Life is a little more hectic than usual with students preparing for the return to school, so I’m a bit late on this. Better late than never, though, so in that spirit, here are the photos from the roadie the Helvetican and I took on Tuesday!
The goal of the roadie was to see places neither of us had seen before. We’ve lived in Utah for much of our lives and neither of us had ever been to the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Rail was the future of the growing nation in the 19th century. The Union and Central Pacific railroads laid railroad tracks across the United States, one from the east and one from the west, heading toward a place in Utah where the two would meet. At this spot, Promontory Summit, north of the Great Salt Lake, on May 10, 1869, locomotives from each of the rail companies met at the completion of the transcontinental railroad. During the official Golden Spike Ceremony held that day, four final spikes were driven into the last railroad tie: the Golden Spike, courtesy of a friend of the Central Pacific’s president; a silver spike from Nevada; a gold and silver spike from Arizona; and a second golden spike from the proprietor of a San Francisco newspaper company.
Arriving from the east via the Union Pacific line was locomotive No. 119. The original locomotive was scrapped after the turn of the century, but a California company, O’Connor Engineering Laboratories, undertook a four year venture to re-create No. 119 in time for the 110th anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony. The locomotive is massive and so impressive to see in person. No. 119 is a steam engine, burning coal to generate the heat for the steam. It’s an amazing piece of engineering, especially given that there were no blueprints to work with. The engineers worked from an 1870 designer’s handbook and scalings from enlarged photographs of the original locomotive.
The same company also built the replica of Jupiter, the locomotive that came from the west via the Central Pacific line. The original had also met its end in the early 1900s. This equally impressive machine burns wood rather than coal to build the engine’s steam. The engineers running these locomotives wear period clothing, complete with the smudges one would expect from working with coal and wood fires and parts that need to be oiled and greased regularly.
Another ten or so miles from the Golden Spike site, we found the northern beaches of the Great Salt Lake, and an artwork called the Spiral Jetty. An American sculptor named Robert Smithson created the Jetty in 1970, when drought had dropped the lake to extremely low levels. The Jetty is 1500 feet long and 15 feet wide. Most of the time it is underwater, but this year the lake has dropped enough to let the basalt outline of the Jetty surface. And how’s this for cool…did you notice the lake is pink? That’s not a trick of the camera, it really is pink! Algae and bacteria that don’t mind the massive salt content at the north end of the lake are responsible for the color.
This rock, sitting at the edge of the lake near the base of the Spiral Jetty, is supposed to be black. The white you see is actually a crust of salt, left behind when the lake water splashes over the rock and then evaporates. Several salt companies operate around the lake. Your favorite table or sea salt may very well come out of the Great Salt Lake.
The pinkish haze in the sky in this photo is a result of smoke from all the western fires burning right now. While the haze makes for gorgeous sunsets, the omnipresent smoke is wreaking havoc on folks with allergies, asthma, and sensitive eyes. But that’s not the point of this picture. This photo gives you a general idea of what most of Utah’s north and west deserts look like. Also, it’s very easy in this state to find yourself in a place where you are completely alone, the only human for miles and miles. There’s still a great deal of the wild, untouched west in this state. That’s a big part of what I love about living here.
Thanks for joining me for my roadie slideshow! By the way, since these are my photos, if you want to use them somewhere, please give me credit. A link back would be lovely.