Rumba in the Primavera Sun

Rumba in the Primavera Sun: Crocus in Spring, Courtesy Pixabay, Alicja from Poland, PhotographerSpring dreams have already started to thaw within my winter mind. Though I know it is still time until the snow turns to mud, and longer until the mud settles to soil, I can’t help but look forward to my time in the garden, tilling earth, planting seeds, and lazing in the fragrant primavera sun. Ooooo yeah. Sun. Spring. Celia Cruz Cuban rumba, big dumb straw hats, and onyx rich loamy soil. Is there anything better?

When I’m in one season, I generally try not to think about whether I should be thinking about the next, though it’s hard not to think about what you should or should not think about, especially when such thoughts are bound by fond memories and anticipation as sweet as a perfect mango. There is a certain unripe lime of guilt I hold, that I should lean into every season with full and open heart and that I’m acting unappreciative to the winter season by dreaming ahead. I think this thinking is perhaps a remnant of an older, younger me, one who strove to be in every moment in every moment, and, ironically, often fit the puzzle pieces according to order rather than taking that which caught my eye in that moment. I think with years I’ve learned that there is no harm in a dream of piña colada spring days during rye whisky winter, especially when that dream comes with at least a bit of action. I’d be one thing to wish for planting season and not ravenously browse my Johnny’s catalog, check on my seed stores from last year’s harvest, and make sure there’s enough coconut milk. It’s another thing that I do.

Regardless, as I dream of spring and the chlorophyll which shall abound like a shoot from that onion you forgot about in the back of the pantry, I find eager joy in the challenges I am to face as much as the possibilities in their being overcome. This year’s drip irrigation can be more efficient. This year’s compost amendments can be richer. This year’s tomato pruning can tame my nightshade jungle. This year’s harvest can be tastier. And this year I’ll finally build that tiki bar. I look forward to taking the lessons learned through past mistakes. Whether those learnings came by exposures of hubris, faith, incompetence, or all three shaken together with rocks, it is important, at least to me, that joyous dreams of labor are sought equally with joyous dreams of abundance. Abundance without labor may be Eden, but Eden after all wasn’t fit for humankind. I’d rather be in my natural state than contending with high stakes iterative bureaucracy.

So, I return to my winter landscape before me, for I cannot stay in this spring space forever, mixing my mind’s sagebrush mojito with flavors both near and far. Outside, snow continues to fall; the sun continues to wake; greenery continues to wait. And now the dream of the future is a memory of fond past, having met at that synaptic crossroads where remembrance and hope meet to garden. I both recall and divine the entrancing rich black soil, the snap of fresh muddled lemon mint, and the echo of rumba in the primavera sun.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
Images: Courtesy Pixabay, Alicja Polski (from Poland), Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver
Includes: “Madre Rumba” by Celia Cruz/Humberto Juama.
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center,
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster,

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon,

Sliding on Ice can be Fun

Mary and Art Heers ready for bobsledding
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers
Mary and Art Heers ready for bobsledding
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers
When cold weather sets into Cache Valley, I usually begin to grumble. But this year, when the weather warmed up and the snow turned to rain, my grumbling got a lot louder.

Everywhere I looked, the sidewalks and roads were covered in ice. I announced that falling on ice was my least favorite activity. I hated ice.

Then I got an unusual Christmas letter from an old family friend, Paulette Campbell. This letter told the story about the skating pond her 3 sons had built for 15 years at their Logan home. The yard was 30 ft wide, 60 ft long, and flat as a pancake – perfect for creating an ice rink. But it took a lot of work. The boys would begin by packing the snow with a heavy roller pulled by their garden tractor. Then they got out the garden hose and sprayed the surface. Three hours later the water had frozen and it was time to spray again. For the next five nights the family pitched in and the ice got sprayed every three hours. The boys packed down the lumpy spots with a shovel.

When the pond was ready, the neighborhood kids flocked to the pond to skate after school. But at 8pm, the floodlights came on and the big kids took over the ice. It was time to play hockey. The boys’ grandparents, who lived next door, pulled their chairs up to the bay window and watched. They insisted on paying the water bill. They insisted the entertainment was worth it.

By the time I finished reading the letter, I had to admit sliding on the ice could be fun.

I was also starting to rerun in my mind my own family ice story. My cousin, Jill Bakken, had been recruited out of high school by the US Olympic committee to give bobsledding a try. Jill took a liking for this slippery sport. In 2002, at the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, Jill and Vonetta Flowers brought home the gold medal in the first ever women’s bobsled event.

Now, twenty years later, and to top off this story, I screwed up my courage and signed up to ride down the Olympic bobsled track. I was tucked in right behind the driver as the 4-man sled roared down the track. We hit 70 mph and pulled about 3 g’s. At the bottom, I got out of the sled a bit shakily.

But now I had a new point of view: Sliding on ice can be exhilarating.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah

Photos: Courtesy Mary Heers,
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin, Utah Public Radio
Text: Mary Heers,
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham,

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Wild About Utah Postings

The Track Sports: Bobsleigh, Luge, Skeleton, Alf Engen Ski Museum, Alf Engen Museum Foundation,

Bakken and Flowers win first ever Women’s bobsleigh gold, Salt Lake 2002, International Olympic Committee,

Wright, Sally H. N., Logan family provides ice thrillsShow pleases grandparents, neighbors, The Herald Journal, January 7, 2002,

Rocky Mountain Elk

Rocky Mountain Elk: Canada Elk Cervus canadensis Courtesy William(13222272) and Pixabay
Canada Elk
Cervus canadensis
Courtesy William(13222272) and Pixabay

Bull Elk in Profile Courtesy US FWS, Ryan Hagerty, Photographer Bull Elk in Profile
Courtesy US FWS, Ryan Hagerty, Photographer

Jackson Elk Herd Courtesy US FWS, Lori Iverson, Photographer Jackson Elk Herd
Courtesy US FWS, Lori Iverson, Photographer

Bull Elk and Herd at National Elk Refuge Courtesy US FWS, Kari Cieszkiewicz, Photographer Bull Elk and Herd at National Elk Refuge
Courtesy US FWS, Kari Cieszkiewicz, Photographer

The Rocky Mountain elk is Utah’s state mammal for good reason. No one can deny its majesty and uncanny intelligence while being hunted, and the spine tingling bugle released in fall mountain splendor.

My introductory encounter with Rocky Mountain elk came during my first deer hunt in Utah on the east side of Mt. Nebo. I was nearly trampled by a large bull and herd of cows that leaped over me as I cowered behind large boulders. What magnificent beings they were, dwarfing the whitetail deer I had grown up with in Michigan.

Since that time, I’ve led countless groups of students and others to view elk during the rut in Grand Teton National Park. On one occasion, we were sleeping under the stars on a warm fall evening, awakened by a minor earth quake as a herd ran through us, a wakeup call I’ll never forget!

A matriarchal society, the cow elk rules the herd other than during the fall rut. Bulls will often separate to avoid this embarrassing situation. If you’ve had the pleasure of holding a large set of elk antlers, you will appreciate the physiology that allows this amount of annual growth to produce such weapons and status symbols. Cows generally outlive the bulls by several years. Prime bulls exhaust themselves, during the rut, and face the harsh winter months in a depleted condition. Some won’t make it providing a feast for waiting predators and scavengers come spring.

Elk are a sacred animal for many Native Americans. “Elk Medicine is a powerful totem animal of stamina, strength, sensual passion, nobility, pride, respect, and survival. Elk are also known as Spirit Messengers. Their antlers connect to the medicine of lightening, and channel that energy to earth. With this medicine comes instant knowing and messages from Spirit with great clarity.” Animal Spirit Medicine Elk by Beverly Two Feathers

My spiritual encounter came on a full moon vernal evening on a ridge in Birch Canyon near Smithfield. It was unusually warm so decided to take a moonlit stroll. Once on the ridge, large, gray forms emerged. I soon found myself surrounded by an elk herd. I moved slowly for safety, and not to startle the animals. A euphoric moment. Another came last fall when I had a large group of USU international students with me. It was after dark at the base of Teewinot. I hushed their chatter. Soon after came the hauntingly beautiful sound sliding down the slope above, bugling of bull elk. They were transfixed as was I.

A favorite book is Wapiti Wilderness, coauthored by Olaus and wife Margaret Murie, capturing their lives in the Yellowstone and Teton wilderness tracking elk herds over many years, often with their young children. A revealing and enduring read I highly recommend.

This weekend I will be taking 24 international students to Hardware Ranch for a sleigh ride among the wintering pasturing elk. Here they are fed hay to replace their lower winter range, which has been replaced by human activity. Yet another spiritual experience!

This is Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon and I’m Wild About Utah and its elk.

The Wonders of Bird Migration
Picture: Courtesy Pixabay William(), Photographer,
Image: Bull Elk in Profile, Courtesy US FWS, Ryan Hagerty, Photographer,
Image: Bull elk and herd at National Elk Refuge, Courtesy US FWS, Kari Cieszkiewicz, Photographer,
Image: Jackson Elk Herd, Courtesy US FWS, Lori Iverson, Photographer,
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon,
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon,

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah,

Murie, Margaret, Murie, Olaus, Wapiti Wilderness, University Press of Colorado, December 15, 1987,

National Elk Refuge, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior,

Visiting Hardware WMA-Education Center, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah,

Owens, Beverly, a.k.a. Beverly Two Feathers, Native American Totems,

Teewinot, NPS History, US National Park Service, Autumn 2004,

Why, It Was Definitely the Snow!

Why, It Was Definitely the Snow! "Utah’s Winter King: A Key Individual in the History of Utah’s Ski Industry"
Photo from 1989 Utah History Fair
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes
“Utah’s Winter King: A Key Individual in the History of Utah’s Ski Industry”
Photo from 1989 Utah History Fair
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes

Snow-frosted Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Snow-frosted Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Snow. Tiny specks of dust and other particles in the air that attract water vapor to become ice crystals. That is what fascinated a man named Wilson ‘Snowflake’ Bentley enough to capture thousands of one-of-a-kind snowflake photographs and what drew my friend Alf to Utah. In the winter and early spring of 1989, I sat as a Bonneville Junior High ninth grader with Alf Engen in his office at Alta. As a presenter at the Utah History Fair that year, I was gathering stories and artifacts for my project titled Utah’s Winter King: A Key Individual in the History of Utah’s Ski Industry.

Engen shared stories about building ski jumps over the fences between his home and school and his journey from Norway to America, not to ski but to buy back the Engen estate divided up at his father’s death of the Spanish Flu in 1919. He said, “I was going to make enough money to go back, but I didn’t know how I was going to do that. I didn’t even know there was much snow here, I never read about that.” After sharing stories about arriving in Ellis Island, playing soccer in Milwaukee, scaffold hill jumping on Ecker Hill, and cross-country skiing as a forest service employee over Catherine Pass to imagine Alta as a ski hub, he ended with how he felt about jumping Utah’s snow: “They would say “Send Gummer–that is ‘old man’ in Norwegian–over first,” and I would have to do anything new. I knew I could do it, even if I had never tried it before. Once you are up there, you can fly.”

I had forgotten about that experience chatting about snow with a Utah snow giant until a few weeks ago, gazing out at the snow-frosted hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. I gripe about snow plowing piles and delayed-start school days, and I’d rather cut snowflakes from paper than be out in it most frigid days. Yet, this Christmas a friend gave me a blue and white book titled “The Little Book of Snow.”

For someone who grew up in “the greatest snow on earth,” I thought I knew snow well enough, but in addition to discovering linguistic similarities for the word snow and that some have estimated the number of snowflakes that fall to earth each year to be a number with at least 24 zeroes, I confirmed my suspicions about snow that is not white. I’ve often encountered pink snow patches at the high altitudes of Utah, and with a nudge from the watermelon snow paragraph, I found an intriguing citizen science opportunity online called The Living Snow Project led by Dr. Robin Kodner at Western Washington University. By contributing data about spring snow algal blooms through sample vials or at least observation photographs, scientists can study microscopic snow communities and their impact on snow melt.

Snow. When I asked him what about Utah made him stay, Alf Engen said, “Why, it was definitely the snow.” Snow is the stuff of which stories, science, and wonderful dreams are made.

I’m Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.


Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller,
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Blanchard, Duncan. 1970. The Snowflake Man.

Coulthard, Sally. 2018. The Little Book of Snow.

Engen, Alan K. 2001. Alf Engen: A Son’s Reminiscences.​​

Greene, Jack. 2020. I Love Snow. Wild About Utah,

Larese-Casanova, Mark. 2014. Utah’s Rich Skiing History. Wild About Utah,

Libbrecht, Kenneth G. 1999. Guide to Snowflakes.

Liberatore, Andrea. 2011. Snowflakes. Wild About Utah,

Living Snow Project.

Local Lexi. 2021. The History of “The Greatest Snow on Earth”

Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. 1998. Snowflake Bentley. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Strand, Holly. 2009. A Utah Skier’s Snow Lexicon. Wild About Utah,

Rascoe, Ayesha. 2022. Why Snow Is Turning Pink at High Altitudes.

Weller, Kristine. 2023. In a State Obsessed with Snowpack, Finding Pink Snow in Utah Is a Problem.