities 2010, Salt Lake City Corporation 2010a), it was not pursued, and currently the Utah Conservation Corps is using the labor intensive method of manually denuding and spraying fields in lower Pleasant Valley, including along a steep slope (May 17th and May 21st).

* * * *

On June 10th, 2006, students at the Design Workshop recommend daylighting City Creek Canyon stream from the mouth of City Creek, along North Temple, all the way to the Jordan River (Salt Lake Tribune). Daylighting means raising the creek which now traverses the city’s center in underground pipes back to the surface. (Prior U.S. Corps of Engineer and City proposals recommended daylighting City Creek beginning at 700 West.) On June 10th, 1898, the National Guard plan exercises in City Creek Canyon (Deseret Evening News).

June 9th

First Tarantula and a Fake Bee

7:45 p.m. The jet stream to the northwest has begun to lower temperatures in the eighties and brings cooling evening breezes to the canyon. On this Friday evening, families seeking release from the days of heat fill the first few picnic sites. The heat wave is starting to end, and invasive Yellow sweet clover lines both sides of the road and waves under the wind. But there is no sign of summer’s yellow sunflowers along the road in Pleasant Valley. More soft tufts of pollen float down from the Rocky Mountain cottonwoods and their white down lines the roadside. Evening Black-headed grosbeak calls predominate in the first mile. A 3 inch unidentified dark blue-black dragonfly sails by. A unidentified light brown beetle, that has the shape of a solider beetle, has been seen on the road over the last few weeks. At the rear tip of its shell, there is a diamond shaped darker brown patch. On the road today, the nymph form of this beetle crosses the road. It is bright lime green. A black ant drags a bug twenty times its size to the side of the road.

Planted squarely across the center of a Wood rose blossom near mile 0.3, a member of the Galphyridae family of Bumble bee scarabs. The Bumblee bee scarab is a beetle, not a bee. Its wing shell has four horizontal white strips on the sides and two vertical white stripes on either side of the centerline. Its bee-like features are the abdomen that extends past the wing shell and is covered in fine yellow-white hairs. Its thorax is also covered with these fine hairs. Male Bumblee bee scarabs are sometimes found in flowers, as this oddly behaving one is. This scarab appears almost intoxicated. It is oblivious to my presence and seems to relish feeding on the rose’s pollen. Given its lethargic ways, the scarab’s mimicry of a bee might provide protection from predators, but given that birds eat bees, what predator does the scarab’s mimicry deter?

Near mile 0.4, the season’s first desert tarantula crosses the road. It is only two or three inches across. By mid-summer, it will grow to 5 to 6 inches across (August 17th).

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 9th, 1850, he notes pitch-pine pollen collected on water. On June 9th, 1851, he observes that signs of the season are grass waving in the wind, new leaves on trees, and increasing louder crickets. On June 9th, 1853, he sees the season’s first lily bud and notes white clover is common. He sees starflowers in a meadow and gathers strawberries. He observes a hawk pair. On June 9th, 1854, he sees a lark and notes that the air has a high density of mayflies. On June 9th, 1857, he sees an indigo bird. On June 9th, 1860, he sees water bugs in a stream.

* * * *

On June 9th, 1915, a new reservoir on Fifth South that holds 10,000,000 gallons was inspected, and it will supplemented by a 5,000,000 gallon reservoir at Pleasant Valley (Salt Lake Herald). On June 9th, 1909, the Intermountain Republican reported that a flooding City Creek stream was still carving “numerous erratic channels down North Temple street”. Sandbags and manure was used by crews working under Street Supervisor J. T. Raleigh to create embankments, but this results in large pools of fetid water forming (id). The Tenth South canal overflowed its banks. On June 28th, 1905, the Commercial Club officially turned over the new Wasatch Boulevard to the City (Salt Lake Herald). The boulevard runs up City Creek Canyon, along 11th Avenue to Popperton Place, and then on to Fort Douglas. The boulevard then descends to Liberty Park (id). The Club plans to line the boulevard with trees and stone walls, interspersed with developed parks every few miles (id). On June 3, 1903, as a result of infrastructure improvements, the City had increased its water supply capacity to 28,000,000 gallons per day (Salt Lake Telegram). One hundred and thirty-one miles of water main pipe has been laid in the city, including City Creek Canyon (id). A city ordinance regulates residents sprinkling their lawns. The High line system in City Creek brings water to Popperton Place. On June 9th, 1877, the Salt Lake Tribune recommended City Creek Canyon Road for scenic carriage rides.

June 8th

First Loud Cricket with Metamorphosis

7:00 p.m. True night does not come until after 9 in the evening, and the start of the estival season is one week away. It the sixth day of late spring heat in the nineties, the jet stream is forcing its way into the Intermountain west, and the jet stream traveling southwest to the northwest over adjacent Nevada. This has brought high winds to the canyon. The leaved trees whip back and forth under its hand. In response to the days of heat, invasive Cheat grass (Bromus tectorum) that covers the hillsides on both sides of the Salt Lake salient have dried to an early season brown. The hills are a patchwork of brown Cheat grass and other later maturing bromes that are still green. Cheat grass is susceptible to burn in quick moving, high temperature fires, and authorities are worried over a bad fire season. Utah normally has 400 grass fires per year. Under the force of the wind, small birds restrict themselves to short thirty foot flights between trees. At the pond at picnic site 5, I startle a grounded Song sparrow, while a Black-headed grosbeak performs its trill call overhead.

As the wind starts to die down, I hear the first loud cricket – just one – of the season. I suspect that these also may be the cicadas heard yesterday in the tops of Gambel’s oaks (June 7th), and their wings have hardened overnight. In two months, large choruses of crickets will fill the canyon night air (August 15th and August 18th). Large mosquitoes (sp. Culiseta), possibly Marsh mosquitoes (Culiseta inornata), fly through the shadowed evening light.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 8th, 1851, he notes white pines have stamen blossoms. On June 8th 1853, a pair of hawks swoop on him as he walks near his nest. He notes that white pine is in flower. On June 8th, 1860, he notes that the summer afternoon shower season has begun. Red oak leaves have fully developed.

* * * *

Whether cricket or cicada, this clicking insect is a newly hatched pupae that has likely undergone some form of metamorphosis. In complete metamorphosis (holometabolous), such as that which occurs in butterflies, the egg hatches a larvae caterpillar, the caterpillar weaves a pupal sack, and then an adult emerges. In incomplete metamorphosis(hemimetabolism), an insect egg develops into an miniature adult, the nymph, and as it expands, it sheds its exoskeleton as it grows. In the canyon, incomplete metamorphosis is seen in crickets and Box elder bugs. Among the vertebrates, frogs and salamanders also undergo metamorphosis. Since insects, numerically, are the most diverse type of animals, 45 to 60 percent of all animals on the Earth undergo metamorphosis, and our mammalian form of infant development is a relatively infrequent mode (Jabr 2012). The evolutionary just-so story by which metamorphosis arose is that an intermediary stage of development allows the larval and nymph stages to exploit different food niches from adults in the same habitat. Truman and Riddiford suggest that natural selection acted on the hormonal mechanisms of ancestral species to create the radically different developmental stages (Truman and Riddiford 1999).

* * * *

On June 8th, 2003, the Salt Lake Tribune reported the experiences of many Salt Lake Valley residents in how they use the local canyons, including City Creek Canyon. The Outdoor Industry Foundation is conducting a study of dispersed recreation use in Utah, and it finds that 81 percent of Utahans engage in outdoor activities (id). On June 8th, 1951, The Audubon Society scheduled a trip up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 8th, 1950, City tests of City Creek Canyon water show a high degree of purity and low coliform count (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 8th, 1933, the Wasatch Mountain Club scheduled a hike from Rotary Park in City Creek to Mueller Park (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 8, 1906, a committee of the City Council recommended that a permit to allow Henry B. Anderson to harvest 24 cords of cedar wood in City Creek be denied on the grounds of a need to protect the watershed (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 8, 1895, the Utah Forestry Association reported on its activities in reforesting stands of trees in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). The Association also resolved to compile data on the extent of deforestation, rainfall and its impact on flooding (id).

June 7th

Clicking Cicadas

4:30 p.m. This is the fifth day of ninety degree temperatures, and I go for a short jog up to milepost 0.5 and back down the Pipeline Trail. Looking at the jet stream charts at the California Regional Weather Service and National Weather Service maps for the last few days, the jet stream has broken and disconnected over much of the western and central continental United States. A large high pressure zone has disrupted spring’s conveyor belt of cooling ocean air.

Going up canyon near mile 0.4, I check one of the blue paint mosquito tree holes, and inside is a one inch beetle that is colored with Frank Lloyd Wright’s bright Cherokee red. (Later, after checking my insect guides, I am unable to identify it.) Just past the turn-off from the road to the trail, I begin to hear an odd clicking sound coming from the trees, and I stop the Gambel’s oak grove mid-way between road and Pipeline Trail. The sound is all around, but I cannot see its cause. There are also some small birds in the trees that confuse the source, but after a few minutes, I notice two or three insects on the branches that look like a large cricket but they have clear wings. These are probably annual Mountain or Canadian cicadas (Okanagana canadensis). Cicadas come into two forms: annual hatching and the more famous periodic hatching that rise from the ground once every 17 years. I cannot get close enough to identify these tree dwellers with certainty. I suspect that since they are newly hatched, their wings are still too soft to make the loud clicking sounds.

Along the Pipeline Trail, the blossom heads of Arrowleaf balsamroot plants that recently dominated the hillsides (April 29th) are all dried husks and full of seeds. The hot Sun has done more of its work. Along the road, the Western salisfy first seen a week ago (June 2nd) along the road, have exploded into a showy ball of white tufted seed.

Along the powerline, an American robin, a Lazuli bunting, a Song sparrow, and a Black-headed grosbeak, all rest in the afternoon sunlight singing loudly. There are several more buntings replying on the western hillside. Further down trail near mile 0.2, two more grosbeaks call from the oaks, and this corresponds to the position where they are heard when along the road.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 7th, 1853 he records red clover, buttercups, cinquefoil, blueberries, and huckleberries. He hears quail and sees an oven bird and a night-hawk in its nest. On June 7th, 1854, he notes large sized green berries, blueberries, and choke-cherries. He hears honey bees. He sees a yellow-winged sparrow, a night-hawk, and the first fire-flies of the season. On June 7th, 1858, he observes that wind blowing across grass silences crickets. On June 7th, 1860, white clover has bloomed and he again hears honey-bees.

* * * *

In a June 7th, 2005 letter to the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune, Chuck Tabaracci related the saving of his dog after it had been swept away in the high waters of the canyon’s stream (Salt Lake Tribune). Two women lept into the stream to save the dog and where also swept downstream. All were saved and one woman suffered hypothermia and the second a concussion. Tabaracci also noted that people walking up the road refused to help the women and eventually they were transported to LDS Hospital by ambulance. On June 7th, 1913, the Commercial Club in a report, opposed building a highway up City Creek to connect with Morgan County (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 7th, 1893, City Council President Loofbourow proposed banning all of the new bicycles from the City (Deseret Evening News). He stated that, “I would encourage a movement to send them (all the bicycles) to the head of City Creek canyon and keep them there, as they are an intolerable nuisance” (id). A June 7th, 1887 Salt Lake Herald editorial proposed a system of reservoirs in City Creek Canyon in order to solve a shortage in the City’s water supply.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.