Days Fork – I

Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of the three major canyons in the Wasatch Mountain range that creates a beautiful and natural eastern boundary for the greater Salt Lake City metropolitan area.  The early years of pioneer settlement saw the canyons being ravaged for their lumber…stands of pristine forest with pine and fir trees that had diameters between three and four feet across were taken down to build houses, supply wood for stoves and furnaces, and for developing industry.

As the years passed, and as the political climate of the Salt Lake area changed, exploitation of the canyon’s natural resources continued in the form of mining for precious metals.  The early 1860s saw numerous individuals and companies filing claims with the local courts so they could dig into the mountainsides and remove what they might…often packing the ore down their constructed roadways with wagons and mule-carts, and later with narrow-gauge railcars, depending on their location.  The pretty flower shown below is a Sticky Geranium.

If you looked at a map of the area’s canyons today, you would be able to identify gulches, tributary canyons, and various forks in the mountains by the names of people who had filed either mining or lumber claims in the particular areas…or had built a road into the woods and charged a toll for each wagon load of lumber…or who had been the “first” (Anglo?) to explore particular peaks or ridges…or had been a mine superintendant…or….  Albion Basin, near Alta, at the end of Little Cottonwood Canyon, received its name from the Albion Mining Company; Alexander Basin in Millcreek Canyon was named after a man and his sons who harvested trees from a particular slope…and Days Fork was likely named after one of the Mormon settlers who filed a mining claim in the area.  Day was a common name among the pioneers, but it is not known which particular one filed the claim in this tributary canyon of Big Cottonwood Canyon proper.

Those blurred and brownish cone-looking things in the below photo are Western Coneflowers…they’re part of the Sunflower family.

The eventual goal of this and the next two posts is to share my hike up the three-plus mountain miles that lead to the Days Fork mine near the canyon’s terminus; I could just share the pictures of the abandoned mine site, but as with many other pursuits in life, it’s not so much the destination that counts, as it is the journey that takes us there….  I’m told that the brownish, chewed-off branches or sticks that you can see in the photo below are actually young willow trees…a favorite snack/meal of the moose who wander the area.

For those of you who are interested, the trail is reported to be three and a half miles in length and gains 2,000 feet in elevation from start to finish, ending at 9,400 feet.  I had hoped to capture interesting images of the rocks that you can see in the above trail…but ended-up with the below image of one part blurred rock, one part not-blurred rock, and one part beautiful water-droplets-on-grass-blades from the previous evening’s rain.

The historical information I mentioned above can be found in The Lady in the Ore Bucket, by Charles L. Keller…a retired engineer and an avocational historian who still leads hiking excursions into the local canyons…at more than 80 years of age….

I am still struck by the beautiful examples of the circle-of-life that I find on my canyon and mountainside hikes…like the sapling that is growing next to the broken trunk of an ancient tree that is slowly returning to the earth…its minerals nourishing the new tree that will take his place in the forest landscape, providing food and shelter for the small animal life and recycling life-sustaining elements that will be used again and again by his forest neighbors.

The above flower is a Colorado Columbine…a weighty name that evokes memories of a horrible event in our modern history of America….  I often find the flower standing alone, or with only a couple of blossoms on a single plant…making me wonder how it got there and why there are no others around it.  I understand seed dispersal through winds and bird/animal droppings, but it still strikes me as strange that there aren’t more together, or at least nearby, when I find one or two of these alluring and beautiful flowers.

I believe the flowers below are Mountain Daisies…although, some of the pictures I’ve found of flowers with that name show varieties with wider and fewer petals…and others with white and yellow petals…so I’m not absolutely certain…but they do look like daisies, and I did find them on a mountain…so they’re Mountain Daisies anyway….  🙂

You can see the large white patches of Cow Parsnip in the mountain meadow shown below…beautiful umbellifers that can grow to several feet in height after particularly wet winters and springs.  Can you imagine standing there on the trail with me…absolutely nobody else around for at least a couple of miles…or more…?  A slight breeze stirs the pine branches overhead…causes a ripple in the wild grass and flowers in the meadow…and brings the scent of wet forest mulch, like a natural perfume rising from the earth itself….

More to follow….

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28 responses

  1. Looks like a great hike, Scott! Thanks for the history tidbits as well as the photos…

    August 15, 2012 at 8:10 am

    • Thank you, Ruth…it was a great hike…it had nice overcast sky and an afternoon shower of about 45 minutes, as well. And you’re welcome for the history tidbits. 🙂

      August 16, 2012 at 6:36 am

  2. Lovely Scott.

    August 15, 2012 at 8:14 am

    • Thank you, Chillbrook.

      August 16, 2012 at 6:36 am

  3. Great post . . . but then I’m partial to narratives.

    August 15, 2012 at 8:52 am

    • Thank you, Emilio…I’ve noticed that. 🙂

      August 16, 2012 at 6:37 am

  4. Victoria

    Great post and great pics (as always).
    Thanks for sharing your hike with us.

    August 15, 2012 at 9:00 am

    • Thank you, Victoria…and you’re most welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed the hike. 🙂

      August 16, 2012 at 6:38 am

  5. I hope I can do this some day, Scott–reading your narrative, I feel that part of me is already there, standing beside you.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:18 am

    • It’s a wonderful experience, Gary…and I’m glad you could be there with my words. If you manage to make it to SLC, drop me a note and bring your hiking boots…. 🙂

      August 16, 2012 at 6:45 am

  6. Beautiful place. I’m reading a book called “The Wild Trees” by Richard Preston, which is about finding and climbing giant redwoods in California. Your pictures remind me of the descriptions of the hidden valleys and canyons where these 3000 year old mega-trees are found. I think your Mountain Daisy might be an Aster, but I can’t see enough of the foliage to be 100% sure.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    • Thank you, Allen…and that book sounds fascinating. I’ve not seen the trees yet, but understand that they are nearly beyond words. I think you’re correct with regard to that flower photo…they are identical to the Aster photos I just found on Google…thank you. 🙂

      August 16, 2012 at 6:53 am

  7. Gorgeous. It is indeed the journey that counts…Enjoy!

    Scott, you lived in Phoenix, correct?
    I was there a couple of years ago climbing at Queen Creek Canyon. An incredible place, also in threat of (further mining) development. 😦
    Have you been there?

    August 15, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    • Thank you, Karen…and I’m loving the journey. 🙂

      Yes, I did live in Phoenix, but never made it to Queen Creek Canyon. I lived on the extreme opposite side of town and didn’t go hiking but a couple of times when I lived there. I had heard that the Queen Creek area essentially exploded in population growth in the last few years that I was there, though…it was so far from the metropolitan area and housing prices were incredibly low, so there was quite a rush of folks moving in that direction. I don’t remember anything about the mining development in the area at the time, but Arizona also has a rich mining history, so I’m not surprised.

      August 16, 2012 at 6:59 am

  8. Scott you are a mine of interesting information………. fascinating stuff ………. and you are so very observant,……. as well as taking the time to photograph all that you see so beautifully……….its like a breath of that fresh air from those mountain trails…….. great.

    August 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    • Thank you, Sir John…such nice words. 🙂

      August 16, 2012 at 7:01 am

  9. Thanks for taking us along on yet another refreshing hike. I didn’t even run out of breath! 😉

    August 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    • You’re very welcome, Gunta…and I’m glad you made it this far and still have your breath…but we’re not to the mine yet…. 🙂

      August 16, 2012 at 7:03 am

  10. How wonderful that the beauties of nature survived the exploitation. I particularly enjoyed the pictures, and the first was in my head all the way through.

    August 16, 2012 at 12:59 am

    • It is wonderful that the beauties of nature survived the exploitation, Shimon…and I had considered using that theme in naming these posts…something like “In spite of us.” The three canyons, along with other surrounding mountain areas, became part of the national forest system in the early 1900s, so they have had a bit of time to recover from the damage of the earlier years. The forest service actually went in and planted hundreds of thousands of trees, over a period of several years, in their efforts to return the area to its natural state.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures, Shimon…I can still see that first one in my mind, as well…thank you. 🙂

      August 16, 2012 at 7:10 am

  11. Nice flowers in this nice canyon, Seekraz, whatever happened before…

    August 16, 2012 at 4:40 am

    • Thank you, Bente…and yes, despite the damage of the earlier years, it is a beautiful place again…..

      August 16, 2012 at 7:11 am

  12. Awesome! Need I say more?! Blessings – Patty

    August 16, 2012 at 9:44 am

    • Thank you, Patty. 🙂

      August 17, 2012 at 7:00 am

  13. That’s very pretty terrain, Scott! I’d enjoy hiking it. After seeing those mountains at a distance and wondering about them, I’m just amazed at what they are really like! And pleased that they are so beautiful up close!

    August 16, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    • It is hard to imagine what the mountains and canyons offer from the distance of the freeway and the city streets…they have soooo much for us out there. I’m glad you have enjoyed the pictures, Terry….

      August 17, 2012 at 7:02 am

  14. I ditto John Smith. As I was standing there with you, I half expected somebody say, “Boo!” Be careful up there alone. I assume you take along some means of summoning help when you back up off a cliff setting up a shot! 😉 I am truly enjoying your photographs and your history lessons.

    August 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    • Well, thank you, George…I’m very happy that you were with John and me out there…glad you had that sense of being there. And yes, I have that feeling sometimes, too, of wondering when someone will pop out from behind a bush or come around the bend unexpected. And a means of summoning help…well…I do have my phone with me and it often picks-up the signal pretty well…other than that, it’s just the habit of leaving a note as to where I’m going, and having a rule that I’m always home before dark. I usually get back well before dusk, and given that I’m usually alone, I don’t really take any risks with climbing ledges, etc…. I want to be able to go back out there the next weekend and would imagine that a broken leg or back would be rather prohibitive of further adventures…for a while anyway. 🙂

      Thank you again, my friend…and I’m very happy that you enjoy my photographs and tidbits of our local history.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:13 pm

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