Nobletts Trail in Uinta National Forest, Utah

The Uintas Mountains of NE Utah are seen in the display above captured from Google Earth.
The Nobletts Trailhead is marked on the display.

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

Close-up of Subalpine Fir

Several varieties of wildflowers were blooming along the trail in early July

Colorado Blue Columbine

Richardson’s Geranium

Minnesota Nice Weather

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

Native Flowering Shrubs

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.


Red-osier dogwood


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

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.

Tammany Trace

The Tammany Trace is a paved running/biking/skating trail that runs 31 miles through St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. The Trace was created by the parish in 1992 from an abandoned corridor of the Illinois Central Railroad, as part of the nation-wide Rails-to-Trails program.

The Trace has been tremendously beneficial to me over the past 25 years, and this post is to share some of my favorite photos of it.

Starting near the southeast end of the Trace, this bridge spans Bayou Lacombe.

This pond with water lilies is just east of the intersection of the Trace and Johns Road.

Between Johns and Bremerman Roads huge displays of blooming Cherokee Roses are seen in early April.

This bridge spans Cane’s Bayou, which is a popular waterway for kayaking.

Occasionally alligators can be seen in bayous crossed by the Trace. This one was spotted from the bridge over Bayou Castine, near Mandeville.

In May there are several places along the Trace where irises bloom. These are just north of the underpass where the Trace crosses Florida Street in Mandeville.

Further north the Trace runs through Abita Springs, Louisiana, home of Abita Brewing. Their brewpub is right along the Trace, and their brewery is just a bit further west, a few blocks to the north of the Trace.

Another bridge, this one crossing the Bogue Falaya River, on the eastern side of Covington, Louisiana.

A trailhead in Covington is where the Trace reaches its northwest end. Sadly, the Covington Brewhouse, shown in the picture above, is no longer in business.

Barred Owl

This barred owl is a frequent visitor to our backyard in SE Louisiana. It is more common for us to hear these owls than to see them, they have a loud distinctive call that you can hear in this YouTube video. According to experts, their call sounds like “who cooks for you”, which seems like a stretch.

Barred owls (Strix varia) are one of the most common owl species, particularly in the eastern United States. Over the last century they have expanded their range to the Pacific Northwest, where they are considered invasive and displace less aggressive spotted owls.

Suburban Opossum

This opossum was calmly perched on a fence in our neighborhood as we walked by on a recent morning dog walk. Opossums are nocturnal animals, so seeing one out in mid-morning seemed unusual.

Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the only wild species of opossum in the United States, and it is our only native marsupial. They have a reputation as a pest, but this may not be deserved. They are useful scavengers of dead animals, and also eat many types of noxious rodents and insects, particularly ticks.

I was surprised to find an organization online that is devoted to opossums, the Opossum Society of the United States. They rescue and rehabilitate injured and orphaned opossums, and also present educational programs in schools. Good for them!

Kayaking down Cane Bayou

The pictures below were taken on a balmy Sunday in mid-November during a kayak excursion on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. Cane Bayou is one of several streams that empty into Lake Pontchartrain from the north, it runs between Fontainebleau State Park and the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. There is a convenient launch for kayaks just off of highway 190, about four miles east of Mandeville LA, as seen on the map below.

The Tammany Trace bike path crosses Cane Bayou a short distance south of the launch point.
Near the kayak launch the shores of Cane Bayou are heavily forested.
Trees thin out approaching Lake Pontchartrain
Near the lake the terrain is marshy, here we saw some trees toppled by Hurricane Ida