Wandering Home

Wandering Home: Naomi Ridgeline from the Mt. Magog Summit Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
Naomi Ridgeline from the Mt. Magog Summit
Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
There’s a map in my head lined with the topography of memory and time. The landscape has a rhythm, the cadence of muscle memory when enough boot prints have been tracked across it. Earth’s geometries are as familiar as my own. Wandering Home

Annapurna region of the Himalaya; Nepal
Annapurna region of the Himalaya; Nepal
Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
George Mallory, when asked in 1923 why he would attempt to climb Mt. Everest, replied, “Because it’s there.” Those now immortal words have been uttered by nearly every adventurer seeking some sort of tenable logic for their quests big or small. Mallory’s words rattle in my brain when I endeavor to do much of anything outside; but those words are only half the answer. Yes, we climb mountains, paddle rivers, and explore canyons because they are there, but also because we are here. That, I think, is the most tenable logic of all.

“…[T]he living world is the natural domain of the most restless and paradoxical part of the human spirit,” wrote E. O. Wilson. “Our sense of wonder,” he continues, “grows exponentially: the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery and the more we seek knowledge to create new mystery.”

Blue John slot canyon, Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
Blue John Slot Canyon
Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
Everett Ruess was still a child in 1931 when he began wandering the red rock canyons of southern Utah with a burro and his art supplies. He scaled cliff bands and steep canyon walls with alarming abandon, and I thought him reckless when I first read his letters and journals. I still wouldn’t follow his lead; but I wonder now if I had judged him too harshly at first. Mysteries are known and knowledge is gained through perspective; and some perspectives are acquired with requisite risks.

They say there’s a gene that separates the restless wanderers from those more content. Perhaps that’s true; or perhaps it just identifies the tendency with which we gain perspective. I’ve often wondered if I have that gene; but I don’t think it matters in the end. We all wander—into the backcountry, the hinterlands, the backyard. I think it’s the mysteries we seek that are different, and, therefore, the knowledge gained—of ourselves and the places we call home.

Jardine Juniper trail, Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
Jardine Juniper trail
Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
So, I wander my home range: the valley floor with its winding, braided, willow-choked streams; the hills adjacent to my neighborhood; the glaciated peaks of lime- and dolostone that stand sentinel in the alpenglow. A decade ago, it would have been for the rush of adrenaline and the surge of blood in my veins, for the same perspectives sought by Everett Ruess. Now I do it for the deeper mystery of unknown corners of places I once thought I knew—for the knowledge that lies within.

There’s a map in my head, lined with the topography of memory and time, shaded by the knowledge gained and the mysteries still yet to be revealed.

I’m Josh Boling; and I’m Wild About Utah.

Cache Valley from Naomi Peak ridgeline. Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
Cache Valley from Naomi Peak ridgeline
Courtesy & © Josh Boling, Photographer
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright Josh Boling, Photographer
Sound: Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio
Text: Josh Boling, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Lyle Bingham

Sources & Additional Reading

Edwards, Mo, Top 10 Slot Canyons in Utah, Utah.com (Utah Travel Industry Website), July 26, 2017, https://utah.com/top-10-slot-canyons-in-utah

Mount Naomi Wilderness, Wilderness Connect (University of Montana) https://wilderness.net/visit-wilderness/?ID=378

Mount Naomi, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, USDA Forest Service, https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/uwcnf/recreation/wintersports/?cid=fsem_035454

Hike Mt. Magog, The Outbound Collective, https://www.theoutbound.com/utah/hiking/hike-mt-magog

Ohms, Sarah, Sinclair, Jim, Logan Canyon Hiking, Bridgerland Audubon Society/Cache Hikers, https://logancanyonhiking.com/

Cache County Trails, Cache County, https://trails.cachecounty.org/

Hiking Trail Guide, Cache Valley Visitors Bureau/Logan Ranger District, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, https://www.explorelogan.com/assets/files/brochures/hiking.pdf

Cache Trails, A hiking guide for the trails of the Cache Valley, Bridgerland Audubon Society, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/publications/

Equinox, or Equilux?

Equinox, or Equilux: Seasons Courtesy NASA https://www.weather.gov/dvn/Climate_Astronomical_Seasons
Courtesy NASA
We raced west toward home from the high plains, trying to beat the heavy snow that had been forecasted for Labor Day evening. Finally in the canyon—the revelation that seasons had passed while we were away. Temperatures plummeted, and the forests reacted. Favorite stands of aspens were already aglow above that familiar bend in the river. Meteorological fall had promptly arrived.

Its astronomical counterpart—the autumnal equinox—is a bit of a misnomer. The word equinox is our late Middle English iteration of the Latin term for “equal night,” but, astronomically speaking, this isn’t exactly true. The equinox is the single moment when the Earth’s axis is pointing neither toward nor away from the sun, providing entire hemispheres equal portions of light. This year’s autumnal equinox occurs at precisely 7:30 AM on Tuesday, September 22nd, and though daylight and night will share almost equal portions of the clock that day, they don’t split it evenly until two or three days later on what is called the ‘equilux’, meaning “equal light.”

Earth Orbit - With Date Spans, Courtesy National Weather Service (NWS)
Earth Orbit – With Date Spans
Courtesy National Weather Service (NWS)
It works like this. We count daytime from the moment the sun peeks above the horizon to the moment it sinks below. But, of course, the sun isn’t a light switch. We have several minutes of twilight before the sun rises and after it sets thanks to the lens-like refraction provided by our atmosphere. So, on the day of the equinox, those several minutes of twilight before sunrise and after sunset offset the equal exposure of the sun’s rays to our hemisphere by a small margin, giving us a tad more daylight than night. The equilux has to wait for Earth’s tilt to allow darkness to catch up.

But wait. It gets a little more complicated. Because the Earth’s axis begins tilting away from the sun immediately following the autumnal equinox (or toward it following the vernal equinox), different latitudes will experience the equilux at different intervals. As a rule, the closer one is to the equator, the longer they will wait for the equilux to occur in the fall and the sooner it will arrive in the spring. That is, unless you live within 5 latitudinal degrees of the equator. Then, sadly, you don’t get an equilux at all, ever, because you always have more than twelve hours of daylight.

Depending on where you live here in Utah, you will experience the equilux sometime on September 25th or 26th. So, this week, take out your stopwatch, and turn your eyes skyward.

I’m Josh Boling, and I’m Wild About Utah!

Photos: Courtesy Weather.gov, US National Weather Service(NWS), https://www.weather.gov/dvn/Climate_Astronomical_Seasons
Photos: Courtesy
Sound: Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio
Text: Josh Boling, 2020

Sources & Additional Reading

The Equinox Isn’t What You Think It Is, PBS Digital Studios, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVDCsXUygEw

Kher, Aparna, Equinox: Equal Day and Night, Almost, https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/equinox-not-equal.html

City of North Logan, Utah, USA — Sunrise, Sunset, and Daylength, September 2020, Time and Date AS, https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/@7173983

Seasons, SciJinks, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, https://scijinks.gov/review/solstice/seasons/

Which Pole is Colder?, Climate Kids, The Earth Science Communications Team, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, https://climatekids.nasa.gov/polar-temperatures/

Earth’s Seasons – Equinoxes and Solstices – 2018-2025, The U.S. Naval Observatory, Astronomical Applications Department, https://www.weather.gov/media/ind/seasons.pdf

Changing seasons, Climate Resource Collections, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/climate/changing-seasons

Boling, Josh, A Solstice Vignette, Wild About Utah, December 16, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/a-solstice-vignette/

Equinoxes, National Geographic, https://youtu.be/kaG6PTVrFP4

What is an Equinox? National Geographic, https://youtu.be/enlih8M5DN0

The Autumnal Equinox is Near, Watch the Skies Blog, NASA, https://blogs.nasa.gov/Watch_the_Skies/tag/equinox/

Brand New Eyes

Brand New Eyes: Bear Hollow Trail Courtesy & Copyright © Kim Blanchard, www.Logancanyonhiking.com
Bear Hollow Trail
Courtesy & © Kim Blanchard, www.Logancanyonhiking.com
A Bridgerland Audubon Society Property
At 16 days old, our little girl ventured into the mountains for the first time. In the high country, below a cathedral of jagged limestone peaks, we found a stroller-wide path far enough from the other summer-goers to make us feel as though we’d arrived somewhere new. For our daughter, she had. Brand new eyes that had been closed the entire ride upcanyon were now wide, alert, darting back and forth, marveling at every new color, shade of shadow, and refracted shard of light. They finally settled on a bouquet of blooming rosehips and didn’t stray. We were bearing witness to discovery in its purest form: drinking in the world as it unfolds.

I’ve made a career of working with children in outdoor settings, educating them about the world’s natural wonders, and likewise being educated by each child’s wonderment at them. But it’s different when it’s your own child—when you’re witnessing their first experience with the world you’ve grown familiar with. It’s something more than a reminder to be ever-present. It’s a change of perspective.

Child Brain Scan Courtesy National Institute of Health Image Gallery on Flickr
Child Brain Scan
Courtesy National Institute of Health Image Gallery on Flickr
In the first 90 days of life, a baby’s brain will grow between 60 and 70%, increasing in size as much as 1% per day immediately after birth. Neural pathways begin to form with each new stimulus, and in the natural world, there’s no shortage of those. When an infant is able to recognize patterns in those stimuli, neurons begin firing together, setting their sequences. Familiarity is forming.

The adult brain is no different, in fact. Neuroscience researchers have found that not only will adult neural pathways change their firing patterns in response to new experience but also that they will grow new branches called dendrites that add to the complexity of human experience and a human’s response to stimuli. You could call it neural nuance. We can still grow if we still look for new things it seems.

I sometimes wonder if my adult brain has begun to regress prematurely as I speed walk up a nearby trail, searching for some vista or peak or unclimbed ridgeline. My neural pathways have formed, patterns have been imbedded in the recesses of my mind, so I bypass the familiar stand of aspen trees and rocky outcroppings—perhaps missing something new in them I would have seen if I had stopped to search, to drink in the unfamiliar set in a known world. I’m learning from my daughter. Perhaps we can all learn from children—to see the world with brand new eyes.


Photos: Bear Hollow Trail, Courtesy & © Kim Blanchard, www.Logancanyonhiking.com
A Bridgerland Audubon Society Property
          Child Brain Scan-Courtesy NIH Image Gallery on Flickr, The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Sound: Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller
Text: Josh Boling, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University

Additional Reading

Boling, Josh, Why I Teach Outside, Wild About Utah, November 11, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/why-i-teach-outside/

Early Brain Development and Health, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/early-brain-development.html

Ohms, Sarah, Sinclair, Jim, Bear Hollow Trail, Logan Canyon Hiking, Bridgerland Audubon Society/Cache Hikers, https://logancanyonhiking.com/bear.htm

Connecting kids to nature, We need to get childhood back outside, The Wilderness Society, https://www.wilderness.org/key-issues/wildlands-everyone/connecting-kids-nature

Schmidt, Brynn, Why Kids Need Wilderness And Adventure More Than Ever, The Outbound Collective April 7, 2016, https://www.theoutbound.com/brynn-schmidt/why-kids-need-wilderness-and-adventure-more-than-ever

The Allen & Alice Stokes Nature Center, Home of the Logan Canyon Children’s Forest, https://logannature.org/

A New Beginning

A New Beginning: Keep Your Social Distance and Keep Wildlife Wild Chart NPS/Matt Turner
Keep Your Social Distance and Keep Wildlife Wild Chart
NPS/Matt Turner

National Parks and Monuments in Utah

State Parks in Utah

Brigham City, UT Parks
Logan UT Parks
Ogden, UT Parks
Orem, UT Parks
Provo, UT Parks
Sandy City, UT Parks
St George, UT Parks
West Jordan, UT Parks
West Valley City, UT Parks

The snow is melting down from the high country; the rivers, creeks, and streams are swollen with runoff and sediment; wildflower blooms are hitting their stride; and schools are officially offline. Summer has arrived ahead of its solstice again. How do we begin to navigate this new beginning in a time of extremely abnormal circumstances?

The hashtag “#StayHome had its moment…[b]ut quarantine fatigue is real,” writes Julia Marcus, professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School. Americans are going to head for the outdoors, now; and in places like Utah, we feel we’ve been isolated from our playgrounds and sacred spaces for far too long. But how do we venture safely into the back of beyond, or, for that matter, the hidden wild spaces of our cities?

Experts at the Cleveland Clinic tell us that “it’s important to remember that the same rules of social distancing that you follow indoors still apply while outdoors.” For the most part, this should be relatively easy to achieve. Personally, I follow the parking rule: if I can’t find a spot to park my car at the trailhead or my blanket at the park at least six feet away from others, I’ll head somewhere else.

The Guardian Newspaper recently surveyed a group of experts on the pros and cons of wearing masks outdoors. The answer was not a blanket “yes” or “no” to the question of outdoor mask-wearing; but there are considerations individuals should make when considering the outdoor space they will be using and whether or not they should wear a mask. First, it’s important to note that viral shedding is more prevalent when taking deeper, harder breaths—as one does climbing a steep switchback or running along a trail. More droplets; more virus, they say. Experts recommend at least doubling the social distance when exercising outdoors and forgoing the trail altogether if you’re feeling ill. Even for those without symptoms, considering a mask is important. Asymptomatic spread is a known possibility, and “the purpose of the mask is more to prevent you from spreading the virus as opposed to keeping you from getting it,” said one expert to The Guardian.

Preliminary studies have shown that if we follow these guidelines when recreating outdoors and use common sense strategies to limit exposure to those outside of our household, we’re at a relatively low risk of contracting the virus. The New York Times reports that “one study of 1,245 coronavirus cases across China found that only two came from outdoors transmission.”

As a backcountry enthusiast, the current pandemic has challenged me to rethink my recreation. I can no longer call up a buddy and set up a car shuttle for a 15-mile ridge walk or a leisurely paddle down the river. I’ve had to find the quiet spaces between neighborhoods while the snow melts and the curve flattens. But, in the process, I’ve been reminded of how to stretch a half-mile of trail into a half-day adventure, of the sounds of nature when man-made noise is absent, and of the care we have for one another’s safety when a family walks single file on the sidewalk past me.

I’m Josh Boling, and I’m Wild About Utah


Photos: Courtesy NPS/Matt Turner
Sound: Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver
Text: A New Beginning: Josh Boling, 2018

Additional Reading

Coronavirus (COVID-19), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Coronavirus, State of Utah, https://coronavirus.utah.gov/

McGregor, Nick, Want to Get Outside During COVID-19? Here’s How To Do It Safely, University of Utah Health, https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2020/04/exercise-during-covid19.php

Sullivan, Peter, Evidence mounts that outside is safer when it comes to COVID-19, The Hill (Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., A Subsidiary of News Communications, Inc.), May 6, 2020, https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/496483-evidence-mounts-that-outside-is-safer-when-it-comes-to-covid-19

Kaufman, Kenn, As Coronavirus Sows Turmoil and Fear, Seeking Solace in Nature’s Calendar, Audubon Magazine, March 30, 2020, https://www.audubon.org/news/as-coronavirus-sows-turmoil-and-fear-seeking-solace-natures-calendar