June 6, 2010

Another Long Walk

I'm beat! Yesterday morning my mom called and asked if I wanted to go on an outing today. Where and when could be my choice. I agonized over what we might do, but finally decided to take advantage of the fact that my mother is one of the few people I know who actually likes, as I do, to take extremely long walks. She hadn't ever taken the Bonneville Shoreline trail, so I made the suggestion and resolved to do more walking than photography today.

It was a bit hotter than it had been when I went last week and some of the landscape had already changed. There were more varieties of flowers blooming and many more butterflies so I was only moderately able to follow my goal of keeping photos to a minimum. These little grayish-blue guys seemed to be everywhere--though it was rare that they'd stop their fluttering and pose. My mom has always been extremely supportive of my curiosity and didn't seem to mind taking a break now and then whenever I thought there was something interesting to stop and muse over.

Despite the occasional diversion, we ended up keeping a good pace and made it far enough to come up alongside the new Draper LDS Temple. I'm not sure what distance we may have covered, but we spent about 4 hours on the trail altogether.

We conversed about a variety of topics while we walked. In most company I'm usually a fairly quiet person, but with certain people (Rob and Mom for sure), it's easy to let my motor mouth get the better of me. Today I rambled on and on about my usual favorite: all the latest stories I'd heard on NPR or seen on PBS.

When we started noticing lizards along the trail, I brought up a story I'd heard during a kbyu radio interview of biologist Jack Sites about how a rise in temperature of only 1 or 2 degrees can totally decimate a local lizard population. Apparently, this is already happening (now because it's kbyu they were a bit leery of actually blaming climate change, still quite a "controversy" among a conservative Utah population, but I do give them kudos for bringing it up at all), and Sites, in collaboration with many others, has been able to document a significant drop in lizard numbers all over the world.

Because they're cold blooded, lizards require many fewer calories to maintain their body mass than do warm-blooded critters of the same size. For this reason, they're considered "calorie fixers" and are extremely important parts of a local food chain. When the overall temperature rises even slightly, the amount of time they're able to feed on a given day goes down significantly. This doesn't kill adult lizards, but it does prevent them from breeding and leads to a precipitous drop off in their numbers over a very short period of time--even only a couple of years. Because so many animals depend on them as an abundant food source, their disappearance can affect the whole balance of a local ecosystem. Small mammals do not effectively fill in the niche because they require so many more calories to get by--there's just not enough food to go around.

Fortunately, there didn't seem to be a shortage of lizards on this particular trail: they were scuttling around all over the place. There was however quite an annoying shortage of dogs on leashes. First of all, dogs are not allowed on most of this trail. Down closer to Draper, and away from watershed areas, they are allowed on leashes. (I imagine the lizards much prefer them thus restrained as well!) Of the 8 dogs we passed today (6 of which were in the "no dogs allowed" area) only 2 were leashed.

Towards the end of our walk out, we came to a confluence of trails in Draper where a large trail-info sign was posted. On this sign it requested that "suspicious or illegal activity" be reported to the local police. My mom phoned in our experience with the offending dog owners. She complained that we have dogs too and would love to take them out on the trail, but being law-abiding citizens left them at home and are bothered to see so many others shamelessly disregarding the law. We never met anyone directly, but an officer did come out and phoned us while we were on the trail returning to Sandy. I love that my mom is such a take-action kind of person and I wish a bit more of that would rub off on me.

Maybe there are some dog owners reading this who roll their eyes at our taking offense at those who travel with their dogs unrestrained, but I don't care what anyone thinks about how nice or well behaved their dogs are, it's a danger to others and to the dogs to take them out without leashes. My dad was severely bitten a couple of years ago when he startled someone's "nice" unleashed dog while walking through the gully.

When I walk our dogs, encountering an unleashed animal is a huge problem. I admit, Rusty (our little Jack Russell), as cute and loving as he is, was never properly socialized and is extremely aggressive towards other dogs. When someone's dog comes happily bounding across the street to say hello, Rusty bristles for a fight and I have to risk a bite myself and pick him up in order to prevent him from getting himself into a tussle.

It also especially puzzles me to see folks out on these trails with unleashed dogs. What happens when curious Fido goes up to investigate a rattlesnake or sees a deer, a squirrel, or some other little (or big) critter off in the trees? Come on! You have to admit it's a disaster waiting to happen. And it's illegal around watershed anyway. I mean, who wants their water contaminated by dog *#$%!?

ANYWAY, the rest of the hike was (only a little) exhausting, but fun. We came off the trail a bit sunburned and thirsting for a cold glass of water, but in good spirits after having spent the day...and a satisfyingly long walk...together.

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