This time of year is referred to by locals as monsoon season. Many an afternoon at Alta gains drama as huge, thick, dark clouds push over the blue sky bringing powerful rain and hail. This quick change in weather is a characteristic of summer in the Wasatch mountains. Heavy rain and chaotic thunderstorms serve to put the power of the mountains on the big stage and remind the human visitors that they are indeed only visitors. While humans have been very successful at populating high alpine and dynamic mountain environments, it is difficult to imagine that people can outbuild all the factors of this exposed landscape.
In summer the weather might cut our hikes short and send us soaking wet running for our cars but the extreme weather in the winter is a whole different story. As long as people have been living at Alta in the winter, the risk of avalanches has been a primary concern. In the late 1800s the town of Alta would regularly lose buildings and lives when avalanches triggered high on the slopes would come crashing down onto the rudimentary town. This was a risk that came with making a home high in the mountains.
In 2021, we have a far better understanding of avalanches then those poor miners did back in the day but still avalanches and the weather remain the few parts of our natural world that cannot be completely controlled by humans. In the discussion of how we are to improve the efficiency of transportation up Little Cottonwood Canyon, it is important to remember our history. On the draft EIS the enhanced busing alternative includes the construction of snow sheds. The proposed cost of building these snow sheds would be 86 million dollars. While compared to the overall cost of all the proposed alternatives, this is a small number it seems as though it is worth considering if snow sheds would actually be a worthwhile investment.
On average every winter there are between 3-5 days when avalanches substantially affect the roadway and cause the road to close. 86 million dollars seems like a huge price tag and the visual impact of these snow sheds seems extreme for just a few days of inconvenience. Above is a link to the fact sheet that provides in depth information about what would be included in the enhanced busing option and how much it would all cost. Read it and please comment on whatever part of it sticks out to you!
Wildflower in the spotlight!
California Corn Lily (also known as skunk cabbage) is an extremely unique and distinctive looking flower. It looks a bit like a stalk of corn with chaotic jumbles of white flowers branching off in all different directions. This flower tends to grow in clumps and thrives best in moist and marshy soils. While this flower is beautiful and native to Utah, it is extremely poisonous to humans and most animals. Ingestion of the plant can cause birth defects and can change the way in which growing cells develop. Due to its ability to shut down quickly growing cells in the body, California Corn Lily was researched as a potential cancer drug but nothing major came from this research.