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.
“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
This photo picks-up exactly where we left of in the earlier post, Days Fork I…the image is only slightly different, providing just a touch of another perspective…anyway, here we are, heading toward the mine near the end of the road/trail…and we are enjoying the journey…because that’s what it’s all about….
I think I turned around and looked behind me more on this hike than I have on most others. This is the only trail that I’ve been on in the Wasatch Mountain canyons that border Salt Lake City where I’ve seen a sign warning that this was BEAR COUNTRY. The sign was posted in the Spruce’s Campground area where the Days Fork trail actually starts. So it was a little freaky for a bit of the hike, especially walking on the trail that skirted the woods…and then went into the meadow…and then skirted the woods again. I was trying to imagine where I would be more likely to see one…would it be in the open meadow, on the mostly clear hillside, similar to where I saw the moose in Cardiff Fork…or would it be in the thicker pine woods…? I mentioned all of that to say that this is a shot of my back-trail. The tree in the immediate right foreground is the same smaller tree that you saw in the above photo, just to the left of center.
And the beautifully textured bark in this photo is from the tree that you can see to the left of the trail in the above picture….
This almost looks like some of the red rocks that one can see in Kanab, Utah…or in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Forest in the southern part of our state. If you’d like to see some beautiful photographs of those last two areas, stop-by for a visit with Kerry Liebowitz at his Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog. He just completed a series of his twelve-day photo-excursion to southern Utah and northern Nevada…stunning photography. The below photo is my version of a red-rock canyon wall…but from the inside of a decaying tree stump….
Indian Paintbrush flowers come in at least two varieties here in our Utah mountains…this wide-petalled version and another with more spikey petals. I’ve noticed the spikey version at higher altitudes than the other…. Wikipedia says that there are around 200 species of the flower, ranging from Alaska down to the Andes Mountains in South America, as well as in northern Asia and Siberia….
I want to say that this is a White Pine laying in a bed of Lupine, but I could be wrong on both counts…. Whatever they are, they struck me as beautiful…and notice the “baby” pine tree tucked against the side of the downed tree…more of that fascinating circle-of-life stuff.
I would say that this was essentially the first sign of the mine after I rounded a bend and came up the hill a bit…. You can see the pile of tailings there in the middle of the photo. It’s my understanding that all of that dirt and rock came out of the mountain, shovel-full piled upon shovel-full and after a bit, it became a platform upon which the men worked as they dug their mine…or in this case, dug a shaft a couple of hundred feet down to a tunnel that had already been dug into the area from the other side of the ridge.
Remains of something…maybe just a retaining wall to prevent the earth from spilling back down onto the now almost non-existent road.
In his book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket, author Charles L. Keller tells us that mining activities were conducted in Days Fork for many years. He also mentions that the “best-known remnant from those days is the remains of the Eclipse Mine” (p. 205)…the rusted contraptions of what-not that we can see in the following photos. While there was something about all of this that I found (and still find) incredibly fascinating and interesting, I still had the thoughts going through my head about why it was all still out there…. It struck me as being analogous to “space junk,” all of our left-over pioneer, trail-blazing garbage that we just didn’t want to drag back home with us. But then I kept taking pictures, and kept walking around, kept getting eye-ball-close to the tangible remains of a history that helped make the place what it is today. Keller said that the mine operated from late 1877 until early 1888 when it was reported to have burned to the ground…nothing remained but what you see in the photos of this and the next post, along with some huge timbers and cord-wood that managed to return to the earth in one fashion or another.
I understand that these are the remains of the hoist motor that lowered lumber and supplies down into the tunnels that connected with those of the Flagstaff Mine that was being operated on the other side of the ridge that you can see in the background. Within a couple of years of this mine’s discovery and subsequent addition to the other mine’s tunnel complex, about 10 tons of ore were being extracted from this mine per day…none of it came up this shaft and out through Days Fork, but it was extracted from this mine.
Below is another view of the hoist motor (probably/maybe?), one of the three remaining boilers, and some miscellaneous pipe.
More to follow….
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….
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….