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 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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Great Salt Lake in 3D Part 3 Black Rock

This post is the third 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. 

This time our explorations of Utah's salty inland sea took us to where Interstate 80 meets State Highway 201 - where the Oquirrh Mountains meet the Great Salt Lake. 


Black Rock* is no doubt one of the most familiar iconic features anywhere on the Great Salt Lake. Millions of travelers have noticed it from the highway as they passed by. Historically, it has been a place where pretty much every pioneer party stopped to rest. These days, Black Rock doesn't receive many visitors other than local litter bugs and shameless graffiti artists.
It's hard to believe that at one time there was even a popular resort that was frequented by travelers and locals alike. Today, receding waters reveal old rotting pilings, the remnants of the old piers - ghostly shadows of what this place once was.  
Black Rock is usually surrounded by water, but the recent drought has lowered the water level considerably. When Captain Howard Stansbury surveyed this region in 1850, his team took a boat to Black Rock where they constructed a timber triangulation station atop the highly visible landmark.  
The ill fated Donner Party stayed here and carved their names in the wall of nearby Black Rock Cave. If you know where to look, the cave can be seen looking southwest at the base of some cliffs.  
The cave** can be viewed more easily from the scenic view exit located between State Highway 201 exchange and exit 99 on Interstate 80. The entrance is mostly obscured by a mound of dirt, part of which came from an incident when the former land proprietors attempted to cover the entrance. Fortunately, a local preservation activist seated himself on the cliffs above the cave and prevented the dozer from covering the entrance entirely. Unfortunately, Black Rock Cave is on private property and inaccessible to the public.

Next time, we travel all the way to the Northern tip of the lake to visit the famous Spiral Jetty. See ya there!

* Black Rock GPS coordinates
40° 43' 29.96" N 112° 13' 39.70" W

** GPS coordinates for Black Rock Cave 
40° 42' 34.10 N 112° 14' 28.39" W

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Utah Sun Tunnels Summer Solstice 2014


Summer Solstice happened spectacularly at the remote* Utah Sun Tunnels last weekend.


Artist, Nancy Holdt conceptualized this fascinating piece of land art back in the early seventies while researching ways to model the intensity of the sun in the desert. Her idea "to bring the sky down to earth" became a reality just south of the old ghost town of Lucin, Utah... the outskirts of the middle of nowhere. 

In this vast alkali valley, one can't help but bow to the sovereignty of the powerful sun reigning overhead. There is no natural shade anywhere. The Sun Tunnels are now part of the landscape where the annual solar pageant is manifest as a working model that emphasizes the movement and affectation of the Sun.


Most any other day of the year, the Utah Sun Tunnels are bleak and solitary. The 45 mile dirt road excursion keeps most people away, and from Salt Lake City, it takes more than two hours just to get to where the dirt road begins. But on the Solstices, especially Summer Solstice, groups of humans gather to appreciate this grand promenade of light and shadow.

Aesthetically, the 18' long, 9' diameter concrete tubes present an irresistible playground. I observed that a young boy brought some Hot Wheels cars to play with. I complemented the lad on his forethought. I'm definitely taking Hot Wheels next time I go.

Before long, a couple hundred people had gathered for a short tribute to Sun Tunnels' artist, Nancy Holdt, who died earlier this year. Then everyone moved into position to experience the Solstice Sun going down** in perfect alignment with two of the tunnels. 
Some folks took the high ground.

While everyone was doing the peek at the sun through the tubes dance, I was filming them on video. This is a sped up glimpse of that film. 

The next morning I got up early to shoot 3D pictures of the tubes just before, during and after sunrise. The following pictures are a sampling of those 3D images. 





The gathering for the sunrise was much smaller than the crowd at sunset the night before. Those of us who were there experienced an inspiring sunrise... and as usual, the Sun Tunnels performed their function perfectly. Thanks Nancy!

Tubular! 

* 41° 18' 12.76" N  113° 51' 49.83" W - Elev. 4389

** like a big bald head




Sunday, June 22, 2014

Great Salt Lake in 3D Part 2 Stansbury Island

This post is the second 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.  
On Saturday, we trekked to the northern most point of the Stansbury Mountain Range then continued north to Stansbury Island. 
Our first stop at the Stansbury Mountains was this little natural hot spring at the base of the mountain. Hot springs are common in the area and the temperature and salinity vary from pool to pool. Nearby Bonneville Seabase, hosts a variety of colorful tropical fish who thrive in the geothermally heated and salty pools.
A few feet from the hot spring we found this carcass of an unfortunate victim of this unforgiving environment. 
Large stones aligned North and South along the old Lincoln Highway. The largest is more than 5' tall. 
Leaving the Stansbury Mountains, we passed beneath Interstate 80 and headed to Stansbury Island, traveling northward, across the unpaved causeway, passed small salt flats until water is on both sides of the road
This valve allows the briny water to fill an evaporation pond. When the water has all evaporated, the salt will be collected and processed for use at your dinner table. Good eatin'
We found this old corral near the northeast shore of the Island. 
On this occasion, the water had an obvious pink hue that these photos don't do justice to. 
We found these salty birds hanging out on the salt plastered shoreline. 
Standing on the shore of this part of the Great Salt Lake is like being on another planet. No wonder the creators of Gentleman Broncos selected Stansbury Island as a primary location to film several pseudo sci-fi scenes. 

Much of the Great Salt Lake falls inside Tooele County, a region known for its diversity and uniqueness. No one knows for sure where the word, Tooele, comes from. It has been suggested that it is a Native American word that describes where land, air and sky meet... a mystical gateway to other dimensions. 
 The white salt and pink water is quite surreal. The birds seem almost out of place. 

 Looking south from the northwest end of Stansbury Island. 

The view along the causeway that leads from Stansbury Island to Bird Island. There is no access to Badger Island because the road is controlled by USA Magnesium.

Next time we'll explore Black Rock Beach and a nearby cave where the Donner Party camped.