Friday, May 22, 2009


What does one do with a spiral jetty, Robert Smithson's beautiful fern-like form curling out into the salt flats of the Great Salt Lake?   Much more than I'd anticipated, it's a site not just for aesthetic reverence, but for contemplation (and with a spiral - does one walk round it and arrive, Nirvana-style, at the center, or stand on the endmost stone, like standing on a snake's head, and look outward?)   For the view, as well as the spiral, is extraordinary: shimmering salty space, colored like the inside of a shell.

Getting to the jetty is not easy.   One starts off in the Golden Spike National Park - site of a famous photo, indeed, marking the joining of the railroads coming from each coast.   There are two rather fine replica working steam engines gently puffing and dripping steam on the spot (they run up and down the short section of tracks in celebration every now and then, too).   Then there's nineteen miles of rough track - graveled for about fifteen miles, and then scarily rutted and sharp stone strewn, and after a mile of this I reflected that changing a tire on my car would not be a happy occupation, I was way away from cell phone coverage, and the area was not exactly populated, apart from flying geese.   Even though I have happy childhood memories of my father regarding signs saying "Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles" as a provocation and a challenge to be tackled, and we drove down far, far worse tracks than this in our high-axled Triumph Mayflower (my mother grim-jawed, my father and I full of daring), and even though I've inherited quite a bit of his attitudes, even I didn't think the drive was worth the risk.

But I had driven all the way from New Jersey to see this... So I parked the car, and walked the remaining three miles... Even in May, Central Utah is Hot.   I started to feel rather like Holman Hunt's Scapegoat standing in the Dead Sea (an extraordinarily similar landscape), though he didn't have a backpack full of bottles of Vitamin Water.   (Nor, being dehydrated, and a goat, was he subsequently faced with the question of where one might pee in the middle of very barren terrain).

But the jetty was totally worth the walk there, and back, and the car and I survived, and here's my iPhone experimental image to prove that I made it all the way...


  1. AnonymousMay 24, 2009

    How sublime! I love both these photos, Kate -- the whited-out saltiness, above, and the lizard-tongue of of the jetty itself. I've always wanted to go see it; it's nice to feel virtually there. Many thanks for posting these.