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.
I had only seen one person on the trail so far…and that was a couple of miles back, give or take…continuing upward on a new trail…looking around…so much to see…so much that was new…lots of mining history in the area…looking for tailing piles and boarded up mines…looking and listening…entered bear-country a couple of weekends ago and was mildly concerned at the thick trees and shadows…wide open spaces with nothing but…me and all of that wild…what a beautiful place…and then I heard a snort from nearby…nearby being relative, of course, as everything was essentially near, and if I heard it, it must be a bit closer than just somewhere out there in the canyon…as I was looking around, a dark spot moved on the hillside and snorted again….
I am aware of the less-than-pleasant disposition that moose are reported to have, so I stopped and watched and looked around for more, and seeing no others, proceeded to get my camera prepared for quick shots before the creature disappeared into the woods. Aside from an occasional snort and glance in my direction, this guy kept grazing up the hillside…while I slowly crept further up the trail that was parallel to the direction he was moving…trying to gain a better angle for the shot. I don’t carry a tripod with me when out in the woods, so the bit of blur is a result of the length of zoom and not-quite settled heart-beat after ascending the trail….
Standing behind a couple of pine or fir trees, shooting through an opening…waiting for him to turn and look in my direction again….
I had seen their sign on the way up the trail, huge hoof-prints, huge droppings, and bits of long, black, coarse hair…but not much else…no sounds, anyway. It was hard to tell how old the marks and droppings were, but I kept looking to the sides of the trail for a bit…and then gradually didn’t think more about them. I have seen their sign on other hikes and have only seen them once before…a solitary cow standing in the middle of the early morning trail…. On my return trip back down the trail, a couple of other hikers were stopped ahead of me, had their cameras out, and were pointing up the slope…all we could see was the female…laying there all large and sleepy in the woods. I crept up the slope a couple of steps as the other hikers tucked their cameras away and started down the trail again. As I kept zooming-in and taking increasingly closer shots, it seemed that I could see another ear flicker in the woods behind the cow. The brush was too dense to see more than an outline of the other moose, so I tried to quietly head down the slope and over to the one side where I could see another access that might give me a better vantage point to see who else was back there. Well…the couple of drops of Native American blood that I have remaining from my ancestors waaaay back did nothing to help me sneak-up on the creature that was hiding back there. The bull moose heard me and slowly got up and started ambling through the brush, once or twice turning to look in my direction. Again, the brush was thick and I only managed two non-blurry pictures that give a good indication as to what he looked like…with his antler buds starting to protrude from his forehead.