Sunday, May 20, 2012

Salt Flats

Like these bikers and the pioneers of who settled the west coast of the United States, we headed across the great salt flats of Utah.
But unlike them we were comfortably inside a large metal vehicle. We had protection from the biting wind that the distant white cloud told us was coming.
Due to an extremely fluctuating Lake level the shoreline of the shallow Great Salt Lake is almost deserted.  A building could be built right on the waterline one year then be hundreds of feet from the shore the next. The white in the photo, below is a line of hard mineral deposit that must be crossed to reach the lake.
Saltair is a resort that has been rebuilt and re-imagined several times through the years. The first version was in 1893.
photo used from wikipedia
At that time, a railroad was specifically built to take travelers to the resort.  Some of the wooden pilings were still visible as we drove by.
Today Saltair III is a concert venue but it has had its share of troubles.  When first built in 1981 flooding occurred shortly after it opened. The lake receded after several years allowing Saltair to reopen.  The problem was that the lake kept receding until it was far from the venue which rested against Interstate 80. Very few events are held there anymore. The water you see below is a small wet area formed from building the interstate exit.
Another drawback to people enjoying life along the lake shore is that there is sometimes a funky odor left from the bodies of stranded water-life, left as the lake recedes.
For now the lake entertains boaters and fishermen and supports plenty of waterfowl.
For now, we left the lake and kept our car pointed toward the high peaks in the west.
Those mountains meant Nevada to us, our last state to cross before being reunited with our children.  But first we had to cross the Salt Flats. 
Oh, have I mentioned that it was getting very windy?
This was just the beginning of what was going to turn out to be a very long day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Olympic Village and a Ancient Lake Bed

Interstate 80 goes high through the mountains above Salt Lake City Utah. Park City is near the site of Utah Olympic Park
We were treated with views of ski slopes once used during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
There were also plenty of views that included condos built then and since. Aspens, looking much like matchsticks in this season before true spring, separate the village from the mountain.
Starting gates and steep  slopes remind us that winter ended just a week ago for ski buffs.

To leave a mountain, we must go DOWN and down is where we went - quickly.

We continued down until a curve road took us to where we saw Salt Lake City sitting peaceful and large upon the floor of an ancient inland lake.  
Lake Bonneville was once the size of Lake Michigan. That is ten times the size of one of its current descendants, the Great Salt Lake.
Three other remnants of this humongous body of water are Utah Lake, Sevier Lake and Rush Lake.  Most of the water left Lake Bonneville  through Red Rock Pass between fourteen and seventeen thousand years ago when lava flow probably flooded Bonneville lake over Red Rock Pass in Idaho. The huge flood eroded the pass which lost 300 feet of altitude as water gushed into what is now the Snake River valley
The City of Salt Lake City now sits beside the Great Salt Lake, a lake with no exit other than straight up.  Evaporation is the only natural way out for water in the lake.  Three major rivers flow into the Great Salt Lake bringing deposits of minerals, including naturally occurring salts. As the water evaporated the minerals get denser and denser.
Flags were flying high in Salt Lake City.  Their warning did little to prepare us for what lay ahead as we crossed the Salt Flats then drove the width of Nevada.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Secrets of the Cliff

Utah's cliffs are pockmarked by time.
Wind has eroded pockets of darkness into the rocks
The raptor is almost hidden against this almost barren landscape. Do you see it?
Look toward the dark spot in the center of the photograph, in the grassy area. But what does this Red-tailed hawk carry?
 Something dangles from its dangerous beak. A closer view of the rocks gives us a clue as to what it might be.
To the right, just under an overhang, shaded from the glaring sun are the nests of Cliff swallows.  Baby swallows would be a tempting meal to the larger bird.
Once predator has met the young prey it circles, then sores . . . 
 . . . its red tail spreads against the blue, catches the sun then the raptor is gone and life goes on for the swallows who remain.
Are they aware of the danger they have just survived or do they go on, living the life they they have . . . this one and no other.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fort Bridger

Fort Bridger is located in a town of the same name, Fort Bridger, Wyoming.  The fort, itself
 is named after the mountain man,  Jim Bridger who along with Louis Vasquez established a trading post on the site in 1842.  It later became a Military fort, closed in 1890. Since then it has been purchased by the Wyoming Historic Landmark Commission becoming "Fort Bridger Sate Historic Site."
The fort look interesting and, having read lots about Jim Bridges,  Jeff wanted to see it. 
When we arrived, though, the fort was closed, something that never would have happened in Jim Bridger's day. We looked through the fence but could see only a few buildings.
 When Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez opened the trading post it became a major supplier for pioneers traveling west along the Oregon and Mormon Trails.  The Mormons briefly held the fort until they were forced out by the United States Army. 
When Bridger and Vasquez owned the fort they didn't miss many opportunities to make money.  They even seem to have played an important part in the fate of the Donner Party.  The Donners were a group of travelers headed west by way of the Oregon Trail.  They had been encouraged to leave the main trail and use a new cut-off that would save them many miles. To get to the cutoff, they passed by Fort Bridger where they would renew their supplies.  An earlier group who were taking the same route had sent a letter to the Donner party telling them to NOT take the route.  It was too hard.  For some reason, Bridger and Vasquez did not deliver the letter.  The two entrepreneurs had much to gain if the more travelers used the new route.  It didn't work out so well for the Donners who would become trapped in record high snows that arrived early in the Sierras. Most of the party would die and would be eaten by other party members.
There was a statue of Bridger at the entrance to the park.

It was a nice statue with the names of, what I think were contributors, written on stones at its base.

But look closely.
During the night or early hours of the morning. someone had draped a Jack rabbit over the end of Bridger's outstretched palm. It seems fitting for a man who began as a trapper. The rabbit had probably met its fate crossing the road as had several others on the nearby stretch of highway.  For now Magpies were the most numerous tourists enjoying Fort Bridger.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Changing Landscapes

At the end of my last post I told you that that was the end of Wyoming.  Well. I was wrong,  As I look over my photographs, I see that Wyoming is much farther across than I remember.  
Our next morning found us in in a land that changed attitude with every turn of the road.  Small communities rose off a sage brush floor in the shade of sheer cliffs and guarded by adamant rock formations.

Are they, "bluffs?" I asked. "Is that a butte?" Ever since grade school geography I have mixed up bluffs, buttes, and mesas.  I think I have it now, but I'm still not sure when there is a big butte or a small mesa (yes, I know I said "big butte.")
In the morning, we packed our small bags into the U-Haul then continued West.
For you Westerners, I know it is no big deal, but for an Easterner like me, I never quite get used to seeing distant snow-capped mountains.
And that is why I have to keep showing you Wyoming even if you think you are ready for Utah.  You are traveling with me.  Like you, I was ready to be in Utah but I also needed to be sure to enjoy where I was at the time I was there. We stopped seldom, but we enjoyed what we saw. We appreciated the strange landscape.
We enjoyed seeing what, to others is common.
The wonder of it sometimes left us speechless as we both watched a scene fly by.  
At those moments, we watched, we smiled and we rode on by.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Out the Window

The world passed by, changing rapidly as we made our way to Nevada
 Between Cheyenne & Laramie Wyoming we passed very close to Buford Wyoming.
I was driving while Jeff held the camera.  He was thinking fast when he quickly took this shot. It was surprising when we saw that he even got the Interstate 80 mile marker.  It is interesting that once we had reached Reno, Jeff bought a newspaper which included a short story on Buford.  For one thing it claims to be the smallest town in the United States.  For another, it was for sale. According to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle the town did sell.  At auction it brought a price of $900,000.00, bought by a couple  men from Vietnam.
We were especially interested in the train tracks since we would be  returning east by Amtrak.  This particular train, below was long, full of containers from the west coast and Asia heading for population centers in the eastern United States.
Sites like these  were what I always hoped for.
Some artist had a whimsical side.
President Lincoln greeted us at near Laramie Wyoming.  The two-ton head sits atop a 30-foot granite pedestal at close to 8600 feet above sea level. 
Day's end found us STILL in Wyoming but it offered us a heck of a sunset.
 It slowly went from platinum
to amber, gold,
highlighted and darkening to black.
For now, good-night.  I'll see you tomorrow from Utah!