THE WASATCH MOUNTAINS stretch from Idaho to central Utah where they join the Rocky Mountains marking the eastern limits of the Great Basin. These mountains presented a a natural barrier and a challenge to pioneer wagon trains, requiring time and effort to pass before continuing west. And now they mark a milestone on my journey east: I'm leaving the more familiar western states to enter the unfamiliar central states. While I'm encouraged that 25% of my cross country journey is complete, it seems only yesterday that I began the quest. Wasatch is Ute for "low mountain pass" which seems appropriate for this gentle 7000-foot summit that rises above the desert.
The Wasatch County seat, Heber City, is home to the Heber Creeper, a historic steam train (with a great name) that carries passengers and rail fans "slowly" through Utah mountain valleys. Years ago I enjoyed a visit here to ride the train, but unfortunately not this time. The Wyoming border is not far away ...and brand new experiences await.
I've noticed a significant change in the geology, its shapes and colors over the last fifty miles. The white salt plains of the Great Basin have given way to gray mountain granite, and now rusty sandstone rock deposits border the highway. It's clear we've left the sedimentary basin behind as we cross into an elevated plateau, the result of tremendous natural forces that continuously change the landscape.
At the intersection of two interstates (I-80 and I-84) I discovered the little town of Echo. That's a strange name -- until I realized it was at the top of Echo Canyon which led down to Salt Lake City. This strategic location was once a stopover on the Mormon emigrant trail, then a service point on the Transcontinental Railroad where it supplied trains with coal and water, and now a major highway junction for travelers headed either north to Oregon or south to California. Location, location, location! I can imagine an eerie noise reverberated from the canyon walls as old steam engines labored up the incline, and the echoing sound of joy when the engineer tooted the whistle on reaching the summit.
From here on, we're on "top of the world" enjoying smooth sailing across the plateau towards Wyoming...
Week 12, Miles 830