It’s been almost a full year since I drove away from the Salt Lake City area to return to my former and current home in Phoenix, Arizona. During this year, I have longed for a return to “my mountains” and the canyons and trails that occupied so many of my weekends when I lived there….and while I haven’t actually made the drive or taken a flight to make it back up there yet, I have visited it often in my mind and through the medium of the hundreds and thousands of images that I made while I was there.
I just made a rough count of my photo library, and if it’s anywhere near correct, I went on hikes or exploratory excursions into the Wasatch Mountains at least 140 times during my 3.75 years of living in the Salt Lake area. I forgot (I don’t know how!!) my camera on one occasion, but it was with me on the other 99.21% of those hikes. And, of those 140 ventures into the mountains and canyons in my “back-yard,” I visited Little Cottonwood Canyon at least 27 times…sometimes hiking only the first half, other times just the second half, sometimes hiking to a specific spot on the winter stream to capture images of the magical ice patterns and formations, and on other occasions hiking from one end to the other and then exploring further into the area beyond what was considered part of the formal trail…further away from the tracks and traces of people, into what we might consider the “wilderness,” both figuratively and literally, as certain areas of this section of the Wasatch Mountains had been designated official Wilderness Areas by the federal government.
The western-most trail-head to Little Cottonwood Trail is located at the eastern-most end of the parking-lot for the Temple Quarry nature trail….and it was roughly a 15 minute drive from my home…. I visited the canyon during all seasons, as you can see from the three galleries…Spring and Summer in the first, Fall in the second, and magical Winter in the third.
Having lived in the urban desert of Arizona for more than 20 years before moving to Utah, it was amazing and wonderful to my mountain-loving soul to find myself is such an environment…every vista made my heart soar…and near every glance around made me want to capture its image for safekeeping against a day when I might not be able to view it again. And…it was a thrill to bring those photographs back home and look at them again on the computer…and then share them with you here on the blog….so you might recognize some, or many of these images.
And finally, the beauty and magic of Winter in the Wasatch Mountains…Little Cottonwood Canyon viewed from afar and from very close. While it was often incredibly cold, I enjoyed being out and in the canyon at this time of year. It was so captivating visually, that even with freezing fingers, I stayed out there for several hours at a time, slowly walking the trail, perching precariously over the ice-cold stream, and climbing over boulders in the forest and in some portions of the winter dry stream-bed (most of the water being captured upstream to be piped into town for drinking water).
While this post is for everyone to enjoy, I brought these images together specifically for one of my dear blog friends, George Weaver, at She Kept a Parrot and The Fuzzy Foto. Ever since George and I stumbled across each other’s blogs, shortly after I moved to Utah almost five years ago, she has been a constant blog companion, following me on hikes through the mountains and canyons, and admiring the treasures of photos that I brought home to share. At first, she said the mountains looked fearsome, but she came to love them and looked forward to seeing them week after week. George came to especially enjoy Little Cottonwood Canyon…and we have agreed that if we were ever to meet in the Hereafter, it was going to be on the trail in this little piece of mountain heaven.
Thank you for your encouragement and companionship, George….sending you peaceful thoughts and a warm embrace.
If you are a newer visitor to this blog, you might not have seen the earlier posts that I shared on White Pine Lake…and if you have been visiting for a while, you might remember them – White Pine Lake in September, Toward White Pine Lake, and White Pine Lake Reflections. If you’re interested, you can click on each of the highlighted names to be taken back to the other posts, or you can scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the “White Pine Lake” category and find all of them together.
Because I’ve already shared much of what I know about the place and various photos that show you what it looks like getting to the lake, I’ll just share a few additional images that I made a couple of weeks ago. I will also add that each trip to the lake, once each year for the past three, has been a treasure…. I would suggest that there’s some kind of magic up there that infuses the heart with peace and the mind with wonder and amazement…but it’s not really magic…it’s a bit of mountain air and solitude and a mightily concentrated dose of Mother Nature shot straight into your veins………OK, so maybe it is magic, anyway……
I hope you enjoy this batch of Wasatch Mountain wonderfulness.
This is something of a follow-up or companion piece to my recent post, Toward White Pine Lake. These are some of my favorite photos from this particular visit. I hope you’ll enjoy them, too….
And the last one with a human stuck in there for perspective’s sake…don’t know who you are, but thanks for being there….
The trail-head for White Pine Lake is located about 5.5 miles up into Little Cottonwood Canyon, which is just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. This is the same trail-head used to access the Red Pine Lakes, both Lower and Upper. The drainage, or tributary canyon/fork that leads to White Pine Lake is just east of the one leading to the Red Pine Lakes. You might remember my three earlier posts on Upper Red Pine Lake. You can refresh your memory by clicking here, here, and here to revisit those posts. The trail to White Pine Lake is just over four miles in length and has an elevation gain of a little more than 2,300 ft…the lake is situated at around 10,000 ft.
In his book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket, Charles L. Keller tells us that lumber operations were conducted in this area from the mid-1860’s until about 1881…the area was referred to as the White Pine Fork of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
I haven’t found precise dates for it, but mining operations were also conducted in the area, with work possibly continuing into the early to mid 1900’s. I offer the date of the early 1900’s because I have found a bit of narrow-gauge rail along the shore of White Pine Lake that was similar to other rail that I found at a different location in Big Cottonwood Canyon that had a production city and date on it…but I’m really guessing here….
Can you find the two people in the below photograph? They’re about one-third of the way up and just to the right of the large rock in the center of the bottom edge of the photo.
Keller references mining operations in Little Cottonwood Canyon proper, mostly around the area of Alta, but does note several times that miners referred to their claims in the White Pine Fork. I have found an article by David A. John which details the reported amounts of precious metals taken from the ground in the Central Wasatch Mountain area, but again, nothing specifically noting what was taken out of White Pine Fork and over what period. It also notes that mining operations were conducted in the Wasatch area for over 100 years, beginning in 1862, a date that Keller has also used for the advent of mining activities in the region. The highlighted article above also details exploration and drilling activities for molybdenum in White Pine Fork during the 1960’s and 1970’s, but again, doesn’t mention anything about specific mining operations for the metal.
There is a solitary figure of a man in the below photograph…about one-third of the way up from the bottom, toward the right of center….
This mass of snow-covered hill (on the left) in the photo below is called “Red Baldy,” if I’m not mistaken…and most of the snow was melted on this front surface by the time I was leaving the lake.
Another shot to help with scale, there are two people in the below photograph, right at the juncture where the trail curves slightly back to the left near the bottom edge….
The water-level appears to be somewhere between 20 and 25 feet below the water-mark on the side of the basin. I haven’t included it in this post, but I have a photograph of a man standing on the shore and the line of the water- mark seems to be about four times higher than he is tall.
Even though the water is much lower, it still provides a beautiful reflection….
I spent a couple of hours searching for anything that could shed some light on the history of the dam, but could only find one very brief reference to it being built in 1920…and then nothing else. The topic isn’t covered in Keller’s book, as it intentionally details the history of the three-canyon area only up to the first decade or so of the 1900’s. Where he does step further into the next century, it appears to be auxiliary information related to the culmination or end-points of topics that have been covered extensively.
Just out of frame at the bottom right-hand corner of the below photo is the grate that covers the exit portal/drain in the wall of the dam. The water-level appears to be just below the bottom edge of the drain…so I don’t know if the water had been released from the lake, or if it was truly that low because of the much lighter snowfall this past winter. I’ve shared photographs of other lakes with greatly diminished water-levels this year, including The Great Salt Lake…so I’d guess that this one is lower for the same reason.
This last photograph is from my post White Pine Lake in September from 2011. You can see by this photo that the water-level was much higher at the time. If you’d like to see more images of the lake from that earlier visit, simply click on the highlighted name to follow the link back to the post. The difference in the lake’s appearance between the two years is incredible.
Please watch for a following post titled, “White Pine Lake Reflections”…coming soon….
I don’t remember the sensation or feeling of having been there before, when I was actually there and lakeside, but when I look back at these pictures, I can’t help feeling that I’ve seen this place somewhere in my past. Upon further reflection, though, what comes to mind are images that I remember seeing in my mind’s eye when I read E. Annie Proulx’s, “The Shipping News.” The rocky shorelines of White Pine Lake remind me of what I imagined the coastline of Newfoundland to look like. Anyway…it was a cloudy day and the dark blue-green and steel of the water seem to offer a beautiful complement to the steel and white and gray of the cloudy mountain sky…and vice versa…or something like that.
These photos were taken on the trails to and from White Pine and Red Pine Lakes. Both lakes are situated in canyon areas that extend south of Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Mountain Front.