Exactly six years ago today…in another world.
The camera-phone six hundred and some miles away clicked in my daughter’s hand…fingers poked a message into the screen, and the image was transported across digital waves of something/nothingness and caused a small vibration from my phone…and I found it, many hours later, a tiny treasure…full of meaning and memories…of little ones cuddling on my lap, whispered words of “Papa’s mountains,” and the feel of a trail underfoot…images cascading in flashes of recall…sounds of water crashing or quietly rolling down the canyon…a scent of warm summer pine and wildflower…or the comforting wood-smoke on an icy morning while snow crunched underfoot….
I have crossed that bridge dozens of times…under the thick canopy of spring and summer fullness in the trees above, while the heady aroma of the mountains blew light or strong down the canyon….or atop a foot or more of snow piled high and reassuring, while I stood or knelt and made images of Christmas-tree-like reflections in the ice and snow rimmed stream…and then gone home to little one’s arms around my neck…”Did you have a nice hike, Papa…?”
*Iphound treasure courtesy of K. Brill, 8/31/16, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Salt Lake City, Utah.
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.
Those are Broads Fork Twin Peaks behind the larger tree and just to the right of the center of the image…they are the highest peaks in the portion of the Wasatch Mountains that form the eastern geographic boundary of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
It was probably a Sunday, because it usually was…September 23 of two years ago…hiking in the mountains of Little Cottonwood Canyon, just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah…the Wasatch Mountains in Fall. I would say that it feels like a lifetime ago…with so many changes since then, but it was in my life…then…consistently, richly…and now it is in memories only.
It can all look so different, depending upon one’s location and the season in which one is doing the looking. The peak to the right is named “Sugarloaf” and has a ski-lift and run just outside of the frame to the right. In August of 2011, I found myself standing atop Sugarloaf and then walking the ridge to the point right about in the center of the photo…in that little dip in the ridge just before it begins to climb up into the Devil’s Castle, just left of center. If you’d like to take a look down into Albion Basin from up on that ridge, click on this highlighted link – Cecret Lake and Surround, which is the post I shared after the hike. I made the image below on September 29 of this year…while standing on another ridge on the opposite side of the valley.
I went for a hike this past Sunday and serendipitously found myself on the ridge over Alta, Utah. When I started at the trail-head several miles north, I had no idea that the essentially new-to-me trail would take me all the way over here. I’m glad I followed the footsteps in the snow…..
For those of you interested, the ski village of Alta is located about 9.5 miles up, and at the near-terminus of Little Cottonwood Canyon, one of the three major canyons (the furthest south) that stretch east into the Wasatch Mountains, which form the natural, eastern geographic boundary for the Salt Lake Valley in Utah, USA. To make the photo, I was standing on the ridge at about 9,800 feet in elevation and looking down onto Alta, which is right around 8,600 ft.
My hike started in Days Fork, which is actually in Big Cottonowood Canyon, the next major canyon north of Little Cottonwood. I took the side trail toward Silver Fork Pass, went around the bowl at the terminus of Silver Fork, and found myself along the ridge that provides the northern wall of Little Cottonwood Canyon, and as you can see below, looking down into Alta.
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you might remember a few posts from last year that highlighted the same lake…and if you do remember those images, you might also recall that they sky was bright in its blueness and reflected wonderfully in the surface of the lake. It is amazing how different a place can appear when the clouds and lighting are so strikingly different. Coincidentally, these images below were made exactly one year later than the ones in the earlier posts…to the day.
If you’d like to visit those earlier images, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Red Pine Lake category to be taken to a continuous roll of the earlier posts and photographs.
And for those of you who are interested, Upper Red Pine Lake is at about 10,000 feet in elevation…400 feet higher than Red Pine Lake. The lakes are situated in Red Pine Canyon, one of the tributary canyons or forks that extend south from Little Cottonwood Canyon…just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA…in the Lone Peak Wilderness Area of the Wasatch National Forest. The hike from the trail-head to the upper lake is approximately four miles in length, has an elevation gain of about 2,500 feet, and may take you from 2.5 to 3.5 hours to accomplish…depending on your fitness level……….and how often you stop to make photographs….
Someone, somewhere, some time ago surely, said that we’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day…but it must not matter, certainly doesn’t…somehow can’t possibly…no matter our pedigree or upbringing…it is of no consequence…at all…clearly.
I found these precious Western Pearly Everlastings in a little meadow just off the trail that leads to White Pine Lake in Little Cottonwood Canyon, a little south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
The Western Pearly Everlasting is yet another Wasatch Mountain wildflower, part of the Aster family, formally named “Asteraceae Anaphalis margaritacea,” and it says that we can wear white…whenever…….
Yes, sometimes…after a very long hike when I’m falling asleep and it feels like my boots are still on and the trail is still beneath my feet…when the sounds of the forest whisper quietly in my mind…chuckling streams and the breeze flowing through pine needles and leaves…sometimes then…sometimes in the middle of the day after a Yesterday’s hike, images come unbidden, scenes flash before my mind’s eye as I’m reaching for a pen or typing words into the screen…a flower-speckled meadow, silvery snail tracks across the trail and morning dew on a spider’s web, white broad-petaled flowers tucked into the shadows swaying…craggy skylines, and waterfalls drumming-up a mist before my eyes….yes…sometimes….
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.
My older son and I noticed these ice climbers last Sunday as we were heading up the Little Cottonwood Canyon trail from the Mormon Temple Quarry near the mouth of the canyon. While I have never participated in the sport, I have found myself up near their location on the side of the mountain when I was collecting images for the posts Life on a Rock, Scale or perspective… and Little Cottonwood Canyon Vistas.
If you are having difficulty finding the three climbers, they are just to the right and below of the center of the above photograph…three climbers, two at the top, and one in blue toward the bottom of the icy cascade that is near the horizontal middle of the image.
You might remember the post from December, 2011, when I shared my first encounter/discovery of ice climbers in the Little Cottonwood Canyon. The location from I Found a Frozen Waterfall is probably another mile up into the canyon and on the same side of the mountain, or canyon wall.
The first four images were from the beginning of our hike, shortly after 9:00 a.m. …and before the sun had made its way over the canyon walls…and the last two photos were taken at the end of the hike, close to four hours later. While it was still an overcast day, the light had changed the appearance of the snow and canyon from the blue hues to the more gray and subdued colors that are not uncommon for our winter mountains.
My son, with his more-than-slightly younger ears, could hear the climbers’ picks smacking into the icy walls, just a “tick…tick……tick” from across the hundreds of yards that separated us, the sound traveling easily in the quiet mountain air, from however many feet above us.
This is the drainage from the two/three lakes waaay up at the top of the trail…maybe not technically called “Red Pine Stream,” but that’s what it is, so…. I took this a couple of weeks ago when Fall was barely making its presence known in our Wasatch Mountains….
These photographs were taken somewhere between one and two miles up into Little Cottonwood Canyon along the shore of its very own stream or creek. The running body of water actually begins about nine miles east of where these pictures were made…up into the canyon, just past the ski town of Alta, at a small-ish alpine lake called Cecret Lake…with that spelling. The lake is situated at about 11,500 feet in elevation…and eleven miles down from there, at around 4,500 feet, the stream enters the Salt Lake City metropolitan area…. So, these pieces of wood may have traveled all of those miles or only some of them…and maybe came from around 7,000 feet higher than where I found them…at any rate, I think they’re rather pretty…rich in color the way the earth is…from whence they came…and where they shall return in their elemental forms….
I’ve mentioned before that the Little Cottonwood Canyon stream is empty for part of the year, as the water is diverted into collection points, sent to treatment facilities, and then included in the municipal water supplies for the greater Salt Lake City metropolitan area. There is a time of the year, however, when the stream is allowed to run, as it contains too much water from the snow-melt to be collected in its entirety. I rather enjoy the stark contrast in the images of the empty stream-bed and the full and rushing stream.
This photo was taken in April, 2012 before the season’s snow-melt…
And this photo was taken at the same location in July, 2011 during the height of the season’s snow-melt…