A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Metaphor: Tree of Utah’

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Posted by graywacke on March 16, 2015

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-three-or-four days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2164; A Landing A Day blog post number 592.

Dan:  Today’s landing marks the 52nd  straight western / midwestern landing (and adding Bonneville salt to the wounds, also an OSer). . . UT; 79/60; 3/10; 30; 151.2.

Here we go again.   52 landings in a row that haven’t touched the east!  Just like my last bunch of posts, I’ll do the statistics:  Each landing, I have a 0.82 chance of a western / midwestern landing.  Raise that number to the 52nd  power (and then take the inverse) and I get one chance in 30,317 that I would not land in the east for 52 straight landings!!!   Phew. . .

Here’s my regional landing map:

 landing 1

My local landing map has black dots with names along I-80, but trust me, these are not towns.  Back in the day, each was a cluster of structures built to support the railroad operations through the desert.  Now?  Nada.

landing 2a

I’ll zoom back a little (Salt Lake City is about 75 miles east of my landing):

 landing 2b

Here’s my Google Earth (GE) trip in:


No doubt that I landed on salt flats, eh?  That would be the Bonneville Salt flats. 

Here’s a notated GE shot:

 GE 1

As you can see, the long arm of rock that juts out into the salt just north of my landing is a mountain range – the Newfoundland Mountains.  Here’s an oblique GE shot looking past my landing towards the Newfoundlands:

 GE oblique looking north

Zooming back, here’s a more regional view.  You can see that the Newfoundland Mountains are an island of bedrock surrounded by salt:

GE 2

Here’s a little background from Utah.com on the Bonneville Salt Flats:

The Bonneville Salt Flats are found west of the Great Salt Lake, in western Utah. They cover a large area (>30,000 acres, ~ and have a very unique environment. The flats can easily be seen as you drive I-80 between Salt Lake City and Wendover, NV.

The famous Bonneville Speedway is located in the western portion of the flats, near Wendover. It is perfectly flat and has a thick crust of salty soil. It looks like a frozen lake bed covered with snow. No vegetation grows in that area.

In other places, low mountains and hills break up the flat landscape. Sparse vegetation grows on hillsides and is pushing into the flat areas. On hot days, heat waves rise from the salty soil and create mirages that look amazingly real. If you believe your eyes, the dry desert looks like it is covered by water.

Although he never visited the salt flats, the area was named by geologist G.K. Gilbert in honor of Captain B.L.E. Bonneville, whose expeditions in the 1830’s first suggested that the area was part of an ancient lake basin.

The Bonneville Salt Flats and the Great Salt Lake are remnants of ancient Lake Bonneville.  During the last Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago, Lake Bonneville was the size of Lake Michigan. It covered one-third of present day Utah and parts of neighboring states. You can see traces of the shorelines, representing different levels of the receding lake, etched into the mountains surrounding the salt flats.

Here’s a Lake Bonneville map:

lake bonneville map


Here’s a cool Wiki shot of shoreline terraces from Antelope Island in Great Salt Lake:


The highest bench is an elevation of 5,102.  My landing elevation is 4,221.  Doing the math, there was at one time 881 feet of water over my landing spot!

I featured Lake Bonneville in my Dugway UT (revisited) post.  Type Dugway into the search box and check it out (if you’re so inclined).  I posted a great You Tube video on the huge flood that happened when Lake Bonneville suddenly drained . . .

Moving right along.  Funny thing.  When I was a kid, the whole family would gather in front of the TV and watch “Run For Your Life,” starring Ben Gazzara.  Ben’s character was terminally ill and given 9 – 18 months to live.  The whole premise of the show was him getting the most out of the end of his life.  Oops – the show lasted three years – go figure.  You are likely wondering why I’ve bothered to mention this show.  Here’s why:

This is the intro (it’s short; be sure to stick with it):


And yes, that is a shot of the Bonneville Speedway.  We are all led to presume that Ben Gazzara is driving – doing one of the things on his bucket list.  (Oh yea.  The term “bucket list” wasn’t around in 1965.)  Anyway, here’s a GE shot showing what you’re looking at (and note that the rock formation in the distance is Floating Island):

 GE Ben Gazarra

Here’s a GE Panoramio shot by Geofff (with pretty much the same trajectory) that shows a dirt road headed out towards Floating Island:

 pano geofff floating island

While perusing GE, I was checking out the string of Panoramio shots along I-80.  This caught my interest:

 GE metaphor map

“A Tree of Friendship:  A Metaphor for Life.”  Say what?  Here’s a Pano picture of the Tree by Airspeed Photo:

 pano metaphor by Airspeed Photo

It’s a sculpture and is actually entitled “Metaphor:  Tree of Utah.”  From Wiki:

Metaphor: The Tree of Utah, sometimes called the Tree of Life, is an 87-foot-tall sculpture created by the Swedish artist Karl Momen in the 1980s and dedicated in 1986. It is located in the desolate Great Salt Lake Desert of Utah on the north side of Interstate 80.

The sculpture, which is constructed mainly of concrete, consists of a squarish ‘trunk’ holding up six spheres that are coated with colorful natural rock and minerals native to Utah. There are also several hollow sphere segments on the ground around the base. The sculpture currently has a fence surrounding the base.

Inscribed on a plaque at the base of the sculpture are the words from Ode to Joy by Friedrich Schiller. It has been said that Momen was moved to create the tree after having a vision of a tree while driving across the desolate Bonneville Salt Flats.

Following the dedication of this work of art, Momen donated the sculpture to the State of Utah and returned to Sweden.  In 2011 he proposed creating a visitors center at the location with construction costs being paid for by donations [which obviously hasn’t happened.]

Here’s a close-up of the balls on the tree (Pano by Christopher Felt):

 pano close-up by christopher felt

Just for the heck of it, here’s a GE Street View shot of the Metaphor Tree:

 GE SV metaphor

I found a tongue-in-cheek write-up from Roadside America.  Here are some excerpts:

We give some credit to the State of Utah for at least tolerating experiments with environmental comedy. “Metaphor: The Tree of Utah” can’t be serious.

The Tree was created in the early 1980s by European artist Karl Momen. It was dedicated in 1986 as “A hymn to our universe whose glory and dimension is beyond all myth and imagination.” Artist Momen doesn’t have to look at it; he bought patch of land, built the thing, and went back to Sweden.

Near the base of the Tree, there are several fallen “leaves” — large spherical segments intentionally scattered on the salty ground. It’s where your traveling companions would pose if this were a tourist attraction instead of a work of art.

Not that they could pose even if they wanted to. Utah doesn’t want you to stop, and Momen didn’t spring for the cost of an exit ramp. There is no parking lot or pull-off. For years there were “Emergency Parking Only” signs along the highway, although a surprising number of emergencies happened right there, always with vehicles that had people with cameras.

In 2008 the “Emergency Parking Only” signs were replaced by a metal, barbed-wire-topped fence that now surrounds the sculpture. We’re not sure what kind of a metaphor that is, but it doesn’t seem very friendly.

I also found a blog, “Eccentric Roadside – When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” with a post that features the Tree.  I love the post title:  I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like:  Metaphor:  The Tree of Utah.

From the post:

Driving through western Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats affords the eccentric roadside traveler a surreal, other-worldly landscape, and it somehow seems appropriate that a Swedish sculptor would erect an 87-foot tall “tree” with giant tennis ball-like leaves painted in colorful shades here.

It’s a wonderful site to behold though, in all its weirdness and odd beauty, right down to the shard-like “leaves” strewn around its fenced-in base.

Coming across a great roadside work of art like this makes me as happy as leaving my cake out in the rain, with its sweet green icing flowing down, and I’ll never have that recipe again. How’s that for a metaphor?

Either you get the “cake out in the rain” reference or you don’t, so I won’t bother with any details.  If you don’t know what it’s about and are curious, just google “cake out in the rain.”  By the way, I totally relate to the older Richard Harris version . . . 

As mentioned earlier, the words to “Ode to Joy” are posted at the statue.  I went to You Tube to see what I could find.  Well, I’m a sucker for those flashmob things, so here goes:


It’s time for some GE Panoramio shots.  I’ll start with three shots featuring the Newfoundland Mountains.  Here’s one (by oldadit) looking south towards the flats:

 pano oldadit newfoundland

Wow – a spectacular landscape!  Here’s another (also looking south) by Utah~Dave AA71Z:

 pano Utah~Dave AA71Z  new found land

And here’s the obligatory old car shot – this one with the car gently parked on the side of the mountain (by Larry Hawkes).  His caption is “A little paint and a tune-up and she’ll be good to go :)”

 pano Larry Hawkes newfoundland

Moving along to the Flats.  Here’s a cool shot (by Micah Sheldon) of the western portion of the Flats in winter – when there’s often an inch or two of water:

 pano MicahSheldon

Here’s a great shot by Will Huff (willhuff.net):

 pano Will Huff

And some desiccation cracks by Cassegrain:

 pano cassegrain desication cracks

I’ll close with this other-wordly sunset shot by Nick Stelma:

 pano nick stelma

That’ll do it.




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