I do not know how this idea came to pass…maybe a really cold winter, maybe an appreciation for the obscure. Anyway, a big blank spot on most Utah maps relates to the West Desert — home to remote desert peaks, lonely antelope, a bombing range, and a chemical weapons incinerator. More importantly, very few people. The plan was to walk across the Salt Flats with a handcart filled with minimal gear, food, and plenty of water…like 17 gallons. All told, ~160 lbs.
At ~2:00 pm in the afternoon I left my dropoff point along the Highway and headed south on gravel agricultural roads for about 28 miles until dusk and my first campsite for the evening. The handcart was a bit unwieldy at times — tough to stop, and tough to muscle up hills as it was loaded down with 4 days of food, 17 gallons of water, and basic equipment. The wind was also blowing pretty steady, so the umbrella was not utilized much for shade. Dry air, dry wind, dry landscape.
Towards the end of the first day, the gravel roads were reduced to a basic two-track. Thus far only a few wildlife sightings…1 bloated dead cow, and the skeletal remains of a coyote. Nice to have a companion for a few miles.
I finally managed to manuever through the rabbit brush and sage and dropped off of the two track and onto the dry mud flats. The surface was relatively firm, so the handcart was easy to negotiate although the increased resistance was quite noticeable compared to the gravel roads. The bombing range is SE from my location, but a number of fighter jets circled overhead throughout the afternoon.
After carefully crossing the raised railroad grade, forcing down a meal, and taking a 3 hour nap I headed out onto the Salt Flats. I typically only take self-portraits when I am feeling really bad…no doubt borderline heat stroke as the temps were 110+ degrees. It was very difficult to eat in the hot weather, and forcing myself to drink semi-boiling water was not terribly refreshing.
Good walking. Horizon is the Silver Island Mountain Range…same damned horizon for 3 days! Easy navigation, just not any intermediate goals to gage effort or distant. Complete treadmill feeling, and no sense of forward progress.
Tough to beat a desert sunset. The salt underfoot was surprisingly soft and each step was a slippery, gooey affair. The handcart was sinking a good 2-3 inches into the surface. The increased resistance was unwelcome but it was something that I hoped would change the further south I hiked. I ended up walking till nearly midnight — 31 miles for the day and a minor sense of concern. If the conditions did not change, I would need to consider my options.
Awoke early and got moving. The salt conditions improved and it was smooth sailing! Good, firm salt crust made the going easy. Supposedly the Salt Flats are one of the few places on land where the curvature of the earth can be seen with the naked eye.
Martha Stewart Patio Umbrella deployed. In the heart of the Salt Flats soaking up the scenery. I keep walking south through the ‘good salt’ and eventually ran into the fence of the Bombing Range along its western edge. Strangely the north boundary of the bombing range is not fenced, allowing frightenly easy access to a less than ideal spot…
…ate some dinner at the fence, and then continued south along the fenceline another few miles before calling it a night. 26 miles remained to the Interstate and my scheduled pick-up point for the next day. Most of that mileage was spent on a raised road that paralleled the Interstate.
According to the BLM office in Salt Lake City, this was the first N to S crossing of the Salt Flats.