Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Catch Up: a Flower, a Blog and a Hole

Change of plans. I’m going to do the post I alluded to on that cool foothills flower tomorrow, and use today’s post to catch up on a few other things.

A Flower

IMG_9121 First, right after I did yesterday’s post, mentioning that Glacier Lilies should be coming up “any day now”, I thought “they’re probably already up.” Sure enough I hopped on my bike and pedaled over to the mouth of Dry Creek, and they’re all over the place. It’s such a pretty flower, so easy to ID, and recognize all the parts. If you live along the Wasatch, even if you’re not really into plants, you owe it to yourself to keep an eye out for these guys over the next couple weeks, and stop at least once to check one out close up. IMG_9122(If you want to know more about Glacier Lilies, check out the post I did on them last year.)

Seriously, how can you not be totally smitten by a flower this good-looking? Let’s have another shot.

A Blog

Second, it’s been a while since I updated my blogroll, and I’ve added an awesome blog today. Beetles in the Bush is the blog of Ted MacRae, a Missouri entomologist. cropped-ted-and-celeripes-loc1081red Ted’s blog has of course, many great posts about invertebrates, and specifically beetles, but he doesn’t limit himself to just insects. He also posts regularly on botany and other topics, and his recent Lake Tahoe Conifer series is outstanding. (Seriously, before your next trip to Tahoe, check out those 2 posts.) He also- like me- enjoys blogging about things encounters away from home, and both the Tahoe series and Sunday’s post on the Coral Pink Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle (yet another reason for me to get back down there) are great examples.

Ted’s also been a welcome, constructive and extremely helpful commenter on this blog over the few weeks since we’ve found each other, and I’m exceedingly grateful for his time and patience in a repeatedly helping out a total Bug-Newbie*.


Finally, I should mention that Ted is also an avid cyclist, confirming that we are in fact, kindred spirits. Go check out his blog, and keep an eye on it through the year; you’ll be smarter for it.

Side Note: Big thank-you to reader Tomodactylus for clueing me in to Ted’s blog. It’s hard to aware of all the fine science/nature blogs out there, and I really appreciate readers letting me know of great ones.

A Hole

The last catch-up item is rather less cheerful; it’s a hole. Yet another hole, that is.

One of the great things about living on the edge of urban/suburban development (I live about ~1/2 mile from singletrack) is the wonderfully easy access to open spaces. But that easy access has a dark side: the open spaces you frequent most are often those most threatened by development.

BST UNHM Map I’ve been living along the Wasatch for nearly 14 years, and with the exception of a 3-year “break” down in Holladay, have spent all of those years living on the East side of Salt Lake City. During those years I’ve married, had 3 kids, and a series of busy jobs. My schedule over those years has meant that a huge portion of my time outdoors has been in the form of early morning/early evening mtb rides along the foothills between Emigration Canyon and the Ensign Peak radio towers. Every time another chunk of land along that stretch gets torn up for a new building, it feels like an old friend has up and moved away.

Sat Zoom UNHM cut One of the least attractive was ~5-6 years back, when the NPS Pharmaceuticals building went up along Colorow Way. NPS has since gone under, but its taste-free box-like architecture still stands strong. The NPS building took out a short but wonderful little trail we used to call “Rikki Tikki Tavi.” RTT was a short connector trail between Shoreline and Colorow Way, and it twisted tightly through a beautiful little Scrub Oak woodland. It was flat and non-technical, but twisted so much, through trees so tightly-spaced, that you always felt wonderful when you cleaned it. (It featured a gap between 2 oaks that absolutely could not be passed with a handlebar wider than 24”.) It was also a charming little walking trail for small children, a quick escape into a “secret” little forest.

IMG_9067This past year, the lot immediately Northeast of the NPS got taken out, for the new Utah Museum of Natural History. The construction has obliterated and blocked a 100+ yard stretch of the Shoreline Trail, necessitating an awkward and often traffic-clogged detour to continue Northward toward Dry Creek. This stretch of trail is/was probably the most popular, well-used piece of dirt in Utah, with bikers, hikers, runners, families, dogs, even landing paragliders.

The irony of this location is that it so negatively impacts exactly the type of people who are most likely to patronize a natural history museum. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you can probably well imagine how much I enjoy visiting such museums, and that is indeed the case. Taking the Trifecta over to the existing museum on the U. of Utah campus has been a regular Watcher-family-rainy-day activity for several years now; we’re close to “regulars.” I’ll be torn taking them to the new museum; I’m sure it’ll be a nice facility, and I won’t deny my kids the experience out of pique, but I know the building will always rub me the wrong way.

Side Note: To a certain extent, I blame myself. My active resistance was both too late and too little, consisting of a letter to the paper, and signing various emailed petitions. If ever there was a good reason for me to lie down in front a bulldozer (a la Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) the new museum was it.

IMG_9117 Yesterday morning, as part of the bad-karma-detour around the worksite, I pedaled up the access road to the Red Butte Garden lot. Instead of turning left on Shoreline I continued another 20 feet uphill and rode into the lot. For years I’ve made a slight side-trip here to catch a fun little 30-foot-long feeder trail that drops from the lot through some tight Oaks back onto the main trail. But at the end of the lot, this is what greeted me- another new pile of dirt, obliterating the trailhead, for some new, as-yet unknown- construction project in the Garden.

Tangent: In fairness, I should acknowledge some of the many fine trail developments in Salt Lake Country during my time here. Surely the construction of the Shoreline Trail between Dry Creek and City Creek has been one of the county’s smartest moves ever.

Nested Tangent: Although if like me, you’ve been around long enough to remember the pre-Shoreline Dry Creek ride, you may share the same reminiscent twang I sometimes do when recalling the technical singletrack and rock gardens that preceded it, and the thrill of cleaning the oh-so-dicey ascent for the first time…

And the City of Draper has done a fine job showcasing the natural beauty of much of Traverse Ridge with the fine hiker-biker trail network they’ve constructed over the last few years. And then of course the trails and open spaces of Summit County offer an admirable compromise between continued development and preservation of accessible open space but then Summit County has always seemed a bit more “Colorado” than “Utah”, which brings me to…

As longtime readers may recall, I lived in Colorado for 5 years before moving to Utah. I know that comparing current/past places you’ve lived is a little like comparing current/past spouses (or girlfriends/boyfriends, for you “oncers” out there.) It’s tempting and oh-so-easy to do, but in the long run, it’s probably generally best to refrain from doing so; making comparisons doesn’t change past homes or loves, and it’s best to look forward.

And to be sure, when I do succumb to the temptation of comparison. Utah wins handily. The smaller size, quick metro-to-canyon access, finer skiing, mild traffic, low cost-of-living, close-in airport and easy access to desert make it a better home for me*.

*OK so yes, now I am doing exactly what I just told you not to do in the preceding paragraph. I swear, I should rename this blog www.allmybadadvice.blogspot.com

But when I think of open spaces, and specifically support for and attitudes around them, Colorado is the clear winner. The counties of the Front Range have long made progressive decisions, actions and investments to protect key parcels of open space throughout the foothills. My former home, Jefferson County, was a wonderful example. They had (still have, I think) a 1% sales tax dedicated solely to acquiring (and to some degree, protecting and/or developing) open space.

GFox Map Behind my old house in Evergreen, Berrian Mountain was one such undeveloped example, and a point I scrambled up at least a couple of times a year when I lived there. Nowadays, a couple of times a year I sneak a peak via the satellite photos on Google Maps. It’s still there, green, forested and unbroken: a lovely refuge, protected from roads, or houses, or even museums.

OK, new flower tomorrow. Really.


Rachel said...

The glacier lily is beautiful. Thanks for sharing it. It may now tie with my favorite: white columbine.

Kori said...

Hey! My brother and his family live in Evergreen. Having been to both Colorado (Evergreen and nearby areas) and Utah (SLC, Ogden, Park City, and Corinne), it would be tough for me to choose. The truth is, I can only take the desert for so long. I guess I'm more of a rolling green hills of the Northeast kind of girl! But I sure do love to travel and see all these beautiful places with all of their flora and fauna (I'm a big fan of the fauna).

Anonymous said...

Hi Watcher - many thanks for the very flattering writeup and links to my blog. I was already preparing a similar writeup featuring your blog as well - you beat me to the punch! We truly are kindred spirits.

My posts about cycling are a little too snarky for "Beetles in the Bush", so cycling topics (and occasion tidbits) get posted to the decidedly less erudite Bikes Bugs and Bones.


Sally said...

Half a percent, but no matter. Nice of you to include compliments to Jeffco Open Space and Denver's Mountain Parks (Berrian being one) in your blog. Those undeveloped chunks in the latter system have been a blessing to the area's surviving ecosystem since the 19 teens!

Can't help feeling your new NHM blew it somehow... what a shame. Could have been an opportunity for a lesson in appropriate (infill) re/development.

Watcher said...

Rachel- that’s a tough call. Columbines are so over-the-top gorgeous they’re hard to beat. I particularly like the red, though it is a little garish, and I have some favorite spots up around Pinebrook and Park City where I ride in late June to see early blues. (I mentioned a couple in this post.)

Kori- they’re both great places to live or visit. You’re lucky to have family in Evergreen; it’s great when you can fulfill family obligations and visit great places at the same time. For a couple of years my brother lived near Fresno, with great access to Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP’s. Now that he’s moved on, I wish I’d taken advantage of it more often.

Ted- I am in awe of anyone who can maintain more than 1 blog. It’s all I can do to make sure all 3 of my kids are in the car when I drive home from the playground. If my head weren't attached...

Sally- yes that’s right, thanks for reminding me, Berrian was/is a DMP parcel, not Jeffco. There were a few DMP parcels near my old house I used to frequent. The name “Elephant Hill” sticks in my mind, but now I can’t remember exactly where it was…

Sally said...

Elephant Butte-- next to (OS) Alderfer-3 Sisters. Have you seen the new DMP Master Plan? Lots of cool stuff in there, if I do say so myself!