At the Center for Land Use Interpretation's
on Lemay Island,
and its Topographical Others
Brett Stalbaum and Paula Poole
Remote Location Journal, Paula Poole
In a guidebook I'd checked out of the library about Utah, I'd found an off-road vehicle playground off of I-80. The author of the book was disappointed with the Great Salt Lake Desert. For us, finding a campground using that book was much more difficult than finding moderately priced motels. However, Brett and I decided to stay at Knolls, where sand dunes from ancient Lake Bonneville are now courses for what the book referred to as "motor heads".
There were several vehicles here last night, but they moved on when the stars became visible. We watched the Perseid meteor shower. I kept waking up, hoping to see more. I was rewarded every few minutes. After breaking down camp, we spent some time in Wendover. We checked our installation at one of the CLUI Wendover Exhibit Halls and visited the other shows. A year later, only our documentation had fallen off the wall.
In the afternoon, we set out for the Remote Location. We had the blower on in the cab of our vehicle and the windows of our Tracker were open. I heard a new noise. Brett thought it might be camping gear rattling around on the gravel road. Later, we heard a low hum;the whine of a flat tire. Luckily, we weren't far from Wendover. After we found the back right tire flat and Brett was changing the tire, a lady from the TL Bar Beefmaster Ranch stopped in her truck to check on us. Brett put on the spare while I held whatever lug nuts he gave me and tried to keep things from blowing away in the wind. Another truck stopped, but we waved them on. In Wendover, we went to a station that the lady had recommended. The tire was too damaged to drive on. The spare was good, so we set out again.
Achim Mohné had let us know that he'd returned to the Remote Location and made improvements to his solar beacon sculpture. We also noticed some new blue markers added to his series of orange posts marking the road to the site. Antelope crossed in front of us on the road, as they did last year. Five days of memories were fresh in my recollection. The landscape is burned into my visual memory. Mohné had attached a windmill to the light and now it whirred when the wind blew. At night, the light seemed much brighter. We set up camp with four kinds of light: propane lantern, waxing moon, art installation and stormy stars.
Yesterday, we found a tile that Brett had left in his walking performance as part of our collaboration last year. In the elements, the resin had yellowed and cracked. We wondered how many were still there out of the thirty-six tiles. Before the shade from our vehicle completely disappeared, we set out to hike over 26 kilometers across the salt flats and back from Lemay Island to the Crater Island Mountains. We were determined to find the most similar sites to the Remote Location in the area. I would sketch them and Brett would photograph them. I plan to paint them. When Brett ran the data with his software that he developed for the C5 corporation of Silicon Valley, Ca., he found five very similar sites on the Crater Island Mountains and the Silver Island Mountains.
In our project "Five Views of the Gray Knoll from Primary and Other Bergblicks", I painted views from the most similar locations to the original land called "Bergblick". The views I painted were of a feature of the landscape:the Gray Knoll. In this new manifestation, I will be painting views of the most similar sites to the Remote Location on Lemay Island. The views will be from the salt pan facing the islands.
The hike started pleasantly. We found only a few slippery spots where washes are eroding the flatness. Break through the salt crust and you find slick, clay-like mud. There were light breezes. The morning air was heating up into the 80's. Our first site was clearly related to Lemay Island, to the east of it. When we turned around, the heatwaves reflected the blue of the sky off of the playa. The mirage rounded off the edges of Lemay Island causing it to appear to float. In fact, there is an island nearby named Floating Island.
I don't know if the dust to the north was gathering in a storm, or if the distance was so great that the haze looked solidly thick. I kept my eye on one island range, checking its blue and edges in case the blue lightened and its edges blurred. When we reached the four sites, three on the Crater Island Mountain 'shores', I sketched them in color pencil. We walked over a terrace with sparkling sandstone, crumbling tufa and multi-colored shards of rock.
We found an abandoned irrigation device that we've seen used for alfalfa farming on a stony hillside. It made no sense existing there. On the way back to camp, wind from the north was steady across the ancient lake bed. I felt like I was on a boat, cutting through smooth water, hampered by the speed of my blistering feet. The day was mostly spent hiking. We saw things loom up in the distance in the shimmering heatwaves. They could be buildings from the ranch, but turned out to be salt brush. I've always heard how deceptive distance is in the desert. When you actually walk to a fixed place using GPS, you know the flatness hides great lengths. If we drove, we'd risk getting stuck in the thick cement of still-wet patches of the playa. There were tracks of those who'd driven through the thick mud before.
Part of the day was spent with some of the Speed Week crowd. Some of these enthusiasts try to break speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats. This annual event has been happening since the 1940's. We drove back out to get to another road, but found that the Pilot gas station has an area for taking showers. We didn't go out to watch the event, because time was of the essence and while eating enchiladas at the Salt Flat Cafe, we heard people saying while they shook their heads that the salt was rough. I don't think any speed records will be set this year. In fact, we found out it might still be wet, but there was a heatwave and some windy days that drew the moisture out of the salt.
We drove on the scenic road called the Silver Island Mountain Back-Country By-Way. We would find the other two locations on the Silver Island Mountains. The mountains poked up from the cracked, glistening expanse in crags of rock. We found markers that we knew continued in a line near the Pilot Range, the other side of the valley. The cattle of the Donner-Reed party stampeded and scattered looking for water here. The route is called Hasting's Cut-Off. We camped on the north side where we could see most of Lemay Island and the Pilot Range. Through the afternoon and evening, we considered the plight of the Donner-Reed party and what they would face in their horrible winter.
No one drove by yesterday, last night or this morning. We broke camp and set out hiking to find the other two Remote Locations. There was a road that wasn't on the topographic maps that passed by a mine and continued a good stretch to one of the sites. We saw lizards that had horns protruding from their bodies and some spotted like leopards. We also saw tiny lizards. There were so many lizards every few feet and it seemed like they didn't have much to fear or compete with.
We had about 9 kilometers to hike and there were clouds forming and moving in, but we were lucky with the weather again. We could see the Newfoundland Range to the east. One of the sites was most similar in its features to Remote Location. The rocks are a deep brown with black shadows and if a mountain appears behind a barren island, it is a deep blue. Salt brush grows on the playa and dots the islands. Ancient Lake Bonneville lines stripe the islands, some more prominent than others. When we were done, we hurried out because the wind was bringing clouds over the blue. We didn't want to get stuck in the fine dust of the road if it rained and turned the dust into clay. In the gamble of the landscape, we were pleased with the results and felt as if we'd won the bet with the ability to reach all of the locations.
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