DNA-X 2014 #8 Mystery-Detour…
After Blue’s superb handling of the wet and wild Wyoming Safari, Captain Jay reviewed her service log. What? She missed a service before we started this expedition?! Knowing we were not even at the half way point led to an urgent scan for the nearest Land Rover Dealer. Could there be one near Jackson, WY? Turns out the nearest one, five hours in the wrong direction, is in Salt Lake City, UT. We had been curious about scenic SLC so maybe we could accomplish two things at once? After all, this is the Mystery Tour…
We pull into SLC, locate our hotel and time how long it takes to get to the dealer for the early morning appointment. Now we have some time to explore the area before dinner. We head downtown where the imposing white-walled Mormon Salt Lake Temple takes center stage in the city. The city seems small, sprawling along the base of the Wasatch Range.
As we head along the shores of the Great Salt Lake, we find something we never expected – I count a staggering five oil refineries spewing multitudes of pollutants into the city sky. What are they doing here? What do the 191,000 residents think about this? Apparently not much since we discovered that SLC is renowned for having some of the worst air pollution in the US. A check of the local news reveals that state regulators have been dodging federal permit regulations for years and now a group of doctors have filed suit against the state siting their patient’s woes and continued complacency by the refineries.
It’s not just refineries that asphyxiate the air. The near-by Kennecott Bingham Canyon Mine is a gargantuan 18 square miles wide. This open pit copper mine adds dust and fumes to the hovering mire. One of the largest in the world, it is actually billed as a tourist attraction, imagine! You can go watch the massive machinery tear apart the land, but watch out. In 2013, an epic landslide occurred, the largest in US history that triggered a series of earthquakes. Luckily, no one was hurt as the mines seismic sensors warned of impending doom. In advance of the collapse, the popular Visitors Center perched on the rim was partially moved but reports remain dusty on its real fate. Other buildings and machinery were swept away to the pit’s basement. The Center remains closed today but you can take a virtual tour, probably a much safer plan! Utah has some of the most spectacular National Parks and wilderness areas but rumor has it the state wants to fast track another refinery right next to pristine Arches National Park (see DNA-X 2010 # 26). What do you think about that?
We take a look at the map for somewhere around the lake that is scenic. Happily, we find Antelope Island State Park, a 28,000-acre island surrounded by the lake where bison, deer, moose, antelope and Big Horn Sheep roam freely. A drive around the island also gives us a good look at the lake or what’s left of it. Approaching a historic low water mark because of a persistent drought, water diversions and use by mineral extraction, we can see hundreds of miles of lakebed exposed. The lake also is giving up some of her secrets, low water has revealed Brigham Young’s sunken boat the Timely Gull, not sure where she will make her new home.
Things do seem to operate differently here. Dinner at the hotel revealed an “open” bar with nothing in it. The beer list advertised Polygamy Porter as a popular choice but it was not allowed to be delivered until you were actually eating your food. The giant “Night Club” sign was prominently displayed but no one seemed to know anything about it. Hummm.
Blue had her morning at the spa and we made a beeline north for Idaho. We had our sights on the little known Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Volcanic activity here? It’s not something most people think of when the potato state is mentioned. But sure enough not so long ago, the state sat over a “hot spot” and volcanoes erupted sending ash and lava spewing over the landscape. The eruptions seem to occur every 2000 years and we are now past that mark since the last one. Geologists expect more eruptions here any time now! The park is stark, dramatic and the air is clean. Pushing on, we land in Ketchum for the night and pull in to the Knob Hill Inn. Welcoming staff and wonderful food are featured here. The area is also known as Sun Valley for the famous ski resort and user-friendly terrain.
This is a beautiful area to explore and well worth the drive. North of Ketchum you can drive into the Sawtooth Wilderness and visit the little town of Stanley. Over 300 crystal clear lakes reflect the 10,000 foot high jagged Sawtooth peaks and many headwaters for rivers like the Salmon River begin here. Hiking, boating, fishing, camping, skiing, wildlife viewing and more await you.
The Discover North America crew was ready for more adventure. The dry, high desert of western Idaho stretched out before us. Pip, our co-pilot, pulled out the map and got the dart into launch position. He closed his eyes and…