Monday, September 30, 2013

Across the West and Back Day 2: Across the Salt Lake Desert

MOH and I left Nevada and entered Utah shortly after getting back onto I-80 following our brief sojourn in West Wendover, and began crossing the Great Salt Lake Desert (and Bonneville Salt Flats).

When almost to milepost 16, I took an obligatory photo of Floating Island, no doubt named for the mirage that often makes it look like it's floating above the salt flats. Here, the mirage is minimal but present. (See better photos of Floating Island with strong mirage here.)
Floating Island.
It turns out that Floating Island *may* be at least partly underlain by our old friend, the Ely Limestone — or perhaps it's underlain by a Utah equivalent, the Lake Point Limestone, or another Utah equivalent, the Erda Formation. On the interactive online Utah state geologic map, clicking reveals that Floating Island is listed as being underlain by the Oquirrh Group (with the symbol PP - Pennsylvanian undivided?), consisting of such formations as the "Wells, Weber, Ely, Callville and other Fms" — at the same time, the map shows the symbol PPe on the northeastern side of Floating Island. PPe is the usual symbol for the Ely Limestone in eastern Nevada, but perhaps it could also refer to the Erda in Utah. For me, the island is too far away to make any snap judgements!

It was a cloudy day, overall, but nevertheless you could see a good 90 miles to the far peaks.
Looking ESE across the desert at the Cedar Mountain, and the crest of the Stansbury Mountains beyond that.
It became clear about halfway across the desert that distances were more than usually deceptive. The eastbound road markers on I-80, which begin with milepost 1 exactly one mile east of the NV-UT border, essentially mark the distance you have travelled across the desert from its western edge at just east of West Wendover, NV (in fact, you travel almost exactly a mile from the state line before ramping down onto the flats). Just before milepost 21, we passed a road sign indicating that it's 22 miles to the Knolls. The Knolls exit is just past the eastern edge of the salt flats, so I knew we were just almost exactly half way across.

View Approximate half-way point in a larger map.

It seemed like we had been driving forever! The low hills in the distance, marking the other side of the desert, only looked about 8 to 12 miles away, though they were really about 21 miles off. We knew we had another "almost forever" still left to go!
Milepost 39: Finally we were approaching the east side of the broad, flat crossing.
Exit 41, Knolls, one mile past the first sand dunes at the east edge of the desert. Milepost 40 is visible in the photo, not far beyond the exit sign.
At the exit for Knolls (a siding? some hills?), we knew we were getting close to one of our favorite rest stops, Grassy Mountain. The rest stop is known for a short hiking trail and a sign saying "Watch for SNAKES and SCORPIONS."
Despite this sign, I've never seen any of either...
...although we did see a horned lark noshing on a pretzel.
More commentary has been added to a second warning sign.
The second sign says, among other things, "DANGER: Sex, Sleds, and Snowboards."
Finally, on a day perhaps as cloudy as the one shot here in 2011, we started out on a little leg-stretching expedition.
And I'll have to save the hike for another post...

Photos to this point in Day 2 have been added to the day's trip log on Google Maps, along with the ones from West Wendover, which I forgot to add after the last post:

View Day 2: Elko, NV to Vernal, UT in a larger map.

Related Posts:
Across the West and Back Day 2: A Side Trip in West Wendover
Across the West and Back Day 2: Pequop Summit to West Wendover
Across the West and Back Day 2: Looking for an Old Roadcut
Across the West and Back: The First Day
Intro to Recent Western Loop Trip


Nina F said...

Sign for "Knolls" kinda reminds me of the "Table Shade" signs on some Kansas highways back in the early 1990s.

Silver Fox said...

Seems like it should be The Knolls -- and perhaps the hills south of the sand dunes are called knolls, and the siding on the railroad was named after those...maybe.

Table Shade: probably a good thing in Kansas!