Friday, May 15, 2009

Utah Places: Squaw Peak to Hobble Creek

The vistas are as picturesque as the names. Squaw Peak trail starts up from Provo Canyon and winds along the mountainside, sometimes with breathtaking views of the valley below. It eventually ends up climbing over the shoulder of Hobble Creek Canyon, descending into the Hobble Creek area through muddy farm roads. Much of the road is suited for 4wd light, but if the weather is bad, there may be deep mud holes that can swallow a station wagon.

Makes for a delightful afternoon drive if the weather is good.

Lots of little informal camping-type spots, as well as some formally maintained campgrounds that never much interested me. There is rock that is good enough to challenge any climber around several of the precipitous canyon walls that slice thier way up from Utah Valley, if you are into that sort of thing. June and July wild flowers in great profusion. Every range of ecosystem from chaparal to alpine, and everything in between. Lots of wide-open meadow lands and green grasses in summer season.

Worth a trip.

16 comments:

Patricia said...

Haha, Jim. Funny you should mention station wagons! Back in the early 80s, I took my old '67 Plymouth Belvedere station wagon on this trail. I don't remember what time of year it was, but as matters progressed, I began running into some of those very mud holes you mention, right around where that workforce terracing is located (hey, what can you tell us about that?). Since I didn't know how much further I had to go to reach Hobble Creek, I chickened out.

A guy on a motorcycle came riding by while I was outside the car peering into the depths of an especially intimidating water-filled hole. He asked what I was doing. I told him I was thinking I ought to turn back. He said, "Don't quit now, you're almost there!"

Call me distrustful, or maybe I just know my limits. I turned back anyhow, gingerly tiptoed around potholes back toward Rock Canyon, and breathed a sigh of relief when I hit paved road.

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia,

The Squaw Peak road has been braved by all kinds of unlikely vehicles. BYU kids especially use the north end up to Rock Canyon quite a bit. There is a long traverse across Provo Peak to come down into Hobble Creek, and it is quite exposed, especially when the snow is melting. You were prudent to respect the limitations of your car. Not a nice place to get stranded, I have helped more than one stuck vehicle from the mud, and taken my share of being towed out in turn.

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia,

The terraces were a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late depression era. The terraces were supposed to serve as flood control, but probably amounted mostly to poorly conceived scheme that contributed great to destruction of fragile subalpine ecosystems. It was basically a make-work camp where the Feds dreamed up jobs for the unemployed welfare folks on relief. I have Utah relatives who were employed thus.

Patricia said...

That's interesting, what you say about the terraces probably accomplishing little more than destroy ecosystems. It felt to me like the land had been scapled.

So ... was the motorcyclist right? Was I almost to Hobble Creek, or was he setting me up?

a little music said...

I've always wondered who thought up that dumb idea of scarring up the mountain like that! Silly idea, anyway. Oh well.

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia,

The muddiest stretch is indeed a far reach from Hobble Creek. He was probably just shining you on...

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia et al,

Terracing was a CCC project first and foremost. Worry about the impact later.

Projects like this were probably not too consequential although they left such notable scars on the land. The intentions were good. Mining operations that were conducted prior to and after were not so well planned, and they left many scars too, many of which are still in evidence. It is a legacy we live with, from a far different era when values were different. We cannot presume to pass judgement on those folks, informed by today´s restrictive standard. They knew little of how we would think. The land was theirs, for them to use as they saw fit. I am sure there were many hungry folks employed in the day in those CCC camps.

Patricia said...

Even though I agree that sometimes people act in these cases without understanding what they do, I think we can presume to pass judgment on such acts, but it must be fair judgment. If we don't look at such things with a critical eye, then we run serious risk of not passing fair judgment. Plenty of people back then who had gained insight and experience understood that projects like this one were not especially productive as far as the land or other species were concerned. Plenty of people now understand that certain kinds of practices commonly promoted as being beneficial are not as beneficial as they appear (though those who promote such practices will work hard to terrace their intentions with impressive language to make it look good). Many speak out against such things, and I'm not just talking about the "tree huggers," those who run toward the militant in their crusades against or for this or that. Probably, somebody somewhere raised rational objections to the terracing project or others like it around the country, trying to point efforts in more productive directions; they were just ignored or shouted down, like any number of forward-sighted people have been. Sometimes we act poorly out of ignorance. That, I'm as guilty of that as anybody. Sometimes we don't especially act out of ignorance, we just don't care or we think that for some reason we can't care or don't have to care, so we turn a blind eye. Sometimes we understand what we're doing is wrong but feel compelled to do it regardless of conscience or comprehension. Sometimes we do things simply because we can, because, after all, the "land is ours," without thought for the others involved.

The terracing is what it is; probably, somebody somewhere---maybe several somebodys---knew it wasn't the smart or best thing to do. I accept that it was done, but I don't think it was in itself an especially acceptable act, in the way that kids playing with matches is not acceptable. A thoughtful, mature mind doesn't necessarily have to have seen kids burn down houses this way to imagine the consequences.

As far as what you say about projects like this one being "probably not too consequential," I think you're right, though your word "probably" provides some wiggle room for the possibility that it was more consequential than we know. But in combination with those harmful mining practices you mention, and a host of other behaviors, such acts add up.

I'll just guess there was a way to provide work for folks that would have been more productive and meaningful.

I say this because I know in my own life there exist ways of doing and being I can't see yet that are more productive and meaningful than my actions now, and in order to make as good an accounting of myself as possible, I will search for them for as long as I live.

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia,

Here is a link to a CCC reference:

http://www.media.utah.edu/UHE/c/CIVCONCOR.html

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia,

We are in complete agreement over much of what you say. I respect the judgement of those who have gone before though. Without them, some of us would not have been!

Shortsighted or not, they were my ancestors. When I lived along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, I saw first-hand what determined men can do, who have only one purpose in mind. At least the Utah contingent was mostly benign. In Colorado, it was some kind of test of manhood to see who could tame the wild mountains. Shameful, awful acts were committed to reap short-term gains. We paid the price in terms of erosion, pollution, ugliness, and general disarray that results after such enterprises are abandoned, and can be exploited for gain no further. Those greedy men will answer for their avarice -- someday.

Patricia said...

I think that critiquing acts of others who have gone before is itself a respectful act, an act of good judgment, especially if we are able to turn the magnifying glass on ourselves and look with similar intent to improve on what has been.

Knee-jerk condemnation is not a respectful act.

By the way, Jim, I've only once gotten stuck when I've been "out there." I was in the San Rafael desert, driving the same station wagon, in company with my brother. A dune had drifted over the road and I decided to brave it. We got stuck, but I was carrying shovels and we dug ourselves out.

All part of the adventure.

If you ever have to come pull me out of anywhere, I'll buy you dinner!!!

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia,

Getting stuck and unstuck is indeed all part of the adventure.

You will have to call on others if you are in the lurch somewhere, off in the ditch. My driving license was revoked last month.

I expect I will not soon -- perhaps never -- recover enough functionality in my starboard foot to drive again. All I can do is remember how it was..

Meanwhile, the old 4runner sits and waits patiently, as ever.

Haven´t decided yet if the powers that be will permit me to drive the ATV. Doesn´t need foot control. I will drive it, in any case, just for some cheap thrills.

Patricia said...

Yeah, Jim, I know you have driver's license issues, I was speaking figuratively. You know, a friendly metaphysical challenge.

I heard someone around Mount Pleasant died in an ATV accident this weekend. Is that right? Anyone you know?

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia,

Well, the revoking was unequivocal, but I had no grounds to argue. At the time, I was experiencing black-outs with little warning. Can´t drive safely under those conditions.

I heard someone died in a ATV crackup, but I don´t know who it was. Haven´t heard his name yet.

a little music said...

Regarding the scars upon the land - I've decided they are what they are.

Nature adapts. Why can't we? We are so silly and short sighted, aren't we? I mean, really - if we take a drive up to those great steps on the mountain, hasn't nature swallowed them up, and engulfed them again, included them back in the original scheme of things? Do the deer not make them their home? Do the trees not grow there? Are they not now part of the "natural" landscape?

Are we so arrogant as to think that we Lord over nature, without being a part of it?

Personally, I consider myself part of nature. A beaver cuts down trees to make its lodge and dam up a river, impacting untold other species and beasties upriver. What's the difference in what we do? Nature impacts nature, and we are part of the cycle. To presume to remove ourselves from that cycle is, in my own opinion, just foolish on our part. We are no greater or lesser than the great earth we live upon. We are at its mercy for our very lives.

Consider Katrina. Consider the great tsunami that wiped out thousands of lives in a single moment. Consider earthquakes and tornadoes and all types of natural "disasters".

Are we not equally helpless to the whims of nature as nature is to our whims? Frankly, I think nature has a leg up on us!

I enjoy what nature has to offer. I enjoy digging up fossils, and watching the birds circle, and seeing the stars in the clear black sky. I love the mountains and the animals and I love being a part of it all.

It is in me, and I am in it. That is what I teach my children. We are nothing without one another. Nature is nothing without us, and we are nothing without nature. We seem to mete out equal measures of good and harm on one another.

Sarah R. said...

Was looking for more info on the CCC Teraces and stumbled here. Thanks for the info. FWIW, whenever I look up at the teraces I think, wow, we did some pretty incredible things during the 30's and 40's. I'm sure they didn't think much of it, but, I mean holy cow! They carved out these enormous steps on the side of a mountain! We just don't undertake projects that enormous anymore- and with such a great humanitarian purpose. I find it inspiring.