TEN MILES east of Wendover lies a huge stretch of salt that looks like a frozen lake bed covered with snow. On blistering hot days the surface heat rises to create shimmering mirages that look amazingly real. If you can believe your eyes, the dry desert appears as though it is covered by water. Fortunately, the March temperatures are mild -- in the mid 60’s -- and the skies are cloudy.
Looking eastward, the salt flats seem to extend virtually forever. And that's where I'm headed -- toward Salt Lake City. The salt beds were formed when ancient Lake Bonneville, that once filled much of the Great Basin, dried up and left huge mineral deposits. In fact, the Great Salt Lake (some 100 miles away) is another remnant of the same Lake Bonneville.
Each winter, water floods the surface of the salt flats an inch or so -- and in the spring, the water slowly evaporates as desert winds smooth the surface into a vast, nearly perfect flat plain. It's possible to walk on the salt, but be sure to wash your shoes afterwards or they'll quickly deteriorate from corrosion. In case you're wondering, the salt crystals have been analyzed to contain potassium, magnesium, lithium and sodium chloride (common table salt). I'd not want to be here when that white surface reflects the summer sun and temperatures surely soar into the 100's.
Crossing the Salt Flats, the road stretches on forever. And while I might attempt a land speed record (for hiking shoes) over this stretch, instead I remember those who came before -- including the pony express, stagecoach lines, pioneer wagon trains, transcontinental railroad, and other explorers who traveled here. Mesmerizing and challenging, to be sure!
Week 10, Miles 655