The trailhead for Gloria Falls is just short of the Snowbird and Alta ski resorts as you drive up the Little Cottonwood Canyon from Salt Lake City. Longer trails to White Pine and Red Pine Lakes also start from this site. In mid-October we were rewarded with magnificent views of fall colors in the canyon during the short hike up to Gloria Falls.
Quaking Aspen has been the state tree of Utah since 2014. It replaced Colorado Blue Spruce as the state tree at the suggestion of a 4th-grade class.
Views along the hike
This year we are in the height of fall colors during the first weekend of October.
Saturday was bright and clear
Sunday was overcast, but the views were still striking.
Maple leaves in the upper row, red oak and hazel leaves in the lower row
Cumulous / Cumulonimbus clouds
Cumulonimbus clouds are tall clouds associated with thunderstorms. Sometimes they form from smaller fluffy cumulous clouds, as seen in this You-Tube video. I believe the picture above shows clouds in the transition from cumulous to cumulonimbus.
Cirrus clouds are comprised of ice crystals at high altitudes. They are found anywhere between 13,000 to 66,000 feet above sea level.
Stratocumulus clouds are quite common, they occur as clumps of low-level clouds, usually below 6600 feet.
Stratus clouds are low-level featureless hazy layers of clouds. They are essentially above-ground fog.
A foggy morning on the lake.
Recently I found this mushroom at the edge of our yard. I was surprised to learn from mushroom ID apps that it is likely either the Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) or the North American Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera). As you can probably tell from these names, both of these mushrooms are deadly poisonous.
The Amanita genus of mushrooms includes the most dangerously toxic mushrooms in the world, as well as some desirable edible mushrooms. It is estimated that Amanitas are responsible for 95% of mushroom poisoning fatalities worldwide.
Several edible mushrooms do not look too different from these poisonous amanitas. Such misidentifications can lead to tragedies. Mushroom poisonings are not common, but they have happened in Minnesota, including one case in 1989 in nearby Brainerd MN.
Poisoning by these mushrooms is insidious. The first symptoms, including gastric distress and headache, commonly wane after 24 hours. However, while the victim temporarily feels better, the toxins of these mushrooms attack the liver and kidneys. Even with modern medical care, the fatality rate of poisoning from the Death Cap is about 20%.
The Paul Bunyan Trail is a paved recreational trail in northern Minnesota that runs 120 miles from Brainerd to Bemidji. It is an ideal route for biking and running in the summer and for snowmobiles in the winter. The photos below are from a recent bike ride in the middle of the trail, between Hackensack and Pine River.
This beautiful White Pine is along the trail not far south of Hackensack.
White trunks with peeling bark make Paper Bark Birch easy to identify.
These Tamarack trees will stand out in October. They are unusual conifers with needles that change to bright yellow in the fall.
A drift of Bee Balm (Wild Bergamot) alongside the trail just south of Backus.
The Uintas Mountains are an east-west trending sub-range of the Rocky Mountains that contain the highest mountain in Utah, Kings Peak (elevation 13,528′). Nobletts is an easy hiking trail on the western flank of the Uintas, its trailhead is about 50 miles west of Salt Lake City.
The trail follows Nobletts creek for about 2 miles with a moderate gain in elevation of 275′. The creek cascades down rocks that appear to be mainly limestone. A geologic map provided in the UtahGeology website indicates that this limestone is of Mississippian age, ~350 million years old.
Conifers along the trail are predominantly Douglas Fir and Subalpine Fir
Several varieties of wildflowers were blooming along the trail in early July
Colorado Blue Columbine
North-central Minnesota has been blessed with good weather recently. Unlike the arid conditions in 2021, late spring and early summer of 2022 has brought sufficient rain, interspersed with temperate sunny days.
Overcast skies have provided enough rain for the lake to be several inches higher than last year.
Today a small storm skirted by the northeast side of the lake.
Stormy weather is commonly followed by beautiful sunsets
From late May through mid-June, we have noticed a succession of native shrubs blooming in north-central Minnesota. Each of them has similar small white flowers, and seemingly take turns blooming one after another. Serviceberry was first, in late May. It was followed by Red-osier Dogwood, then Viburnum in mid-June.
Two species of viburnum are growing close to each other in the woods lining our yard. Their flowers seem nearly identical. The leaves of the Downy Arrow-wood are smaller and have coarsely jagged edges, while the leaves of the Nannyberry are larger with finely toothed edges. Leaves of Nannyberry also have a shinier waxy surface.
Downy Arrow-wood (Viburnum rafinesquianum)
Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
Quaking Aspen and Paper Birch are both fast-growing trees common in Northern Minnesota. While they are similar in some respects, they actually belong to different plant families.
Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) belongs to the birch family, Betulaceae.
Paper birch is distinguished by its white bark that readily peels off of the tree. The leaves of paper birch are oval with irregularly toothed edges
Photos below show paper birches earlier this spring.
Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) are in the willow family, Salicaceae.
The bark of young quaking aspen trees is also white, but it does not easily peek off and the bark turns darker as the tree ages. Leafs of quaking aspen are more circular than birch leaves, with less pronounced teeth along their edges.
In late May this year quaking aspens in our area produced a prodigious number of cottony seeds that filled the air, much more than in the last few years. Photos below show the aspen cotton accumulating along the edges of the Paul Bunyan biking trail and show the catkins that release these seeds.
The amount of aspen seed cotton this year was truly remarkable, particularly since aspens reproduce much more effectively from shoots arising along its long lateral roots. Very few aspen seeds survive to produce new trees.