Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Point of this blog

Every year it seems that winter drags on for ever. And then all of a sudden, spring explodes into summer. During the every spring and summer I catch neat little glimpses of the change of seasons- new leaves on a tree, wildflowers on the hills above my house, a new bird call when I wake up in the morning. As Spring builds into Summer, and I work my way higher on outings into the mountains, I see the changes continuing higher up- aspen leaves darkening, and columbine giving way to Indian paintbrush.

And then before I know it, the maple leaves are turning red, and I know that another living, growing year is almost gone. And always, I have a sense of having somehow missed it. Missed the essence of the Living Year itself.

I’m in my forties now, and like most forty-somethings, I’m starting to have those I-won’t be-young-forever thoughts. Most of them are pretty standard- thinking about spending more time with my kids, where I’m heading in my career, etc. But this past winter (a long cold winter) I had a different forty-something thought, and it was this:

One day, most likely some thirty-five or forty years from now, I’ll be facing death. And when I do, unless it’s smack in the middle of Spring, I will think wistfully that I never did take the time and spend the effort to really see, experience and understand how the world wakes up in and through every Living Year.
I know rationally that everyone who dies with at least a moment’s warning is bound to die with at least some regrets. I know I can’t change that. But this year, above all else, I will change one thing about my future, so that when I face death one day, my regrets will at least not include having missed the change. This year, I will watch the world wake up.


I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, near the mouth of Emigration Canyon. I work 5 days/week, and travel frequently out-of-state. When I’m in town, I usually get out into the foothills or mountains several times per week. In the spring, I’m mainly in the foothills, and work my way up higher as the season progresses. Most commonly I explore the foothills before work, by foot or mountain bike. The past couple weeks I’ve been biking out from my house in the dark, riding up into the foothills as the sun comes up, and returning home shortly before dawn. This is what it typically looks like ½ way through my morning ride:

I tend to cover the same ground a few times a week this way, and on the weekends I usually hike somewhere in the same area with my kids, most often the Wasatch foothills between Emigration and City Creek canyons.

For much of its length, the Wasatch doesn’t have foothills. Down between Mill Creek and Corner canyons, the mountains pretty much launch straight up at the sky. But up North the valley benches lift up into true foothills. Between 5,000 and 7,000 feet the foothills are covered with a mix of open grass/scrub and woodland/chaparral.

The keyword for all of this cover right now, is BROWN. Brown grass, brown brush, brown trees. But over the next 2 months it’ll explode into life, and I plan to watch closely as it does.

The grass/scrub will be carpeted with a succession of wildflowers, which I’ll photograph and research as I find them. Even now, in the brown and mud, I’ve found these two tiny flowers over the past 3 days, which I’ve been as yet unable to ID.

The woodland/chaparral consists almost overwhelmingly of exactly 3 species of trees, in order of preponderance: Gambel Oak, Bigtooth Maple, Curleaf Mountain Mahogany.

Right now the Mountain Mahogany is the only bit of green on the foothills. You can see a few in this photo towards the top of Wire Peak, across the street from the zoo:

It’s an evergreen, and I’ll write more about it in future posts.

On this morning’s ride, I saw:

-1 porcupine (in the dark, by the mouth of Dry Creek as I was heading up)
-1 coyote (in the light, same place, on the return)
~dozen or so deer (several places. These things are so common I hardly notice them…)
-2 scrub jays and a bunch of magpies getting into it over something, near Huntsman Cancer Institute
-1 human. A paraglider. He passed over me as I was returning on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, right by Huntsman. A moment later I pooped out of the trailhead onto Colorow Way and there he was, just having landed, folding up his chute. He said he’d hike up Wire Peak and glided back down. “Nice way to start the day” he said. I agree.


SLW said...

Ahh, we have something in common. Two things, anyway: foothills and being equinox initiates to the world of blogging.

Kind of you to stop by, and yes, FF will be back. It's just that I'm generating such a backlog now that I hardly know where to jump in again. Thanks for the encouragement-- always nice to know someone's paying attention.

The one on the left is crane's bill, stork's bill, redstem filaree, Erodium cicutarium. Need more photos of the one on the right (or maybe we don't have it here). Keep on paying attention!

Watcher said...


Thanks for the Crane's Bill ID, and I look forward to FF starting back up!

Jenni said...

can you put the links in a color other than light blue? They're hard to see and I plan to be reading your blog a bunch. (:O)