I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all

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I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, sewer, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all, blogging, Costumed Beagle enthusiast. I am not always pleasant, although through intensive cupcake therapy I have learned not to throw knives at people anymore.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Golden Spike and The Spiral Jetty

Each summer, The Citizens and I typically go camping in one of our wonderful National Parks.  This summer, it may not happen.  Life may keep us from getting anywhere, so I thought I could at least plan a few day trips to Historical sites or other places of interest closer to home.

Today we headed out to The Golden Spike National Historic site and then a bit further out to the Spiral Jetty.  I was inspired by a new musical I'm working on that centers around the changes to a small Utah town girl once the railroad comes to town.  More on that later.

Here's the low down on what to do, where to go and how to get there.

The Golden Spike National Monument is located in Promontory, Utah, which is, quite literally in the middle of nowhere.  From Salt Lake City it is roughly an hour and a half drive.

It is a small visitor's center, but full of history pertaining to the joining of the Union Pacific Railroad (from the East) and the Central Pacific (west from Sacramento)--and yes, I know it sounds like I have the railroads backwards, but I was assured by an enthusiastic Ranger today that is it totally opposite from what it sounds like.

Up until this railroad connection, it could take upwards of 4-6 months to reach Utah or California, a fact we do not like to let anyone forget here in Utah where we celebrate all things pioneer.  After the railroad was completed, the journey was 7 days.  Seven much much more comfortable days with a much lower rate of mortality.  And stuff!  In the days following the railroad, the Saints in Salt Lake City were suddenly able to purchase all the stuff they couldn't bring with them on those wagons.  Like pianos, and china and rocking chairs and windows.  In fact, this was such a big deal, both railroad companies were fighting to be the company that got to Utah first, because it gave them claim to all the commerce that flowed into that lovely little Mormon valley.  The pioneers may have been pious, but just like the rest of us, they liked stuff.

Anyhow, it all came down on May 10, 1869 with a big celebration and a driving of a "golden spike" into the rail (they didn't actually drive it, so much as tap it gently, because the gold wouldn't really have stood up to a big blow).  There were also a couple of silver spike and an iron one from each of the neighboring states to make sure they got in on the action too.

The visitor center has displays, a 20 minute film and daily steam engine demonstrations.  If you have a person into trains...this is kinda the place.  They are beautiful.  They have two steam engines, the Jupiter and 119, and they bring them out at a couple of scheduled times every day in the summer.  You can see them in the engine house during the winter, I think.

Pertinent Info
How to get there from SLC: head north on I-15 to exit 365 UT Highway 13.  Go West.  Go through Corrine, UT  for about 24 miles until you get to 7200 North and turn Left (the road is pretty well marked with signs). You are going to go Left onto Golden Spike Road and a mile or two up that road is the visitor center.
Hours:  The visitor center is open 9-5 daily and from May through early September has a re-enactment of the merging of the railroad every Saturday at 11:00 and 1:30.  I highly recommend this.

Have kids? Do the Jr. Ranger program.  This will get them through the dull stuff, and keep them occupied learning the cool stuff of history.  My kids love this.  If you do this, plan on at least 2 hours.

Stuff to Know: The closest gas station is in Corrine almost 25 miles back the way you came.  There are no rest stops, restaurants or other amenities.  At all.  The visitor center does have bathrooms, but only sells a few beverages and a few snacks.

Additional Info can be found at the Golden Spike National Historic Site website.

And once you've done gone that far, you might as well  go a few extra miles out to the spiral jetty.  You go straight past the visitor center and continue onto a gravel road for maybe 15-20 additional miles.  This is also pretty well marked with small signs.

The Spiral Jetty is an earthwork art installation created by Robert Smithson in 1970 on the edge of the Great Salt Lake.  It is kind of amazing.  I hadn't ever been to this part of the lake before, and it is beautiful.  To be honest, the Great Salt Lake is kind of disgusting, but at this part of the lake is pink. From a distance, I thought it must be hills surrounding the lake, but it is the lake itself and is due to the bacteria and algae that grows in the 27% salinity of the water.

Soon after the jetty was constructed, it was submerged when the water levels in the lake rose and weren't exposed again until 2002.  We've had pretty consistent drought since then, so it is mostly exposed these days.  I didn't know anything about the artist, and that is because he had relatively few of these large scale installations before his death in 1973 in a plane crash.  You can find out more information on the jetty from the foundation that manages the estate and website here.  If you want to check to see if the jetty is visible, you can go here to check the water levels in the lake.  If the lake is below 4195 ft. it should be exposed.

You can climb down a short but steep hill to the lake and walk on the jetty--good shoes are recommended.  The view here is fantastic.

Total time to get to the jetty from the visitor center is about 20-30 minutes.  I think the road had been recently graded and had very little weathering or wash boarding, so I was able to make good time.  I also would not recommend anything other than a pretty sturdy vehicle with 4WD capability if the weather is bad, but I saw sedans and minivans out there today, so you're probably good to go unless we get heavy rain or snow.

There are no picnic tables or anyplace to stop and have lunch, so I wouldn't plan on making it a day outing all on its own; plus the place is kind of covered in tiny black flies, which isn't really a problem if the wind is blowing (which I rather think is probably always is...).

We stopped on our way out in Corrine at The Golden Spike Diner (I really couldn't resist) a classic home town burger joint.  William highly recommends the bacon burger.  I really wanted to try the Golden Spike Burger, which is  piled with avocado, bacon, mushrooms on onion rings, but we were eating in the car and I wasn't sure that that wouldn't qualify as distracted driving. *I nearly forgot to mention that our lunch came to $18.69...a coincidental fact that did not go unnoticed by William.

If you want to make a day of it my total miles round trip from mid Salt Lake Valley: 225
Total time spent: 6 1/2 hours

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