Bells Canyon…like a memory
From the archives…June 15, 2017…heading toward the falls….
A Glimpse at Bells Canyon’s Upper Falls
After my daughter and I hiked to the lower falls, as featured in this post, we continued up the trail for about another hour and then arrived at the upper falls. Amid the spray and the treacherous footing on the soaked boulders and ground, it was difficult to manage another angle that would have provided a better or more clear perspective or presentation of this natural water-feature.
We stood in literal awe for several minutes, shifted our positions to gain different perspectives, stayed there again for several more minutes, and then retreated a bit into the woods that we had just come through to approach the falls.
You can still see the falling water through the trees to the right and behind my daughter in the above photo, so you can probably imagine how loud it must have been to be so close. There was a pervasive serenity, sitting there in the woods, even with the roaring of the falls as near as they were…with the crashing water on the granite boulders and then the rushing of the stream in front of us….
White patches up in the trees caught my eye….
What a refreshing spray after the steep hike to get there…melted snow…living water….
Just a little further downstream is a bridge that has been chained to the trees on both sides of the bank to prevent the rising and rushing stream from carrying it away. There is a trail that you can take off into the shoulder-high brush that will lead you in a near circular manner out and up to the area just upstream from the top of the falls…and will also eventually lead you to the upper reservoir and beyond.
If you’d like to see an image of the falls later in the season, you can click here to see what they looked like in August of 2013.
Bells Canyon Reservoir and Lower Falls
I have stood in this exact same spot, on a bench mind you, overlooking the Bells Canyon lower reservoir so many times that I cannot begin to number them from memory.
…and I have walked this trail in all seasons, heading toward the lower and upper falls, and even toward the upper reservoir another couple of miles up into the mountains.
If you look closely, in the above and below photographs, you can see a tiny splash of white that is brighter than the rocks below and to the left of it…that white splash is what I perceive to be the lower falls…something that I have observed from several miles down the road, and even as far away as the back balcony of my children’s home in West Jordan on the other side of the Salt Lake Valley. Some might suggest that it is the upper falls, but there are no singular monstrous rocks beneath the upper ones, only the lower ones, where I and my hiking companion sons have rested and snacked after admiring the falls face to face.
Below is a favorite spot along the Bells Canyon stream…another special place that I have photographed multiple times…with snow on the banks and perched like cones or caps on top of the rocks with the water barely trickling among them, or with the rich greens of spring and summer when the water was crashing or running over the tiers of rocks like a flood.
It’s always such a pleasure to stand back and watch as someone beholds the falls for the first time…to see the delight in their eyes, and to watch the slight grin grow into a full-on smile as they are slowly christened with the over-spray and mist….
My daughter shared with me that someone had slipped into the falls a couple of weeks earlier while attempting to jump over the stream that led into them…and of the near futile efforts to locate and recover the body from under the logs where it was eventually found…a rescuer saw a flash of color in the crush of water that didn’t belong in the middle of it all…the red or yellow or blue jacket that was still on the the body….
In the last 100 yards or so climbing up to the falls, more than 30 hikers passed us on their way down the trail…and fortunately, there was only one other person up there when my daughter and I arrived…another quiet individual who we only glimpsed once or twice as we cherished the amazing wonderfulness that surrounded us.
The above photo is from near the spot above the falls where the individual likely attempted to jump across the stream. I have sat there in the past with at least one of my sons…admiring the view and the crush of the melted snow that thundered over the falls…while having a snack of a crisp apple and “Indulgent” trail mix.
My daughter and I continued up the trail to the upper falls (to be shared in a later post)…but this is what it looked like, in the above photo, facing back up the canyon on our return trip down to the reservoir….
And lastly, an afternoon view of the Bells Canyon lower reservoir…. It used to take me 15 minutes to drive to the trailhead for the trail that leads to the reservoir…now it takes more than 10 hours….
At 9,400 feet in elevation, this is under several feet of snow right now, but this is what Bells Canyon upper reservoir looked like in August, 2013. After a moderately strenuous, four-hour hike to reach the location, there is peace to be found along the shore of this desolate, alpine lake. While there is no snow on the Salt Lake Valley floor, it will be another few months before the trails are clear enough for me to make the venture this far up into the mountains…and I can’t wait…..
the preaching of pine trees
“Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts; and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish.”
– John Muir
how to feel small…on horseback….
Another view of Twin Peaks and Bells Canyon from a different perspective…and yes, there are horses with riders…tiny in comparison with the grandness of the mountains…but you can find them about 1/4 of the way up from the bottom…very close to the left edge of the photo….
“It’s great to be alive in the West”
My late father-in-law, Gary, lived in the western United States for all but one or two years of his life. He was born in Montana and then headed down to Arizona to follow the love of his life when he was in his early 20’s. Gary traveled the West extensively while racing and riding motorcycles and dune-buggies, and flying hang-gliders and airplanes…he was an independent spirit who loved life. My sons remember working with their grandfather, painting the house or building a fence…out in the Arizona heat…and making comments about how hot it was outside…and Grandpa used to say “Yep…it’s great to be alive in the West, isn’t it?”
If you’ve been following or visiting my blog for any length of time, you might know or remember that I lived in the Phoenix area for over 20 years before moving to Salt Lake City a couple of years ago…leaving part of my family behind, and bringing another part of it with me. Those who remained in Arizona love the desert and its heat…and most of those who came with me, love the cooler, mountainous region that we now call home. So, while I have left the cactus, tumbleweed, and ungodly heat behind, I can still think fondly of Dad and my desert-dwelling sons and say that yes, it’s great to be alive in the West…but this is my view when doing so.
The mountain to the left of the cloud is Twin Peaks…the opening below the cloud is the entrance to Little Cottonwood Canyon…and the area that you can see below the ridge-line to the right of the cloud is Bells Canyon. I made the photo this morning while hiking/walking along the Dimple Dell Trail, a preserved natural area that runs from near the base of the mountains and into the southern neighborhoods of the Salt Lake Valley.
There is just something about walking, hopping, and crawling across massive boulders that freaks me out. It is difficult to put into words the sensation I feel when stepping onto a rock that weighs several hundreds of pounds, and more, and having it tip with my weight. Ever since I climbed the draw between White Pine Lake and Red Pine Lakes and had to cross a similar boulder field that was literally between 400-500 yards across (and after having watched the movie 127 Hours), I have found them to be incredibly anxiety-provoking. You would think that rocks of this size simply would not even budge with just a person’s weight moving on them…but they do….
I took this photo of a fellow hiker, Raj, on the way back from visiting Bells Canyon Upper Reservoir. We had to cross the boulder field twice during the hike, once each way, up and down, and it was unsettling each time. I had actually made the same hike two weeks earlier by myself, and it was even more nerve-wracking….
Bells Canyon Upper Reservoir
I have not been able to learn much about the history of Bells Canyon and its reservoirs, lower and upper. The canyon is not even listed in the index of the book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket, that details the history of logging, mining, and hydro-electric efforts in the three Wasatch Mountain canyons that border metropolitan Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. There’s probably a good reason for that, too, given that this canyon is south of the most southern of those three canyons, Little Cottonwood, and does not connect to it by any means.
What I do know, however, is that the lower reservoir is only a 15-20 minute hike from the trailhead…and it takes right around five hours to reach this upper reservoir. The trail is somewhere between four and five miles in length and gains right around 4,000 feet in elevation from start to finish.
I only recently discovered (on-line, before making the hike) that there was a dam at the upper reservoir…and even more recently (after arriving at the lake), learned that this dam has also been breached, similar to the dams at the Sister Lakes in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Construction and modification of those dams occurred between 1908-1934 and they were breached in 1972. While conducting a little more research for this post, I did find a digitized picture of the dam being built in 1914…and I’m still looking for more….
If the Bells Canyon reservoirs were built for the same reasons that the Sister Lakes were dammed, it was so that the water from the snow-melt could be held until it was needed for irrigation and other purposes later in the year when the mountain streams were running low.
I made this hike a couple of weeks ago by myself, but on this particular occasion, Son #3 was able to join me and helped provide some perspective for the scenery in the photographs.
My son is right about six feet tall…which means that the water lines on those two trees are about 10-12 feet above the ground…which means that the water in this lake has been significantly deeper than it was on the day of our visit.
Above is another shot provided for perspective’s sake…there’s a man next to the boulder in the lower right corner of the picture….
And below is a last photo provided specifically for perspective, there are two figures sitting on the left side of the opening in the damn. I shot this one from the mountainside on the opposite side of the lake, so it may lose a bit of its resolution if you attempt to zoom-in too closely on the figures.
The below photograph shows a much wider perspective of the northward view, taken from the same location.
And you’ve seen me before….
This was the last view of the lake before we rounded the bend in the trail, dropped down behind the retaining wall of the dam, and could no longer see it….
A couple of weeks ago, I finally managed to find the upper falls in Bells Canyon, just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. My last ventures up into this particular part of the canyon had been in December and February, and there was still three and more feet of snow on the ground. Accumulation of that amount makes it hard to find and follow the trails that are so evident at other times of the year. The scene in this photograph is from an area above those upper falls…as I continued to explore, looking for the trail that leads to the upper reservoir. As this was all new territory for me, it was all I could do sometimes to keep my eyes on the trail so that I would be going forward…I could have stood there for tens of minutes or more at each new vista and would have never made it anywhere on the hike…such a beautiful place….
Driving in Snow
I find that one of the main hazards of driving in snow happens after the snow has fallen, the roads have been plowed, the immediate sky has cleared, and the clouds are gathering again over the mountains to loose another load of the white stuff. It’s rather distracting…in a beautiful way. It’s kind of hard to keep one eye on the car in front of you while using the other eye to keep the mountains lined-up properly in the view-finder…with the camera pointing out the side window…. After several anxious moments and a few close calls, it seemed more prudent to simply pull to the side of the road and take a few seconds longer to make it home. 🙂
This is Mount Olympus…a rather gorgeous part of the Wasatch Mountain range in any weather…
Somewhere around the cloud-filled bowl we can find Bells Peak and Lone Peak on a less cloudy day…
This is historic Wheeler Farm in front of Twin Peaks…
This is also part of Wheeler Farm…just to the left of the above picture…and with the afore-mentioned Mount Olympus in the background…
And this is Twin Peaks again…too pretty not to look at one more time….
These were all taken on my way home from work today…traveling south on 900 East, from around 4800 South to 6000 South, in the greater area of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. I suppose the streets actually went through the towns/cities of Murray and Cottonwood Heights…-ish…or something like that.
We had somewhere between three and five inches of snow last night, depending on how and where you might measure the pretty white stuff…and have a 100% chance of getting 2-4 more inches tonight…so they say….
When it is Summer again….
…I will have loved you for a long, long time again….
Faces of the Falls
This is from my first visit to the Bells Canyon’s lower falls in October 2010…
…and five months later in March 2011….
…and in July 2011 at the height of the snow-melt…it was hard to photograph any closer because of the spray….
…in September 2011…
…and a couple months later in November 2011….
…and now in January 2012…the only time I’ve seen it frozen-over…. I could barely hear the water trickling beneath the ice….
It still thrills my heart to live in a place where there are significantly changing seasons…different times of the year when the natural world puts on another face and shares a side of herself that we would miss if we didn’t visit her often….
Some of My Favorite Places
Life changes as it does and sometimes brings with it a peace that goes beyond words. My new home and new environment have returned my soul to the place where it was born. It is not the same locale where I fell in love with the outdoors, but the geography and essence are the same. Gone are the big city and desert…and here are the mountains…and peace restored. These are some of my new favorite places: