Day 14: June 21, 2014
A Spike and a Spiral

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I attended the Saturday morning membership meeting but took no pictures and have nothing to post. I headed north and snapped a drive-by photo of Saltair on the way.

I hastened through Salt Lake City and Ogden on expressways then turned west on UT-83. I was headed to the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Several miles remained when I turned south about twenty miles later and, yes, they are on that road that curves around that hill. The site includes a restored and relocated marker and a small museum.

Out back extremely well done replicas of the locomotives that were at the original ceremony are positioned facing each other just as they are in that iconic photograph. Between May and October, the locomotives can be seen in action each day as they arrive and depart on a schedule and during the daily 1:00 demonstration. On summer Saturdays, volunteers reenact the events of May 10, 1869, following the demonstration. I arrived around noon on a Saturday that was summer in every way. Jackpot! The Jupiter does its demonstration on the main line while the 119 moves to a siding behind the spectator area which is why both photographs are from the engines' right hand sides. The reenactment included lots of details including speech and telegram excerpts and railroad leaders Stanford and Durant famously missing the last spike after gently tapping four precious metal spikes into pre drilled holes. Even though it may have taken more than a year to actually make a full unbroken coast-to-coast rail connection, this was the event that connected the west coast to the rest of the United States and capped an incredible engineering achievement. Too bad that someone in that last photograph has to spoil the illusion by a blatant violation of dress code. This is better but not as good as good as this.

I didn't even know about The Spiral Jetty until a few months ago when I read a book by John Jay Abbott. Abbott had made a very long detour from the Lincoln Highway specifically to see the jetty. I drove about thirty miles round trip from the Golden Spike visitors center. That difference no doubt has a lot to do with the fact that Abbott was disappointed and I was not but I'm sure timing has at least as much to do with it.

The sign in the first picture is about a half dozen miles from the Spike. It is the only time I ever saw the words "spiral jetty" in the real world. The "9 miles" it refers to ore on that narrow gravel road in the background. It's a rather bizarre looking area. I expected a deserted oddity and was surprised to see five cars parked above the jetty when I arrived with a family from one of them scurrying toward down the slope. I hurried to get a picture of the jetty devoid of humans and thought I had succeeded. Not so. Even before the family reached it, I saw detected motion and I suddenly realized that my sense of scale was all wrong. Some dots that I had unconsciously dismissed as shore birds common on normal lakes (This is on the Great Salt Lake.) were, in fact, people. More cars arrived and more people walked to and on the jetty. When I left there were nine cars in the lot, at least twenty people on the jetty, five more ready to start down the slope, and an older couple contentedly watching from the cab of their pickup. I tend to avoid weekend visits to attractions when possible because of possible overcrowding. That would certainly have been the wrong thing here. If you're thinking of a Golden Spike and Spiral Jetty excursion, I suggest a Saturday.


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