Sunday, May 31, 2009

Falling in Love with Utah


I miss March in California. Nothing is greener than the hills of the Bay Area. Right around St. Patrick’s Day, I have been told that the spring green of California is similar to Ireland; hence Bay Area city names like Dublin. Green hills in California have always been a harbinger of spring, and it can come as early as December. March in Utah is somewhat dismal. Everything is brown and seems pretty dead. The mountains may have snow, but if it is in the valleys, it soon melts to a dirty slush.
Spring in Utah arrives slowly, piece by piece. You can see it coming, like the melting snow, drip by drip. First in the daffodils and forsythia that start to bloom in April and then in the trees with their barely visible shoots, surrounded by a green mist. Like the spring-melt, when May arrives, it becomes a full rush. Everything pops open, tulips, lilacs, poppies, then roses and countless other flowers. Northern Utah rewards its residents with a dazzling jewel box of color, amply making up for the last four months of cold and dreariness.
Yesterday, on a rather dismal and cloudy May day in Utah, I was rewarded with some of those treasures. Parking one car at the trail-head for Indian Creek in Ogden Canyon we drove to Rainbow Gardens, to another trail head there. Climbing my neighborhood mountain, looking up to the top of Mt. Ogden, was a glorious tapestry of hundreds of different shades of green, equally as beautiful as the solid emerald intensity of those Bay Area hills.
What an amazing hike, really two hikes in one. The west side is totally different from the east. I knew there was a trail from Rainbow Gardens, but had no idea where it connected. Up ahead we could see the switchbacks that went up the mountain, but not a direct trail, so we went up the skinny little bike path. Straight up, passing meadows of wild flowers, many unfortunately covered with the cursed dyer’s woad, which doesn’t look all that bad in the spring. There were asters, and wild sweet pea, yellow lupines, and an occasional wild delphinium. An occasional cactus poked through the rocks and now and then a wild primrose. The scent of sage trailed us up the hill, especially when I used one as an anchor to pull me up. Thousands of little oak trees would have provided shade but we didn’t need it that day. Stopping for a breath we could see all of the Northern Valley spread out below us and the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island in the distance. It was hard to believe that I was only one or two miles from my house.
Finally reaching the main trail, we continued our upward ascent, on switch- backs now, but nevertheless up. We went into the canyon and the oak gave way to beautiful evergreens. I had seen these driving through the canyon and wondered if there was a way to get to them. And now here I was. A big yellow, daisy-like flower grew in abundance all along the trail, and the dyer’s woad was mostly gone. Wild lily-of-the-valley were interspersed with a number of other wildflowers that I didn’t know the name of. The views changed, canyons of pine and fir went way back into the mountains. To the north, a close up of the amazing geologic formations that make-up Ogden Canyon, something you miss when on the road below.
The trail was not quite as difficult. We were on a ridge and the ascent was slower. There were some downs, interspersed with the ups. That is my idea of hiking. Reaching the crest, we scrambled among some rocks and then started down. The trail was lush and green and I saw patches of wild raspberries, mixed with elderberry and of course more oak. The grasses were green, the trees were green; everything ached of springtime and new life. Reaching the creek, we stopped to let the dogs get a drink of water. The rushing waters were cooling to their feet. It was a beautiful spot for lunch.
Finishing the hike, we went along the creek for a while, and then some more switchbacks down to the parking lot below. I missed the smell of bay trees, always there on my Bay Area hikes, but I think the sage and wildflowers made up for it. We have been given this great planet for our use. Its variety is amazing. The chance to be so close to nature and the wild is something that I hope never to take for granted. Utah is a wonderful place to live.

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