Thursday, August 25, 2011

Salt Lake to Salt Flats

The night before we left Salt Lake City we witnessed this moonrise over the Uinta Mountain Range a portion of which lies within the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The setting sun brought out the deep orange in the mountains, making for a stark contrast with the sky's light blue of twilight.

The next morning we headed west on I-80 along the southern shore of Great Salt Lake. It was interesting to learn that Salt Lake City experiences lake-effect snow off Great Salt Lake in much the same manner as cities east of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie.

The Great Salt Lake is a remnant of a much larger prehistoric lake called Lake Bonneville which, at its peak surface area, was roughly ten times the area of the Great Salt Lake.

We passed several solar evaporation ponds at the edge of the lake. Food-grade salt is not produced from the lake, but salt used in water softeners and salt licks for livestock and for highway applica-tions to melt ice is produced.

There was some history associated with this area just west of SLC: A five-mile section near the airport holds the distinction of being the final link of I-80 to be completed.

It was also noted that this was only 50 miles from Promontory Summit, where the golden spike of the United States First Transcon-tinental Railroad was laid.

About 25 miles east of the Utah-Nevada border on the barren Bonneville Salt Flats, we came upon this abstract artistic sculpture called Metaphor: The Tree of Utah, sometimes called the Tree of Life.

The 87-foot sculpture, created by the Swedish artist Karl Momen in the 1980s, is constructed mainly of concrete and consists of a squarish
'trunk' holding up six spheres. There are also several hollow sphere segments on the ground around the base.

It has been said that Momen was moved to create the tree after having a vision of a tree while driving across the desolate Bonneville Salt Flats.

He financed the project himself to bring bold color and beauty to the stark, flat, salty landscape.

The location is interesting because the harsh environment here hindered many travelers in pioneer times. Members of the ill-fated Donner Party were tragically delayed in this area before their awful demise in the Sierra Nevada mountains. During WWII, the crew of the Enola Gay practiced bombing runs over the Great Salt Lake Desert before proceeding to Hiroshima to end the war.

We noticed some travelers had taken time to walk out onto the salt flats, and some left messages, spelled out with black rocks.

Interstate 80 is the second-longest Interstate Highway (following Interstate 90). I-80 most closely approximates the route of the historic Lincoln Highway, the first road across America.

I must admit that the roadwork provided a little color to the landscape and a little variety to the driving challenge.

The highway roughly traces historically significant travel routes in the Western United States: the Oregon Trail across Wyoming and Nebraska, the California Trail across most of Nevada and California, and except in the Great Salt Lake area, the entire route of the First Transcon-tinental Railroad.

We spent one night in Wells, NV, and then resumed our travels--west on I-80.

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