Norwegian Maple

When we moved to Salt Lake City the yard of our new house had two mature Norwegian Maple trees. Norwegian Maples (Acer platanoides) are popular shade trees in the intermountain west because they grow quickly and tolerate alkaline soil and an arid climate.

Norwegian Maple in mid-April in Salt Lake City backyard.

Norwegian Maples are native to Central Europe, and were introduced to the United States in the mid-1700’s. They are commonly used in this country as shade trees, particularly as replacements for American Elms that were lost to Dutch elm disease in the 1960’s.

There are significant drawbacks to Norwegian Maples. They are considered an invasive species and can out-compete native trees because they are very hardy and reproduce quickly, each tree producing huge numbers of seeds. Norwegian Maple sales are actually banned in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Norwegian Maple could be considered too effective of a shade tree. Its numerous large leaves create such dense shade that grass struggles to grow beneath it. The tree drops all these leaves very late in fall, so raking up after them is challenging. This year our trees still hadn’t dropped their leaves when snow started falling.

In springtime Norwegian Maples first produce clusters of small light-green flowers, followed by its new leaves. The slideshow below shows this progression of buds to flowers to leaves on one branch of our backyard tree from April 10-30.

A snowy winter in SLC

2023 has been an exceptionally snowy winter in Salt Lake City. Nearby Alta ski resort reports 616″ of snowfall as of March 4, the snowiest in their 43 recorded seasons. This post shares photos of this winter in SLC from January through March.

Morning after March 5 snowfall.

February 22 snow

Snowy Red Butte Gardens, on the east side of SLC, February 4. Looking down on the city to the west the common winter haze is very evident. The haze is particularly bad during temperature inversions, when temperature at the surface of the SLC valley is colder than temperatures aloft.

January 16, 2023

This snowy winter has improved Utah’s drought conditions, as can be seen by comparing the drought severity maps from December 27, 2022, and February 28, 2023. More than one snowy winter is needed though to address water issues like the drying up of the Great Salt Lake.

Our Greyhound Blue

This week our beloved greyhound Blue had to be put to sleep after reaching nearly 14 years. This was a very sad occasion, but we were lucky to have lived with Blue for more than 9 years after adopting him from a greyhound rescue organization.

Greyhounds are calm, loving and loyal companions as well as being amazing athletes. Saying that we “rescued” Blue seems inaccurate to me. He was a valued member of our family who will be missed greatly.

On a chilly day with his buddy Roxie
His last photo

Blue was bred as a racing greyhound; he raced 20 times under the name Deep Dark Blue. Basic information about him given on a greyhound racing website is shown below.

Views from the Top

An aspect of downhill skiing that may be underappreciated is the spectacular scenery that can be seen from the ski slopes, particularly in Utah. The following pictures were taken on a beautiful January day skiing at the Canyons area of Park City.

Near the top of the Condor chairlift

Downhill among the spruce and fir trees

Near the top of the Sun Peak chairlift

Snowy New Year’s Day in Salt Lake City

The western United States has been experiencing drought over the last few years. So, the wet and snowy weather here in Salt Lake City over the past few weeks has been very welcome. Following are some pictures of the snowy city around New Year’s.

Slight improvement in drought conditions over the past month can be seen in the two maps of Utah below. Continuing wet weather is forecast, which should further improve the situation.

Beautiful tree in the neighborhood is reminiscent of Ansel Adams’ famous photograph

Gloria Falls Trail in Little Cottonwood Canyon

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.

The view from our parking spot along Utah State Route 210
Looking across the canyon from the trail.
Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides),

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.

Gloria Falls

Views along the hike

Summertime Clouds in Minnesota

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

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

Stratocumulus clouds are quite common, they occur as clumps of low-level clouds, usually below 6600 feet.

Stratus clouds

Stratus clouds are low-level featureless hazy layers of clouds. They are essentially above-ground fog.

A foggy morning on the lake.

Destroying Angel? Death Cap?

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.

Mushroom in the Amanita genus, likely 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%.

Paul Bunyan Trail in mid-August

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.