Sunday, August 12, 2012

Desert Crossing

Driving from California to Utah is challenging and rewarding; crossing an interminable wasteland to reach the Great Salt Lake.  A sparse sprinkling of bright spots surprise the weary travelling on highway 80.  Mind expanding vistas beckon to look far and wide as time dilates in the face of disproportionate space.   Points of interest emerge and a diminished sense of human scale is relieved by some bright spots.

Among the few small towns clinging impossibly to life along a ribbon of asphalt Winnemucca is a miracle of human tenacity; and here is a surprise: the largest concentration of free flowing desert dunes in the US.  They're reminiscent of Sahara dunes in their undulating and rippling nature but lighter in color; they're surrounded by mountains mimicking and magnifying their magnificence.

American Sand Dunes

With the setting sun warm tones envelope the landscape in a pink glow until the onset of darkness on the Winnemucca Sand Dunes.

Winnemucca Sand Dunes

On the far Eastern side of Nevada is Wendover, the gateway to Utah the next time zone.  Eastward, an hour vanishes instantly from the chronometer and mental gymnastics ensue adjusting to the fact that arrival time will be one hour later than anticipated.  Mountain time seems ironic because the terrain actually drops from slightly rolling hills to the flattest most level landscape in the world entering the great Salt Flats of Utah.

Bonneville Salt Flats

Adding to the overall eeriness of the place, vast salt deposits stretch to the horizon all around but for punctuating jagged buttes Northward.   This is the flattest most level surface on Earth: primordial salt deposits parched by the searing sun.  It is here on the Bonneville Salt Flats where fast cars set land speed records, naturally.

And it is hot. White hot.  Other worldly. Survival impossible without human ingenuity.  The car better not break down...

Later, much later, around the Grantsville Rest Area, the landscape subtly morphs into rolling scrub lands pocked with rocky boulders, a more hospitable terrain, home of the hardy grasses, hares, and birds of prey.  

Grantsville Rest Area

Then there's the Great Salt Lake.  A land of contrasts is the setting, with flatness once broken by stark peaks in salt water.  Life is scarce; the water is far from potable, toxic to almost all marine creatures.  Only the brine shrimp make it's home here, and few flying bugs. 

Salt Lake, Utah

 Everyone else is just passing by....

Great Salt Lake, Utah