To say 2020 has been a different year is to engage in understatement.
It all started with watching a Jazz game where Rudy Gobert is scratched due to illness. From the time that game got cancelled, it seemed we moved at warp drive into a different universe. Next thing I know, the stock market crashed, I’m working from home, my cruise is cancelled, and I’m looking for toilet paper substitutes — coffee filters perhaps?
One of the biggest cultural disruptions here in Utah has been closed churches. What that did for many is they discovered my quiet Sunday cathedral. There were more people hiking in 2020 on a Sunday than ever.
Hiking in a pandemic is more crowded but it is still remarkably easy to social distance on the trail. And to my fellow hikers: it has been good smiling and nodding from 6+ feet.
2020 was a year of heat, both in the streets and in the hills. Snow dissipated quickly from our hills and the wise hikers focused their energies on shadier north facing slopes. And the Tooele area has amazing trails that can provide shade.
From the Dark Trail in Settlement Canyon to hikes on either side of Butterfield Pass at the top of Middle Canyon, there was shade to be had, and people found it this year.
Along the Butterfield Peaks in Middle Canyon autumn in our mountains has been subdued compared to some years. The windstorm that toppled trees throughout the Wasatch Front also affected our mountains.
Douglas Fir in particular seemed to be susceptible to being toppled. Aspen groves had many leaves shed from the trees before they turned yellow. Even so, there was still color to be found in our hills this fall.
In Settlement Canyon our maple trees are generally the first to change and a beautiful show they put on. Red’s oranges and yellows all create a burst to our senses. And when a light breeze kicks up, you begin to feel the coming fall and winter. Hiking in autumn is tricky. An evening hike can start out wearing shorts and tank top but by the end sweatpants and long sleeves might feel like a better idea.
As the autumn progresses, oaks turn gold and aspen turn yellow as the maples find their leaves forming a carpet on the ground. There is a feel and smell that pictures cannot capture this time of year. The feeling that life is retreating and desolation is coming is all too apparent in the quiet and lengthening shadows. The shower of leaves with every gust of breeze lets you know what direction life is going for the next few months.
On the foothills of Left Hand Fork of Settlement Canyon 2020 has been a year we will not forget any time soon.
My hope is that we can find some kernels of joy and discovery in this time of unprecedented change and transition.
Fall in many ways is symbolic of the transitions we go through in life from one period to another. Those beautiful leaves fall, turn brown, and decay into the soil that sprouts the very beauty we enjoy. Profound meaning and beauty lies in the gentle breezes that carpet our canyons with next year’s fertilizer. May the year 2020 teach us how fleeting life is and love and value our time and each other. Trees topple and leaves fall, but life will prevail.
From a young age David Swan’s natural curiosity led him to explore and study the outdoor wonders of the place where he was born and raised. He currently lives on the southeast side of Tooele City with a view of the Oquirrh Mountains from his backyard.