Finishing the Jetty Journey

In January of 2017, I set out for an ill-conceived trip to northern Utah to visit the Spiral Jetty. I almost made it all the way there. If it wasn’t for feet of snow on the last nine miles of road. You can read about that here.

The two photos below show a picture of the sign that guides you to turn off a gravel road for the final 9 miles of the journey. The first is from over 2.5 years ago in the dead middle of winter and the other from this past weekend.

One of the things that I like about travel is the journey, especially when driving. I love road trips because I get to see the land. Shortly after we turned east off of Interstate 15, I knew immediately what the theme of the remaining journey was going to be: wildflowers.

There were sections of the rural roads that were lined on both sides by sunflower-like wildflowers. I stopped a few times and made the images below. I am not overly impressed with any of them as they are generally trite.

At first there were patches of the flowers out in the fields.

Then all of a sudden we drove around a curve as we began an ascend up a mountain road, we could see a field of yellow ahead and the entire landscape was filled with the wildflowers.

Ann waits in the van

You know I was going to stop and shoot this scene!

Ann is very patient with me as I stop to take pix and at this location I took longer than usual, probably about 10 minutes. She frequently joins me as I stop to take pix and enjoys the surroundings as much as I do.

I used three lenses at this location: 50 f1. 4, 10-20mm zoom, 50-300mm zoom. You can see the photos below.

One of my faves is the single flower casting a shadow on a wood post and barbed wire tied to the post. Some of the shots below apppeat similar, but each of them has something different about them that caught my eye.

This large field of wildflowers could be seen from miles away.

One of the differences I noticed on the journey in the summer versus my first attempt in the winter was the lack of small mineral-laden streams along the side of the road. On my first trip, they paralleled the road and had amazing colors. I shared an example in my first post.

A section of the journey has marshlands on
both sides of the road.

I assume that they were from snow melt and, of course, there is no snow melt on Labor Day weekend.

Another noted difference was the presence of marsh lands from receded water of the Great Salt Lake. I was totally impressed with how far north the lake reaches and correspondingly, how absolutely huge the lake is.

The lake is 75 miles long and covers 1,699 square miles. The photo below shows a cell phone shot I took of the lake looking north on one of my recent flights from SLC. The photo shows only but a small portion of the lake.

The Great Salt Lake as seen from my airplane window.

After completing the remaining 9 miles from the point of road sign shown in the photo above, we noticed a few things. First, I was concerned that the Spiral Jetty might be under water as we had a very wet winter and spring. The other key observation was the colors of the lake. There was blues, pinks and whites.

I must share this goofy video about the “reveal” of seeing the Jedi for the first time. Yes, I did mean to type Jedi.

Now back to serious business…I was fearing that the jetty would not be photogenic. Not only was that wrong, but the entire area was amazing to shoot.

The Spiral Jetty as seen from the hill off the shore

You may be asking, “what the heck is the Sprial Jetty?” Well here is an answer from the web page of Dia Art Foundation.

Robert Smithson’s earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970) is located at Rozel Point peninsula on the northeastern shore of Great Salt Lake. Using over six thousand tons of black basalt rocks and earth from the site, Smithson formed a coil 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide that winds counterclockwise off the shore into the water.

– Dia Art Foundation
Photo: Ethan Harrison

Their website is a one-stop shop for information about the Jetty. I discovered that there is even a book that is a study of the jetty. They also have a brochure, directions and tips for making a good visit to the location. One of the coolest parts of the site is the aerial documentation of the jetty over time. They have a geospatial aerial photographer that documents the Jetty twice a year in May and October.

I own a drone and it is not working. I really wanted to have it for this visit. While I was out on the jetty and shooting the water, I heard a drone buzzing overhead. Fortunately, I was at the end of my shooting, so I hurried back to shore to meet the drone operator with the hope of getting an aerial photo of the jetty. I got that and an amazing video. Both are found below.

A snap of the jetty
Video by Farrel

I was so excited to actually and finally see the Spiral Jetty. My friend Richard Barron is the one who let me know about it and has asked several times about my plans to travel there. I was very happy when Ann agreed to come on the journey during our long-planned Labor Day weekend getaway.

When we arrived at the jetty there was less than 10 people there. There was one family out on the jetty and starting to walk in and there was another family just arriving. For most of the time, we were out on the jetty and in the water all by ourselves. It was FANTASTIC!

We looked around and noticed lots of black basalt rock and quickly climbed around on them for a few minutes before heading down to the jetty.

As we were heading down, we paused to look at the entire scene. We looked at the distant mountains, the water and its variations in color, the white foaming stuff that we weren’t sure what it was, and we looked at all the sparkles from the water and salt crystals.

A family heading back in from the water’s edge.

As we left the typically sandy shores of the lake, we quickly noticed a change under our feet. The soft sand morphed into very hard, sharp and crunchy salt pack. I actually hurt my sensitive feet and it hurt Ann’s feet and her feet are much tougher than mine.

Ann walking out into the lake

As we walked to the water’s edge, we could see pink water, blue water, white salt packs that looked like snow, sparkling salt crystals and cools bubbles.

Ann loves shiny and sparkly things. While I was totally geeking out on pictures and video, she was busily searching for beautiful crystals of salt.

Ann was in hog heaven looking for cool salt crystals
She hit a jackpot of sorts when she found this gathering of crystals on a stick in the ground.

One of my favorite shots of the day was the one below where Ann has walked out into the lake. I love the color and feels like an exotic vacation spot.

For me, this could be the image of the day
When we got back we were covered in salt and I felt like a crusty crustacean.

The video below is a compilation of all the small video shots we did as we were walking out into the lake. It was fun shooting them and I think they tell a bit of story.

Some thoughts about the jetty

The Spiral Jetty has a magical and mystical component to it. One of the reasons it has an impact on me is one of the motivators for the artist to make the jetty to begin with. Read below.

Smithson wanted to reconnect with the environment – hence works like Spiral Jetty, which also reflected his interest in science and geology.

https://www.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2013/november/18/explaining-smithsons-spiral-jetty/

I totally resonate with Smithson’s desire to connect and reconnect with the environment. I find great joy in being connected. It is one of the reasons I enjoy hiking so much. I get such a sense of connection with something so much bigger than me and so beautiful that it is an escape of sorts.

Another reason the jetty is so powerful is that it speaks to our ability to take normal, mundane things, and make something beautiful, thoughtful and creative.

Smithson made the jetty for his own reasons, not because he was hoping to please the world. The same is true for me when I take pictures. While I am happy that others sometimes enjoy my pics, I am totally doing it because it is a burning passion within me. Even if no one ever saw my photos, I would still take them.

Just like Smithson took ordinary rocks that can be found all over the jetty area, some of my most rewarding photos are the ones I take of everyday things: like tomatoes, flowers, toes, rocks, bugs, raindrops, etc. And just like we see the black basalt rocks of the jetty in a different way as a result of his work, I get to see the subjects of my photos in a different way as well.

I am sure many people just look past the abundance of basalt rocks on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, I think many of us look past the everyday things in our lives. Perhaps we think they have no value. I think I can argue that they are the things of most value as they are integral in our daily lives.


On the journey home, we stopped briefly at the Golden Spike National Monument Park and a Northrup Grumman Innovation Systems plant that does work in aerospace and with NASA.

This trip was a most wonderful trip of art, discovered, nature, science, and companionship. It truly was one of the most fun journeys I have had in a while. I would like to go back again and be prepared to explore the shoreline and to actually swim in the water.

I can’t wait!

2 thoughts on “Finishing the Jetty Journey

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