A Questionably Lodgepole Pine

A Questionably Lodgepole Pine: Lodgepole Pine stand Yellowstone Collection Courtesy US National Parks Service, Bob Stevensoon, Photographer October 27, 1988
Lodgepole Pine stand
Yellowstone Collection
Courtesy US National Parks Service,
Bob Stevensoon, Photographer
October 27, 1988
Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with fun or fancy things to say for the radio. It’s just a thing that happens. A Questionably Lodgepole Pine

When that happens, sometimes I’ll just go outside and pick something happening around me, or something I think of when outside and write about that. Sometimes or almost always, creativity for me is not clean-cut. It can be kinda formulaic: talk about things you see, feel, and think in a way that hopefully helps folks balance listening, their imagination, and hopefully hope all at the same time. It’s at least an ideal.

But sometimes instead what comes out when you’re outdoors, is stuff that is kinda dumb and pretty funny. Truth be told, I prefer dumb funny things. I think stuff that is funny is better than stuff that isn’t funny. Funny stuff is fun.

And so, here’s me sitting in a big gold puffy coat and well-napkined Carhartts in a foldable lawn chair under gray winter sky, and jack is happening around me. No birds tweeting. No fresh tracks. Not even no dim ray of sunshine. Just hands as cold as cold hands can be. Then I see a dead skyward and questionably lodgepole pine. I thought it could maybe have a second life as a flagpole, the name I thought it could be and all. And then I wondered…

If trees wove a flag
What color would they fly
Regardless I doubt they’d much care if it was green
Beings they’ve got no eyes

No eyes no ears no tongue no nose
Not even fully developed human hands which spring from their roots so

And then I thought…

If ducks could sing opera
Like dark Verdi arias
I think they’d quack less good
But dig in no less mud

No lips no fur lays eggs webbed toes
Brains like walnuts, only knows where south goes

And then…

If clouds could pick
What unit of measure that they preferred
I’d reckon volume’d be tricky
Be hard to pin down where the mass does now occur

No lungs no feet bring snow turns sleet
Don’t even got clocks to keep time.

And that’s where it ended. Stream ran Utah dry. And that’s ok.

And even though when I read what I wrote to my partner she gave me that look of, “you sure?” I couldn’t help but think, “yup!” so I laughed and smiled wide.

So here’s me saying to you that sometimes, when you go looking for inspiration about the world from that old all-about-us well that is the world, don’t turn up your nose on silly things. Funny things that pop into your mind, even if they are dumb. Because once, someone probably thought something wild and dumb that ended up being kind of neat. Or something that they thought about. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll have to ask ourselves again…

If trees wove a flag
What color would they fly?
Would they measure it in cubits,
Or some other unit from the sky?

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.

Images: Image Courtesy US National Park Service, Yellowstone Collection, Bob Stevensoon, Photographer https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/plants/conifers/pine/Page-3.htm
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org/
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

McNally, Catherine, How to Cure Writer’s Block: Go Green, Medium, October 7, 2019, https://medium.com/@catherine.mcnally/how-to-cure-writers-block-go-green-e0c00e8e614

Lodgepole Pine, Range Plants of Utah, Utah State University Extension, https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/LodgepolePine

Finding Remoteness

Finding Remoteness: A remote area in the Bear River Range Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
A remote area in the Bear River Range
Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
‘Remote’ is not a characteristic I would assign to the city center, a major metropolis like where I grew up. But I also remember summers spent high in the crown of our old magnolia tree, where my 8 year old self may have begged to differ. There, I found wildness—forgot about time and place and the civilization that occupied them. Finding Remoteness

What does ‘remote’ mean? Take a moment, if you will, and conjure a memory—to the most remote place you’ve ever been. Where are you? Why did that particular place come to mind? Was it the distance from cities and towns? Was it the absence of other people? Was it the darkness? The quiet? What makes a place “remote?”

This question has been tumbling around in my head for a while. So, naturally, I took to the internet for answers. A definition: ‘remote’—an adjective—“(of a place) situated far from the main centers of population; distant.” Seems straightforward at first, but the quality of remoteness is open for interpretation. I might argue, for instance, that Lhasa—the Tibetan capital of almost half a million people—is far more remote than the most isolated corner of Utah’s redrock labyrinth. Perhaps that’s an apples to oranges comparison, though.

Bear-shaped remote region in the Bear River Range Data and Photo Credit: Hunter Baldridge
Bear-shaped remote region
in the Bear River Range
Data and Photo Credit: Hunter Baldridge
The Means family from Florida is trying to quantify remoteness and document the most remote place in all 50 states. Project Remote, they call it, defines remoteness as “the point that is the farthest straight-line distance from a road or city [or] town.” According to the Means family, Utah’s most remote location is deep in the High Uintas Wilderness–9.5 miles from the nearest road; a two-day trek from the closest trailhead.

Project Remote inspired me. Their definition seemed reasonable enough, but I was curious about whittling down the parameters of ‘remoteness.’ I wanted to identify the most remote location in Cache County, where I live; so, I reached out to USU Geographic Information Systems instructor, Shannon Belmont, who has been working on this question with her students for several years. As it turns out, the general consensus from Belmont’s class projects produced a fittingly bear shaped swathe of canyons and peaks in the high country of the Bear River Range as the most remote region in the county. There were dozens of other definitions offered through Belmont’s project, of course.

‘Remote’ seems a relative term—relative to the perspective of a traveler and their perceived distance or isolation from the center of whatever world is familiar. When avalanche danger in my home range subsides, I’ll click boots into skis and plow my way to the heart of that bear-shaped expanse of peaks and canyons, trying to find what ‘remote’ means there. Then, perhaps I’ll redefine the word entirely— changing it by season, mode of transport, or state of mind. Until then, maybe I’ll find an old tree to get lost in.

I’m Josh Boling, and I’m Wild About Utah!Defining Remote
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright Josh Boling, Photographer
Uintas Graphic: Courtesy Josh Boling & Hunter Baldridge, Copyright © Hunter Baldridge
Sound: Courtesy & Copyright J Chase and K.W. Baldwin, Utah Public Radio
Text: Josh Boling, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Josh Boling

Sources & Additional Reading


Project Remote, https://www.projectremote.com/

Utah’s Remote Spot in the High Unitas, Project Remote, October 3, 2019, https://www.projectremote.com/blog/utah-remote-spot/

Belmont, Shannon, Final Project – Identifying the most remote location in Cache County, GEOG/WILD1800, SJ & Jessie Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University, https://wildaboututah.org/wp-content/uploads/boling.josh_.GW1800_Final_Project_RemoteLocation.pdf

Mirabilite Mounds and The Great Salt Lake

Mirabilite Mounds in the Great Salt Lake Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
Mirabilite Mounds
in the Great Salt Lake
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
Back in October 2019, the ranger at the Great Salt Lake State Park began to notice a white mound forming on the sand flats behind the visitor center. The white mounds turned out to be hydrated sodium sulfate – known as mirabilite- which was being carried to the surface by the upwelling of a fresh water spring. Since the 1940’s geologists have known that in this area, 30 inches below the surface, there was a 3 – 6 foot thick shelf of mirabilite. They knew about the fresh water springs What was new was cold air. Since this stretch of sand was no longer underwater, the mirabilite carried to the surface stayed there as crystals, piling up on each other, puddling and spreading out. One mound rose to the height of 3 feet.

When the mounds started to form again this winter, I jumped at the chance to to go and take a look. I must admit at first I was a little underwhelmed at the size, perhaps because the Kennecott Smelter Stack nearby dominates the view, rising to 1,215 feet – roughly the same height as the Empire State Building. But the park ranger got my attention when she told us that mirabilite mounds have only been seen in four places in the entire world – the Canadian Arctic, Antarctica, Central Spain, – and Utah. Just seeing them turns out to be a rare winter treat. When the air warms to 50 degrees, the mirabilite will crumble into a fine white powder and disappear.

My mind flashed back to a trip I’d made to the other end of the lake ten years ago. I’d just graduated from the docent training class at the Utah Museum of Fine Art, and a friend and I wanted to celebrate by having High Tea at the center of the Spiral Jetty, a 1,500 foot, long, 15 foot wide coil of black basalt rock – a stunning example of land art jutting out from the northern shore. We’d been warned that it might be underwater, but when we arrived we were delighted to find we could easily walk to the very center of the spiral as the lake water gently lapped at the edges of our shoes. We clinked our tea cups, and toasted the greatness of the lake.

Suddenly I wanted to see the jetty again, so I hopped in my car and drove to the remote site. I saw the Spiral Jetty was now high and dry. Drifting sand had already started to bury parts of it. The water’s edge was now over 300 yards away. I thought of the millions of migratory birds that would be arriving in the spring to rest and feast on the tiny treasures of the lake, the brine shrimp. I hoped a smaller lake would still be enough for all of them.

The recent words of the director of Friends of the Great Salt Lake, Lynn de Freitas, rang in my head: “The Great Salt Lake is a gift that keeps on giving. Just add water.”

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah.

Photos: Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
Featured Audio: Courtesy and Copyright Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text & Voice: Mary Heers, Generous Contributor, Utah Public Radio
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster Bridgerland Audubon Society

Additional Reading

Mirabilite Spring Mounds Near Great Salt Lake Marina, Utah Geological Survey (UGS), Utah Department of Natural Resources, https://geology.utah.gov/popular/general-geology/great-salt-lake/mirabilite-spring-mounds/

Mirabilite, Mindat.org, Hudson Institute of Mineralogy, https://www.mindat.org/min-2725.html

Tabin, Sara, Rare salt formations return to Great Salt Lake’s shores; take a tour while they last, The Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 13, 2021, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2021/01/14/rare-salt-formations/

USGS 412613112400801 The Great Salt Lake at Spiral Jetty, Site Map for the Nation, U.S. Geological Survey(USGS), U.S. Department of the Interior, https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/nwismap/?site_no=412613112400801&agency_cd=USGS

Case, William, GEOSIGHTS: PINK WATER, WHITE SALT CRYSTALS, BLACK BOULDERS, AND THE RETURN OF SPIRAL JETTY!, Survey Notes, v. 35 no. 1, Utah Geological Survey (UGS), Utah Department of Natural Resources, January 2003, https://geology.utah.gov/map-pub/survey-notes/geosights/spiral-jetty/

Board & Staff, Friends of the Great Salt Lake, https://www.fogsl.org/about/board-staff