Saturday, October 18, 2014

Great Salt Lake in 3D Part 6 Surveying the Stansbury Mountains

In 1981, I temporarily worked for the United States Geological Survey as part of a project to update the map of the Stansbury Mountain Range and part of the valleys on each side. I spent the entire summer locating and documenting old survey monuments, mines, roads, structures and etc. 

One of the most memorable aspects of the job was the day we carried building materials to the top of one of the mountain peaks on the north end of the Stansbury Range. 
There, at an elevation of 5570' above sea level, we constructed a large sighting target directly over an official USGS triangulation Station.* The 10' tall target could be viewed from numerous other locations throughout our vast project area. 

Now, thirty-three years later I climbed to the top of the Stansbury Mountains and returned to the triangulation station. This is something I've planned for some time. I pored over maps and aerial photos to determine the best route up the rugged mountain. There are no trails, and the closest road ends at the base of the mountain.
3D photo of the peaks on the north end of the Stansbury Mountain Range looking NW across the north end of Skull Valley. Black Mountain is visible in the distance. 

I began my ascent early in the morning while it was still dark. When the sun finally peeked over the Oquirrh Mountains, on the other side of the Tooele Valley, I took refuge out of the cold wind in a rocky nook where I soaked in the solar warmth and ate my pre-prepared meal of bison. The view was spectacular.
When I reached the the triangulation station, I found the target broken and laying on the ground. A broken cross-section was still in place and the pile of rocks that we used to secure the wooden ten-foot tall 2x4 were still there but somewhat displaced. 
Over time, the guy wire we had used to secure the target had rusted and failed. Rust stains have become a permanent part of a large anchor that still had some thirty three year old guy wire wrapped around it. 

3D photo of dilapidated triangulation target looking west across Skull Valley.

I took the liberty of standing the old dilapidated target up by wedging the ten foot long 2x4 betwixt some large rocks. It isn't anchored with guy wire this time and probably won't last through the winter, but for now it can be seen from many miles away.
3D photo from top of Stansbury Mountains looking NW toward Stansbury Island on the Great Salt Lake.

The Stansbury Mountains are named for their original surveyor, Major Howard Stansbury, (1806-1863). 

US Interstate 80 crossing the alkali flats of the south shore of the Great Salt Lake, a few miles north of Grantsville.

Stansbury, and his party of surveyors, are credited with the first official survey of the Great Salt Lake from 1849 to 1851. He was the first person to determine that the Great Salt Lake is actually a remnant of a greater ancient lake that he called Lake Bonneville.

3D photo of Lone Rock in Skull Valley looking west from the top of the Stansbury Mountains.

Lone Rock** in Skull Valley, another important triangulation point, is an interesting and unusual rock formation that has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. 
Salt plant on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake where State Highway 196/Skull Valley Rd intersects US Interstate 80. Black Mountain in the distance.

Salt production is an obvious industry on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. There are also billions of Sea Monkeys out there. 

Other important resources are extracted from the mineral-rich lake including magnesium at US Mag and even nutritional supplements in the form of trace minerals at Trace Minerals Research.

3D photo from the top of the Stansbury Mountains looking west across Skull Valley.
3D photo of 3D camera apparatus.

Major Stansbury's legacy lives on in the island and mountains that claim his name, and the monuments that he erected on mountain peaks and valleys around the Great Salt Lake.

* The Triangulation Station is located at approximately 
40° 43' 39.30" N
112° 37' 53.80" W
These coordinates are not official USGS coordinates, but are accurate within seconds. 

** Lone Rock Coordinates 
40° 42' 32" N
112° 41' 04" W

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Colorado! A Trip Long Overdue

Colorado has always held a special place in my heart. Last month I returned to the Centennial State for the first time in nearly three decades. A trip that was LONG overdue. 

Three days of yoga workshops, disc golf and scenic drives took us to some wonderful and mysterious places. 
Yoga Journal hosted a week-long event on the Estes Park YMCA, an enormously acreous retreat "camp" located high in the mountains adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park
The air was crisp and clean and we didn't see a soul on the trail that chose us for our walk in the park. 
House on a rock... not the one in Wisconsin. One of many in Colorado.
Quaking Aspen grandstand vibrant yellows throughout the mountainous regions. 
Evidence of last spring's floods along the road to Estes Park was a grim reminder of Mother Nature's tendency to occasionally go too far. 
Estes Park and Glen Haven were completely cut off and supplies had to be helicoptered in. 
Sparkling new CMP, (corrugated metal pipe), now ornament the new roads that have been reconstructed since the deluge that destroyed hundreds of bridges and wiped out entire sections of road.

Though our hotel was in Loveland, we took many random roads for hours, zig-zagging our way through the endless farmlands.  
We stumbled upon a couple cemeteries, one of which was especially interesting. Niwot Cemetery in Boulder County.
Apparently, in 1895, something terrible happened to lots of children in Niwot. Maybe they died from Smallpox or influenza... or maybe a crazed* child killer. 
There are numerous children's graves in the old section of the cemetery, (most of it is the old section). Some families were hit harder than others. The earliest headstone of one family had been carefully crafted and tediously manufactured with artistique, time-consuming care. 
Latter family members, all young children, died within months of one another. Their monuments were less ornamented and seemingly more hastily crafted. Apparently, the headstone maker was rather busy in 1895. 
We parked on the street at the University in Boulder to enjoy some sandwiches we had made. That's where I happened upon this light post that has been consumed by a tree. 

Before we knew it, we were leaving; heading back to life behind the Zion Curtain. 
Adios Colorado! See ya again real soon!!! 

*Mother Nature out of control again.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Great Salt Lake in 3D Part 5 - From Above

The Great Salt Lake can be explored by driving, riding, hiking and boating but the best way to experience the dynamics of the lake may be from above. 
The above 3d photo of the Great Salt Lake area is provided by NASA's Jet Propusion Laboratory, (courtesy of US tax dollars). 
Looking west, the above photo depicts the southern most tips of Antelope Island and Stansbury Island; two of the largest islands on the Great Salt Lake. In the foreground is the swampland that is located to the east of Antelope Island. Stansbury Island can be seen in the background at the top of the photo. 
The colorful swampland of the Great Salt Lake is amazingly beautiful and can be best appreciated from above. 
Above - the southernmost shore of the Great Salt Lake. US Interstate 80, a major corridor for east-west interstate transit is traveled by millions of people every year. Tooele Valley is shown nestled at the base of the Oquirrh Mountains. 
Rio Tinto's 12,000 foot tall smoke stack is an easy landmark to spot from the ground and from the air. The Great Salt Lake Marina is also visible in this photo, as is US Interstate 80 and Highway 201 at the northernmost point of the Oquirrh Mountains. 
Antelope Island State Park is home to a large variety of wildlife including a Bison herd. The island can be accessed by automobile and is enjoyed by thousands of tourists annually. 
Google Earth is a new and fun way to explore the Great Salt Lake area. Sometimes images appear distorted, like in this image of the Rio Tinto smoke stack. 


Monday, August 11, 2014

Great Salt Lake in 3D Part 4 - the Spiral Jetty

This post is the fourth in a series of articles exploring Utah's inland sea. When you see two similar images side-by-side, the photos can be viewed in 3D by gently crossing the eyes until both images become one. It's EZ to see 3D. 

Symbols are powerful things. In the past century, the Northern region of the Great Salt Lake has become a place of symbolic significance. Historically, it is the physical spot that linked the United States by rail. The driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory, UT, symbolized the realization of a truly United States. 
Today, the telegraph lines are silent and the tracks are empty most of the time except for daily reenactments during tourist season.




Our two and a half hour drive to the Spiral Jetty provided great views of the barren landscape of the Great Basin. Big sky, open road and acres and acres of acres and acres. Suddenly, there was a sign that indicated there was a rocket display ahead. Who can resist a good rocket display? As a former rocketeer, I could not. 



The display* was only a couple of kilometers out of our way and turned out to be well worth the excursion... and it felt good to stretch our legs after being couped up in the coup for a couple of hours. 


For decades, Thiocol has participated in the development of rockets used militarily and for space exploration. 



There are dozens of rockets, engines and parts of all sizes on display and a nice walkway provided so that visitors can browse freely and view them up close.


As we neared the Spiral Jetty, remains of pierworks and oil wells that once operated here could be seen. Oil was found floating on the briny water when pioneers first arrived in the region in the nineteenth century. Under pressure, the black crude oil oozes up through natural fissures and makes its way to the surface. When petroleum became profitable, the region was exploited for a brief time then abandoned due to lack of cost effectiveness and difficult drilling conditions. 



A few hundred yards to the west of the oil wells is where Robert Smithson chose to install his spectacular Spiral Jetty.*

The recent drought has lowered the lake to record levels and the receding shoreline is now several hundred feet from Smithson's counterclockwise spiraling earthwork of black basalt rocks. The Spiral Jetty was  constructed in 1970 and has become part of the landscape. The landmark only recently reappeared, after spending most of its life submerged.



Smithson selected a symbol that adorns the landscape and taps into man's primordial psyche. The region itself has prehistoric aura and is pretty much the same as it has been since the ancient Lake Bonneville receded to this level twelve thousand years ago. 
Sunsets are always spectacular over the Great Salt Lake and really enhanced our trip to the Jetty. 



One thing that made a huge impression on us was how silent this place is. The porous basalt rocky terrain in league with an endless shoreline of flaky salt crystals seems to absorb most of the natural ambient sound.



Visitors should know that there is no place to camp near the Spiral Jetty and there are no restroom facilities there either.  

The coordinates for the Rocket Display 
41° 39' 32.32" N 112° 26' 27.35" W

Spiral Jetty Coordinates
 41° 26' 15.66" N 
112° 40' 08.12 W