Salt Lake Spirals

The Great Salt Lake. I had no idea it's so PINK!

The Great Salt Lake. I had no idea it’s so PINK!

I’ve met all five Great Lakes, but had yet to see the Great Salt Lake so after a weekend in the High Unitas Mountains in northeast Utah, I skirted around Salt Lake City and approached America’s Dead Sea from the north. My original plan was to drive down Promontory Point, but a park ranger at the Golden Spike National Historic Site (where the Transcontinental Railroad bridged the gap between East and West in 1869) informed me that the road down Promontory Point is private, gated and locked.

Mares and foals grazing in front of the Prominatory Mountains.

Mares and foals grazing in front of the Promontory Mountains.

“Besides, there’s not much to see down there,” he said. “But isn’t the Great Salt Lake down there?” And he said, “Oh yeah, that. The better place to see the lake is at the Spiral Jetty“. I had no idea what the Spiral Jetty was, but I didn’t ask the ranger any questions about it; I rather like encountering new places without having a picture already in mind. It’s an uncommon experience these days: to go some place you’ve never seen a photo of, or heard a story about. That quickening of surprise, that tickling of the mind, that flashes upon you when you open your eyes to something new in the world. Even after nine years on the road, going new places never ceases to thrill me.

The first jetty we hiked down, remnants of an oil-drilling operation.

The first jetty we hiked down from Rozel Point, remnants of an oil-drilling operation.

Salt Lake

Jetty Death

Salt Lake Bowie. I think he thought it was snow, but it didn't taste like snow and the water didn't smell like water. Dogs confused!

Salt Lake Bowie. I think he thought it was snow, but it didn’t taste like snow and the water didn’t smell like water. Dogs confused!

Lots of white foam. This place was like being on the beach on Venus!

Lots of white foam, dead bugs and sand fleas.

Even though it was too stormy, shallow and stinky to wade in and float, the Great Salt Lake did not disappoint. I had no idea it’s so PINK! Between the pink water and the salty white, foamy shore I felt like we were on the beach on Venus. The dogs were thoroughly confused by the sights and smells. They love to swim, but they wouldn’t go anywhere near the water and they both sampled some foam in their mouths and spit it out in disgust.

The Spiral Jetty!

The Spiral Jetty!

A little farther down the road, I found the Spiral Jetty. I had no idea who had built it or why, but it was clearly a monumental work: thousands of tons of rock dropped into a massive counter clockwise spiral leading out into the lake. I had the place to myself for a few hours and I decided to set up camp for the night to catch sunset and sunrise over the lake.

Home sweet home at the Spiral Jetty

Home sweet home at the Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty from above

Spiral Jetty from above. This place was lousy with spirals!  Notice the Rover & Rattler down below.

After awhile, a truck with Florida plates pulled up and the driver got out and took a tripod down to the Jetty. His far-off figure appeared animated and excited and I kept catching snippets of his commentary as he spoke into the camera. When he came back up the parking lot, I went over to ask if he knew anything about the spiral and he said, “Well how long do you have? I’m writing a book about this place!”

We ended up hanging out for most of the evening, while Joey told me about his pilgrimage from Miami across the West, seeking obscure “land art” installations in Utah, Nevada and Texas and all about Robert Smithson, the sculptor who created the Spiral Jetty in 1970 before dying in a place crash in 1973 while surveying a site in Texas for another installation.

Walking the Spiral Jetty. The spiral is only visible at low lake levels. It was hidden for decades after it was built, emerging only in the early 2000's, encrusted in salt. I'd love to come back someday when the water is higher.

Walking the Spiral Jetty. The spiral is only visible at low lake levels. It was hidden for decades after it was built, emerging only in the early 2000’s, encrusted in white salt. I’d love to come back someday when the water is higher.

I often find myself in the right place at the right time and it was just my luck to run into an art historian at the Spiral Jetty! “If you like this place, you should come to the Sun Tunnels this weekend for the Solstice Party,” he said. Sounds like an opportunity to me… stay tuned for a Solstice post!

Dawn over the Great Salt Lake

Dawn over the Great Salt Lake

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently traveling the backroads from New Mexico to Alaska, writing and living out of a tiny Teardrop camper. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Salt Lake Spirals

  1. Lavinia Ross says:

    Some really beautiful photos, Mary. I had not heard of the spiral either. That is something! Thanks for the education.

    I’ve been through the Bonneville Salt Flats on Route 80 a few times in the distant past. Also an interesting place.

  2. Fascinating stories, stunning sunrise pic!

  3. jack cleary says:

    I think someone dumped a lot of Mr. Bubble in the Great Salt Lake

  4. cozybegone says:

    FASCINATING and so lucky to run into a historian…that was really cool!!!

  5. mvschulze says:

    Mary: Awesome look at the Great Salt Lake. I wish I could be in your shoes, exploring as you do. But this reminds me of part of a cross country trip I chronicled here on word-press last August, that a friend and I took in my MGB in 1967, On one specific day, found here: http://wp.me/p37YEI-S1
    we explored desolate Mono Lake, And on that same day (late that night,) we were dumbfounded as to why no one along then Rt 40 just west of Salt Lake City, could help us find any places to stay on or near the Great Salt Lake. Like it just wasn’t anything of interest! Being worn, we gave up and continued driving several more hours into Wyoming, to sleep on the road in a rest area.

  6. Super cool post ! I have driven past the great Salt lake but never stopped to explore. Next time I will look at it in a new light. Nice photos !!

  7. egghill says:

    Beautiful. I also agree with your preconception ideas about travel. Sometimes (if you HAVE to take the kids to Disney World) it pays to know what you’re doing. Otherwise, I love the surprise around the next bend especially when hiking or exploring back roads by car.

  8. This post makes me SO VERY HAPPY! I love the Jetty, and the Sun Tunnels, and I really hope you stopped on the salt flats on your way to the tunnels! They are without question my very favorite place of all. :)

    xox

  9. Pingback: Sun Tunnels Solstice | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

  10. Wendy says:

    WOW that really is pink

  11. Pingback: Ask the Blonde Coyote: Facing the Fear Factor | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

  12. itisawarmday says:

    Reblogged this on thanks~your~good-heart… and commented:
    Must be washed our minds.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s