In Equal Measure to Our Fears

In Equal Measure to Our Fears: Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) Drawing water from a stone: this juniper grew out of just a few fractures in the surface rock. Courtesy US NPS, Neal Herbert, Photographer
Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)
Drawing water from a stone: this juniper grew out of just a few fractures in the surface rock.
Courtesy US NPS, Neal Herbert, Photographer
Doubt is a tricky thing. It’s neither good nor bad, it is simply the axis upon which the scales of hope and fear balance. It is the prerequisite of faith, belief, disbelief, and nihilism, all equal paths of equal circumstance. It is the fork in the road which Berra told us to take all the same. In Equal Measure to Our Fears

When I go outside, breathe in the thick charcoal air, see the dribbling water in the once-mighty streams, and hear more stories of growing sickness, I’ll admit that I have doubts which edge on fear. I doubt that this is the last year of record-breaking heat. I doubt that this is the last year of record-breaking drought. I doubt that this is the last year of record-breaking hospitalizations. Such doubt can make you feel hopeless, powerless, and just plain sad. What have we done? How did we get here? Wasn’t this all avoidable? It takes me some time, then, to remember to move on from that doubt and to take a path, but to never forget the place in which drove me to rest and reflect. Though it can feel like a good place of respite, a shady tree to rest one’s laurels or wallow and say uncle to what we’ve sown, there’s still work which can be done. To rest in doubt is to be a bump on a log and not the tree itself. I remember the lessons of the humble tree.

The tree lives because of doubt’s prodigy of conjoined fear and hope. We must also harness both in equal form and measure in order to grow, and to live. In seeing the unified balance there is motion. The tree’s roots reach downwards, clinging to the earth in fear. In this way the world is its. The tree’s branches reach skywards, opening to the sky in hope. In this way it is the world’s. The tree’s roots drink water and move the earth: from fear comes motion and matter. The tree’s leaves drink fire and move the air: from hope comes life and form. Without fear, we would shrivel. Without hope, we would rot. Without fear, we would fall. Without hope, we would suffocate. To be subject to hope, you must make fear a part of you. Latch onto it, and feel that this shade of love is life given purpose. Then you may reach upwards and see that you do so only because you contain that which you cling to.

The fear I feel when I breathe in our Utah air, see green lawns, and hear new numbers on the radio is necessary for hope, and both are only possible because of the blessings of doubt because the future is not fixed. And yet, there is another hidden secret to fear and hope, and that is action. The tree is not a static being. Like all of us, it is in a constant state of becoming. We may be where we are, but where we are does not mean we must remain. Trees grow over boulders, thrive upon cliffs, and so can we. We can move on from La Brean doubt on what shall be. We can continue our journey in becoming. Given this, we then have a question in which to answer for ourselves: the question though is not what shall we become, but towards which light do we choose to work towards in equal measure to our fears?

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
Images: Courtesy US National Park Service, Neal Herbert, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin.
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,

The Indomitable Juniper, Canyonlands National Park, US National Parks Service, US Department of the Interior, (Image source)

Out Fishing

Out Fishing: Hatchery Brood Fish Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
Hatchery Brood Fish
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
The minute I heard there was a well stacked community fishing pond just five miles down the road from where I live, I dusted off my old fishing pole, slipped out of the house, and threw my line into the Wellsville Reservoir. I had the place to myself. There was snow on the ground but the water wasn’t frozen. Within the first hour I felt the tug on the line and reeled in a 12 inch trout. I was hooked! I returned just about every evening to catch my limit of 2. I called all my friends who liked to eat fish, and started to consider adding fresh fish delivery to my resume.

About this time I heard that although trucks from the state hatcheries stocked the community ponds, the hatchery in Kamas delivered fish to high mountain lakes in the Unitas via airplane. A few phone calls later, and I was lucky enough to get invited to watch the loading of the fish.

It was 5 in the morning when I followed the Kamas hatchery truck out onto to tarmac at the Heber airport. A specially designed Cessna 158 was waiting for us. There – just behind the pilot’s seat- was a water tank neatly divided into 7 compartments. 7 levers stuck out from the dashboard that would open and close a portal on the belly of the plane.

Hatchery staff loading about 8 lbs of fingerling trout onto a scale before loading into a plane tank via a funnel. Courtesy & © Mary Heers
Hatchery staff loading about 8 lbs of fingerling trout onto a scale before loading into a plane tank via a funnel.
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
The crew got right to work. One pumped water into the plane’s water tank. Another netted about 8 lbs of fingerling trout onto a scale and dumped the lot into a funnel. Suddenly an especially feisty fingerling jumped out of the funnel and landed at my feet. I picked it up, cradling it in the palm of my hand, awed by the sleek beauty of this tiny trout that was exactly the size of my index finger. I wished it well as I tossed it back.

“Flush,” said the man in charge. And another man with a red bucket of water sent the fish through the funnel into the plane. Soon the pilot took off. When he got to his target lake, he would drop down and skim over the tops of the trees on the water’s edge. He would then open the portal in the belly of the plane and the tiny trout would flutter down like leaves into the water below.

If our feisty fingerling can avoid predators (mostly birds and bigger fish) it will grow to about 5 inches by September. When the water temperature drops to 30 degrees the fish become lethargic and stop growing. Next June, if the lake warms up to 50 degrees, the trout will grow 2/3 inch an month. At 60 degrees, the fish will grow an inch a month. But if the water temperature reaches 70, the amount of oxygen in the water will drop. Any higher and the fish will be severely stressed.

Growing up and backpacking with my family, I was always delighted to come across an alpine lake because it meant that I could take off my pack and stop hiking. But once I got hooked on fishing, I found myself agreeing with the poet Edgar Guest:

“A feller gets a chance to dream
Out fishing.
He learns the beauty of the stream
Out fishing….+

Now, as far as getting up to the high mountain lakes in the Unitas, one thing is for certain. The fish are already there.

This is Mary Heers and I am Wild About Utah.

Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers
Photos: Courtesy
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver,
Text: Mary Heers,
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham,

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Wild About Utah Postings

Edgar Guest, 1881–1959, Biography,,

Edgar Albert Guest, Out Fishin’,, 2018,

Betancourt, Sarah, Flying fish: video shows Utah wildlife agency restocking lake by plane, The Guardian, July 13, 2021,

Facer, Austin, Who says fish can’t fly?: Aerial stocking places fish in lakes via airplane drop, ABC4 Utah, July 12, 2021,

Utah: A Love Story

Utah: A Love Story-Zion National Park Courtesy US National Park Service
Zion National Park, Courtesy US National Park Service
“…[A] word of caution: Do not jump into your automobile next June and rush out to the canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages. In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out…and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe.”

Ed Abbey penned those words waxing elegiac on a barstool in Hoboken, New Jersey. I read them decades later on yellowed pages in a rain-drenched tent somewhere in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. When the rain stopped and summer ended, I enthusiastically disregarded Abbey’s first cautioning. I jumped into my car and rushed to the desert.

Another decade has passed since then, and Utah has become home as I’ve spent those years heeding Abbey’s instructions: walking and crawling over sandstone, through thornbush and cactus, blazing trails with spots of blood, finding and falling in love with places. The Colorado, the Green, the San Juan; Bears Ears, Cedar Mesa, Comb Ridge; Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion; the named and nameless places in between—the cloven topography where we slogged through flash flood debris, broke through the ice of slot canyon pools, and howled at the setting sun flashing shades of red we’d never seen. After a time, the trails I blazed no longer led to vistas, but to memories.

It’s not just the canyon country I fell in love with, though. I came for the desert, but I stayed for the mountains. And after walking their well-blazed trails, I shambled down the ones overgrown and choked with disuse; and when those ran out, crawled on hands and knees. And I saw things. More importantly, I found something: perspective—of place and of home—perspective gained from the many secrets divulged by mountains and running waters, red rock amphitheaters and alpine meadows. It has been a great privilege to share the stories of those places with you all. They are my love letters to their secrets. My family is off to find and fall in love with new places, now, but I’ll always be Wild About Utah!

Photos: Courtesy US National Park Service
Additional Sound: Courtesy & Copyright J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin and Friend Weller
Text: Josh Boling, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University
Additional Reading Links: Josh Boling Utah A Love Story

Sources & Additional Reading

Abbey, Edward, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, Ballantine Books (January 1, 1971),

Boling, Josh, Author Page, Wild About Utah,

    Josh’s Pieces:

  1. Old Ephraim, The Infamous Northern Utah Grizzly, Wild About Utah, Aug 7, 2017,
  2. Tree Talk, Wild About Utah, Feb 27, 2017
  3. Water-Liquid Life, Wild About Utah, May 23, 2017,
  4. The Urban Ecotone, Wild About Utah, Nov 6, 2017,
  5. Kokanee Salmon in Utah, Wild About Utah, Oct 9, 2017,
  6. Fire, Wild About Utah, Aug 13, 2018,
  7. Wild Cats, Wild About Utah, Dec 10, 2018,
  8. A Desert’s Paradox, Wild About Utah, Dec 15, 2018,
  9. The Language of Ravens, Wild About Utah, Feb 189, 2018,
  10. Wild Children, Wild About Utah, Jan 8, 2018,
  11. Wild Neoteny, Wild About Utah, Jul 9, 2018,
  12. Josh’s Raven Encounter, Wild About Utah, Jun 11, 2018,
  13. Wilderglyphs, Wild About Utah, Mar 30, 2018,
  14. Hidden in Plain Sight, Wild About Utah, May 14, 2018,
  15. Greenback Cutthroat Trout, Wild About Utah, Nov 19, 2018,
  16. Habitat Heroes Explore More Utah Biomes, Wild About Utah, Apr 8, 2019,
  17. Josh Explains Wild Neoteny, Wild About Utah, Aug 19, 2019,
  18. A Solstice Vignette, Wild About Utah, Dec 16, 2019,
  19. Beaver Creek Greenback Cutthroat Trout, Wild About Utah, Feb 25, 2019,
  20. The Henry Mountains’ Bison Herd, Wild About Utah, Jan 14, 2019,
  21. The River, Wild About Utah, Jul 15, 2019,
  22. The Bear River’s History and Contributions, Wild About Utah, Jun 10, 2019,
  23. Habitat Heroes Explore Utah Biomes, Wild About Utah, Mar 4, 2019,
  24. Why I Teach Outside, Wild About Utah, Nov 11, 2019,
  25. Utah’s Desert Paradox, Wild About Utah, Oct 14, 2019,
  26. Rock Art, Wild About Utah, Sep 16, 2019,
  27. You, Too, Can Teach Outside!, Wild About Utah, Apr 20, 2020,
  28. Brand New Eyes, Wild About Utah, Aug 17, 2020,
  29. Snowshoes and Adaptations, Wild About Utah, Feb 17, 2020,
  30. The Henry Mountain Bison, Wild About Utah, Jan 20, 2020,
  31. Imaginary Wanderings, Wild About Utah, Mar 16, 2020,
  32. Questions, Wild About Utah, Mar 22, 2020,
  33. A New Beginning, Wild About Utah, May 25, 2020,
  34. Karst Topography, Wild About Utah, Nov 23, 2020,
  35. Wandering Home, Wild About Utah, Oct 19, 2020,
  36. Equinox, or Equilux?, Wild About Utah, Sep 21, 2020,
  37. Finding Remoteness, Wild About Utah, Feb 22, 2021,
  38. Utah: A Love Story, Wild About Utah, May 24, 2021,

Going In With a Child’s Naturalist Eye

Going In Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Going In
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
In Kathryn Lasky’s picture book “One Beetle Too Many”, we read, “Charles [Darwin] learned the names of everything he collected, for to know the names of these things was important, and it might be the one time when adults would actually listen to a child speak.” As an elementary school teacher, I ponder its message, reflecting on my wilderness experiences enriched by children. In fact, some of my best discovery days have been when I was led by a curious child.

As a Stokes Nature Center camp leader one summer, my focus for the day was on alpine forest plants as we set out on a northern Utah trail. I carried plant presses and field guides, ready to teach how to identify a Douglas fir from a Lodgepole pine and to have them hug quaking aspens blindfolded to discover distinguishing characteristics of each trunk. These youngsters were going to learn every forest fact I could share, I thought, but they quickly taught me the meaning of naturalist John Muir’s quote: “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

Black Fly Larvae Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Black Fly Larvae
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Not thirty steps from the trailhead, I witnessed natural inquiry at its best, and it was facilitated by these seven- and eight-year-olds. Few things are as fascinating and magnetizing as running water, and they’d found some. The day before, we’d hiked along Temple Sawmill beaver ponds, scooping up stonefly and midge larvae and designing our own dams, so I was gearing up for another muddy adventure. Instead of sloshing, though, Franny instantly noticed some wiggly black things stuck to the rocks, and the children huddled together around the smooth rocks in the trickle, peering at them with their hand lenses in this impromptu sit spot. “Hey, do you still have that water bug chart?” one asked me. We veered from the day’s alpine plant plan and made friends with what the kids decided, using a macroinvertebrate key, were black fly larvae. They noted the mouth brush filters and abdominal features allowing these critters to anchor to the stones. I would have led them right by, never noticing the rich possibilities of exploring the natural world through a child’s eyes. I am sometimes guilty of tunnel vision without a young companion, only noticing what I know or am expecting to find.

Nathan's Mac & Cheese Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Nathan’s Mac & Cheese
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
That same June I was hiking in the Manti-LaSals with my nephew when he reminded me of the message in another of Muir’s statements, “One day’s exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books.” We sat down when he heard the sounds of a woodpecker busy in the treetops, making wisecracks about how it can peck like that and not get a headache. Our sit spot observation led me later to find answers: did you know that woodpeckers have special muscles and extra inner eyelids? I admit that it was Nathan, the hiker without the Utah Master Naturalist certifications, who spotted what looked like macaroni and cheese on the branch as we moved on and proceeded to tell me that he thought it was a fungus, much like a young Darwin who said, “I am a complete millionaire in odd and curious facts.” Next time you go out, take along a child. You’ll be a millionaire, too.

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

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

Additional Reading:


Lasky, Kathryn. One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin. Candlewick Press, 2009.

Mertins, Brian. How to increase curiosity with nature.

Natural History Museum of Utah.

O’Connor, Mike. Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Headaches? And other bird questions you know you want to ask. Beacon Press, 2007.

Stokes Nature Center.

Utah State University Extension. Key to Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Life in Utah Ponds and Streams.

Wolfe, Linnie Marsh. John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1938.