Roo, with sludge feet and a salt-crusted body, hopped right into the back of the car and into my sleeping bag like he’d slept there a zillion times. We could see the coiled Earth sculpture from our makeshift parking lot campsite lit up by the starry sky.
I don’t think about much while I am running, but during my Saturday morning trail run all I could think about was my need to get out of town and where I could go with only one night.
With temps in the 70’s, lackluster snow, and most of my friends out of town and off on their own adventures, I needed to get out and then BAM it hit me – The Spiral Jetty. I’ve passed by the exit a dozen times on the way back home from somewhere else and frequently pleaded with my travel companions to stop, but someone always had to get home or was too tired or didn’t want to stop! I sped up the pace and made a mental packing list and when I got home tossed my sleeping bag, air pad, and camera in my car and took off towards the lake.
The Spiral Jetty is a huge earthwork sculpture constructed by the late Robert Smithson in 1970. Comprised of mud, salt, basalt rocks, and formerly water, the Spiral Jetty winds its way counter-clockwise from the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Depending on the water level of the lake, the sculpture is sometimes visible and sometimes totally submerged.
After traveling a seemingly forever cow-lined, washboard dirt road, I arrived at the Spiral Jetty and was shocked at first glimpse. Every picture I’ve ever seen of the Jetty contained water, either a partially submerged spiral or water somewhere nearby, but the water – it was so far away!
Also surprising was the number of visitors, which on one hand was great that so many people were out enjoying the lake, but not so great since I was hoping for some peaceful, quiet reflection.
I grabbed my camera and headed off in the opposite direction of the people and the Spiral Jetty itself and along the old shoreline to the remnants of old piers, oil rigs, and countless bits of garbage from who knows what was here before. I wandered for hours snapping photos and waiting for the sun to set.
Roo had a blast running through the mud flats, digging in the sand, and doing laps around the shoreline. His entire body was crusted with salt and his white paws were dyed brown from the mud. As we made our way back to the car after sunset, I kept stepping in quicksand like muck and wished so much for some freshwater to rinse both my feet and Roo’s entire body. We had no other choice but to crawl into bed covered in mud and and sludge and salt.
I rose early to watch the sunrise over the lake and as I was heading back to my car the only other campers at the Jetty called to me that coffee was ready. I couldn’t ignore an offer like that and was not only handed a cup of coffee but a croissant filled with eggs, cheese, and Canadian bacon, which I sneakily pulled out and slipped to Roo since he rarely ever gets meat since I don’t eat it myself.
It is such kindness of others that makes me enjoy traveling by myself. Had they invited me over if I was by myself or a group of others? Turns out the man was a biology professor at Utah State who could handily answer all the questions I had about the lake. I thanked the couple kindly and headed out to explore more of the shoreline.
As I wandered out into the mud flats I turned the GPS tracker on my phone and tried to create my own Spiral, which was way harder than I imagined due to both the lack of being able to grasp my bearings in a land of absolute nothingness and the inaccuracy of GPS. I had fun trying to run in circles in what used to be the lake.
Roo and I headed back to Salt Lake satisfied with our miniature adventure and halfway home I realized I hadn’t even walked down to the Spiral Jetty itself. I was so enamoured by the unearthly surroundings, I hadn’t actually examined the sculpture up-close. That’s like going to a museum and spending all your time exploring the back alleyway and hallways, but those are the kind of places I typically find the most beauty anyway.