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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Exploring The Salt Flats And Pony Express Trail

I drew the assignment to shoot photos in Wendover over the weekend and I arranged my schedule so I could spend some time exploring the area. I drove I-80 west from Salt Lake City, shot my photos and poked around Wendover, then returned via the old Pony Express Trail. It was a fun trip.

I've explored the area before, years ago, and it was interesting to see how things are changing over time. Wendover is bigger - has more large casinos - than when I last visited. I don't gamble and so I don't spend much time in casinos, but I occasionally drop in for lunch or dinner. I've found that many casinos offer very good restaurants with affordable prices - obviously intended to keep people inside longer. Anyway, I enjoyed a great lunch.

The Salt Flats were a highlight on my trip. There is a small rest stop along I-80 about 10 miles east of Wendover and it provides excellent views of one of the most scenic spots on the Flats. In this area the Flats are perfectly flat, and are covered with a thick crust of salty soil. It literally looks like a huge frozen lake covered by a skiff of snow.

Lots of people were stopped at the rest area and most were angling cameras so they could get photos of themselves with the Salt Flats in the background. I obliged a few people by using their cameras to shoot photos of their groups, and then also shot a few with my own camera. Hence the family shown above.

It was interesting to hear comments as people gazed out over the salt. "Incredible. Never seen anything like this, anywhere..." The Salt Flats are unique, and beautiful in a stark, desolate sort of way.

I also stopped at The Knolls Recreation Area, where ATVs and dirt bikes can drive all over sand dunes. The area was nice, nicer than I remembered. It has also become popular. There were quite a number of groups camping and playing there. The area is located along I-80, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. It is a BLM recreation area and a fee is required.

After completing my work in Wendover, I dropped south and then drove home along the gravel road that follows the historic Pony Express Trail. That is a long, scenic, interesting drive. Long meaning it took me about 4 hours to drive the 120 miles of gravel - which was longer than I remembered. I did stop briefly in a couple spots to hike and explore.

Along the route you can see foundations and relics from old Pony Express stations. The road is washboardy. I was in my 4X4 Blazer, but I didn't see any spots where a family car would have difficulty driving the route. That could change during storms. In heavy rain, portions of the gravel road could wash out.

The sun was setting as I drove east from Fish Springs, dust billowing up behind me. The surrounding desert took on a golden hue and, in the fading light, I could almost see young riders galloping down the trail, dashing headlong into history.

It was a fun drive.

- Dave Webb


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