Archive for November, 2011

In the Heart of the City

I don’t know anything about it, but I’ve seen it before and it struck me as strange and beautiful…and ironic, as it is just down the road from the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City…we are not all Saints….


We Sought the Gods…on Mount Olympus

We rose early and climbed hard and steadfast in our march to the top of the mountain.

The trail was steep and full of natural perils that sought to sweep us off of our feet and cast us below.  But we persisted as we did, and then, and found ourselves at the base of their thrones.  We scrambled up and down and up again, but fell short of attaining their glory, not because we lacked heart or because our wits had left us, but because the final rise was treacherous and beyond our mortal grasp…bottom line, essentially, is that there was ice in the hand- and foot-holds, the rocks were slippery as hell, and we didn’t know whether or not we were actually in the right place and were not, collectively, ready to lose our limbs or lives climbing up the hill and finding no thrones.

But it was fun, nonetheless, and taxing, too, and truly beautiful beyond compare, up there, almost at the top of our world…and we climbed Mount Olympus.


We stand and marvel sometimes at the spectacles we find when visiting nature, when sojourning through a land that is ours to frequent and adore and love, but never really become a part of or control…such force and power…an amazing wonder, truly…and the feelings such a sight can evoke…of humility, awe, joy, and even peace, strangely, as we are nearly overcome with the loud and noise of rushing and pounding water on water and rock and earth…and the very core of our souls….


Occasional experiences, figurative and literal, they sometimes populate our dreams or the written lists of goals that we hope to achieve one day, they are our aspirations, and our inspirations, too, as we live and strive and keep reaching toward that other end.

Early Fall Close-up

Fall…a time of change and growth and putting off of the Old as we prepare to enter a season of quiet and restoration, a time when it looks as if nothing is happening, but when we are still full of life…just getting ready for whatever comes next, both the known and unknown…when we are readying ourselves for the New.

Leaving Maybird Gulch

So I stopped along the trail on the way back, as my stomach was growling and it was 11:40.  I had only had two cups of coffee and a granola bar so far for the day, so I was hungry.  As I sat there along the trail, I started to hear voices off in the distance, nothing real clear, just occasional sounds coming through the trees, human voice sounds, higher pitched to carry through the thin air and bounce long and forever off rocks and clefts and out into the never.  I looked around and saw a scree field just to the left of the trail, rather, on the side of the ridge that is facing me, but I am far to the right of the trail that I mentioned, and up on the ridge to the right.

So, I could see it there, the scree field that is situated on the ridge or side of the mountain that is to the left of the trail as one is hiking up to the Red Pine Lakes.

That particular spot is just past the marker that lets you know that you’ve come two and a half miles from the parking lot and still have a mile to go to the lake.  At that small junction, there is a bridge on your right.

If you cross it, and then follow the trail, you will find yourself at the lowest of three lakes that are situated in Maybird Gulch, which is located in the greater Little Cottonwood Canyon area that is just south and east of Salt Lake City.

So, there I was, 40 minutes back down the trail from the lowest lake and I heard the first voices that I had heard since I got out of my truck at 7:25 that morning and said “Hey” to another person in the parking lot.  There had been no other voices, no other footsteps along the rock trail, and the pine-needle-covered trail, and the crusted-snow crunching trail that I had followed so far.

As I sat there eating my granola bar and apple, I looked around at what was my company, what would be my company for another two and a half to three miles before I got back to my truck.  It would be at least another week before I could be out there again in that natural haven against life and traffic and taxes.

As I was sitting there, a group of hikers came down from the trail behind me; they had spent the night up in Maybird Gulch, exploring around the two lower lakes, and after they walked past and said “Goodbye,” another couple came up the trail, said “Hello,” and kept going…and then it was quiet again.

The wind was blowing through the tall white-pine trees and I could hear the stream that ran along the trail that I would soon be on again, the trail that leads to and from Red Pine Lakes.

There were white granite rocks and chunks scattered throughout the forest around me, and yellowed and mashed leaves that, only weeks ago and before our first mountain snow, were broad and shiny and green.

There were also patches of the beautiful and cold and white stuff around me, and pine cones and needles and broken branches from the trees above me and the dead and decaying ones that lay akimbo and everywhere, some thin, some larger, some across the trail that have been cut to allow hikers’ passage, and others, of course, out there and everywhere around me, shiny gray and silver branches and trunks, old rotting logs that were huge trees those years ago,  and were then and now turning into forest mulch and home for bugs and moss and that little green something that sometimes covers the ground-side of old and fallen trees.

Off to my left, which was north, I could see the caps of darker red rock that lined and lines the top of the white granite mountain that is the northern ridge and side along Little Cottonwood Canyon; it is called Dromedary Ridge for the camel-like peaks that run the length of that stretch of four or five miles of the canyon walls.

As I continued to sit there, I noticed again that my toes were cold from the snow that had melted down into my boots and had soaked my socks, and my fingers were chilled as I wrote with pencil in this little notebook as the stream still went and rumbled and the wind still blew lightly through the trees over and around me…and it was time to go.  I would have loved to go up that last mile to the Red Pine Lakes and see them again.

It seemed that my hike that day just didn’t take enough time…I wasn’t out there long enough.  But I didn’t tell anyone that I was going there, up to the lakes, so I should just head back, I thought…and enjoy the last two and a half to three miles of forest and trail that would take me away from there and back into daily life with its people and traffic and taxes.

I love this place…and its everything.

Winter Trail Trials…

A few weeks ago, I purchased my first set of gaiters for deep snow hiking in the wintry Wasatch.  When I went out on the Little Cottonwood Trail last weekend, I had the opportunity to see how well they did with snow in the mid-calf range.  This weekend, I was able to try them out in the above-knee range of snow depth as I hiked the trail up to the Bells Canyon Upper Falls in the mountains just south and east of Salt Lake City.  The gaiters worked wonderfully…I didn’t have to stop every five or six steps to dig the snow out of the sides of my boots to keep it from melting down into my soon-to-be-soaked socks like I did last year.

I hope you enjoy the pictures of my second snow-hike of the season…Bells Canyon Reservoir and beyond….

The weather forecast for the day mentioned something about a seventy percent chance of snow…and the clouds were very convincing.  It was too warm for just snow, however, so I had the rain-jacket on to help keep me dry.  Low clouds and looming…they were almost mysterious…and threatening….

If you could look to the left, or north, of where the above picture was taken, you could see into the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon…more low clouds….

It is still quite early in the winter season; it’s not even late fall, actually, but the lower reservoir of Bells Canyon is already almost completely frozen-over.

It’s strange and beautiful how the shifting clouds can change the whole appearance of the mountains in a matter of minutes.

I’ve been up here almost a dozen times already, and I still find it breath-taking to watch these falls….  Even though they’re not flowing with crazy and raging white water, the lacy ice and snow create an incredible frame for this natural water-feature.

The falls shown above are about an hour to ninety minutes up the trail from the parking lot, depending on the weather and the condition of the hiker.  Somewhere between another half to full hour, you will come to a house-sized rock that will be an indication that you are about another fifteen minutes or so away from the upper falls.  This is what the trail looks like between the lower and upper falls.  The red slash on the tree tells you that you’re headed in the right direction…when you can’t see anything that resembles a trail….

I think these are the prettiest of the many types of cones on the fir and pine trees in these forested mountains.  These are cones from the White Fir tree.

As I was looking down and choosing my next step in the almost knee-deep snow, I noticed that a black fleck seemed to be sliding or moving along the surface of the snow.  A closer look revealed that it was a little beetle…not yet dead or hiding away from the freeze….

A little while later, I lost sight of any further red slashes on the trees and decided to go “off-trail” and see what I could see.  It seemed safe and that the chances of getting lost were pretty much nil, as I only had to turn around and follow my tracks to take me back to what I knew was the trail.  As I slogged through the deepening snow the further up the mountain I progressed, I happened to round a little bend or protrusion on the mountainside and almost bumped into an elephant…first a beetle and now an elephant in the snow-covered Wasatch!

Another half hour of hiking through the still-deepening snow led me to a boulder field and white powder that was at least half a foot over my knees.  Given that I was hiking alone and had never been this far up the side of the mountain, it seemed like a good idea to turn around and head back to more familiar territory.  Sometimes when I’m hiking and watching the actual trail to see where my feet are going, it’s easy to miss part of the scenery.  As I turned around and was making my way back down the trail, I noticed the snowy granite sides of the mountain.  It was almost like seeing them for the first time….

Through the spring and summer of this past year, I’ve found that the return trip from wherever I’ve hiked usually takes about half as much time as it took to get there.  With the snow, it took a bit longer.  While I knew where I was going and had been the one that made all of the tracks on the trail, there was quite a bit of difference between going down a snowy trail and climbing up one…it’s much easier to lose your footing and slip.

When I reached the bottom of the trail from the waterfalls and was back near the lower reservoir, the clouds were still moving all over the valley….

Looking to the north…

And then to the south…

Overall, it was a wonderful day for a hike…cloudy and rainy and snowy and even a little sunny…with temperatures in the low to mid thirties up in the mountains.

As for the gaiters…they passed the second trail trial.

This final picture is actually from last week when I was trying the gaiters for the first time….

Something about the Mountains

Black mountains and dark, concealed behind clouds and forests grown, strange and magical things hidden within, without and within those brazen massifs, those hulking, sleeping monsters of stone and sand and water and trees.  They sit on a fault-line, an imaginary or created timeline, a marking of their past and future movements, those postulated projections of personal growth and peripheral destruction, they sit there and we wait, but not them.  They don’t feel their strainings, the forces that are pushing them up and away from their sisters or brothers on the other side of the valley plain.  They are just there, full of themselves and heedless of what we think or imagine of them.

Liberty Park in Early November

Liberty Park, in Salt Lake City, has become a favorite and oft frequented place for me over the past several months.  I usually walk there during my lunch-times and often go there and park under the trees when it’s raining and too wet to walk in the middle of my work-day.  I have posted several pictures from the park during the past year, but none that have captured the beauty of Fall as these have…enjoy.

Never Left Alone

For eleven years, I worked in an environment where crime and death were a part of
my every day.  No, not the literal substance of crime and death in the immediateness of my day, except when one of
our lesser-esteemed employees stole a co-worker’s Christmas tree, but we dealt
with the once-removed essence of those crimes and deaths that occurred on the
streets where our police officers patrolled and worked and where our 9-1-1
callers sought our help, as we were and are 9-1-1 operators and police
dispatchers.  We were the pre-first-responders
who sent the first-responders on their calls.

We didn’t enjoy when bad-guys came to their naturally occurring ends, but we
didn’t weep too many tears, either.  We did, however, sometimes suffer the emotional burden of carrying our more
innocent victims’ fates, and yes, we struggled under that weight even more when
the victim ended-up being one of our officers or an officer from a neighboring
agency.  Within our police community, the Blue did run deep, even for those of us who were not on the street, but who
answered the calls on the 9-1-1 phones and who worked the radios, dispatching
officers and sending Help on its way.

Working in the Radio and 9-1-1 rooms, we would only hear the other details of the event
from the streets as the news made it to us through its various channels: calls
from officers who were friends or family members, reports from patrol
supervisors that were forwarded up through the chain-of-command and passed our
desks or email in-boxes on the way, or through first-person recollections as
those officer friends or family members came to visit us.  We often heard stories or recollections of
what it looked like out there, but we didn’t often get to see it ourselves.  Most of those stories were related to the events
leading up to the tragedy, or those that occurred immediately following it; we
weren’t often exposed to what happened in the hours and days following the
death of an officer.

I left the police community over a year ago in pursuit of a job and an environment
where crime and death existed in the news and not in my every day, where they
were not the substance of my work.  Even though I have moved away in a physical and emotional sense, I still have
contact with some of my former co-workers and still receive information about
the happenings within that police community where I worked for those many
years.  The following “story,” or recounting of events, was written by one of the Phoenix Police Department’s
sergeants after he participated in the aftermath of the recent shooting death
of a police officer in the neighboring city of Glendale, Arizona.  The sergeant’s details fill-in some of the
blanks that have remained in my own knowledge of the events following such a
tragedy, even though I was involved in the communications aspect of this type
of police work for several years.  I came across this writing on Facebook, where I saw it posted a couple of times, with
credit given in both instances to Phil Roberts.

“Anyone wonder what happens to a police officer after
he is killed in the line of duty?  Unfortunately,
I had the sad opportunity, and yet the privilege, to find out firsthand.  Several days ago, 27 year-old Glendale Police
Officer Brad Jones was shot in the line of duty by a suspect who is not worth
the dirt we walk on. From the moment his “brothers and sisters”
arrived on scene, the officer was never alone.  While the fire department treated him,
transported him to the hospital, and during his final moments here on Earth, he
was surrounded by family and fellow officers.  Then when he left the hospital, as a matter of
reality, he had to go to the Medical Examiner’s office.  He was escorted the entire way by officers
from St. Joseph’s Hospital and never left alone.  Twenty-four hours a day, a Glendale officer
was posted at the M.E.’s office.  Brad was never alone.  When he arrived that
fateful morning at the M.E.’s office, every available patrol officer in South
Mountain Precinct in Phoenix, where the M.E.’s office is located, lined the
streets with overhead lights flashing, stood outside their cars and rendered a
hand salute…at 3:30 AM.  Glendale officers
stood the watch with Phoenix officers, constantly checking to see if they
needed anything: a sandwich, a drink or maybe just a brief break.  Brad was never alone.

Then yesterday afternoon it was time for Brad to be delivered to a funeral home.  I was
privileged to be part of an estimated twenty police cars, formed at an
impromptu moment, just from South Mountain Precinct in Phoenix to pay what
respect we could.  We lined 7th Avenue at
the beginning of rush hour, stopped our cars with overhead lights on and
standing at hand salute. As the procession passed the Phoenix Police
Department’s Crime Lab over twenty lab technicians came out to the side of the
street and paid their respects to the M.E.’s vehicle with Phoenix officers
saluting, led by two Glendale motorcycle-officers, a Glendale police car and
two Phoenix police cars as they made their way to the funeral home in Surprise,
Arizona.  Respect, total respect is what
happens to an officer after he is
killed in the line of duty…as it should be. Tonight a wife and two little girls
will go to bed without their father and daddy. But Brad is not alone…he never
was, never has been, and never will be.”

Thank you, Sergeant Roberts.

In the Sky