May 17, 2021
This weekend we sort of stumbled on some incredible things. The idea was to visit Topaz Mountain, do some digging and hopefully find some topaz (we did), and camp for the night before moving on to the Deep Creek mountain range to see some of the most dramatic mountains in the west desert (12,000 feet! The highest peak in Utah, King’s Peak, is only a little higher at 13,500). From there we would drive up to Wendover, and then home.
Well, along the way we ended up exploring the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge. We intended to stop by this place on the way through, but neither of us expected what we found. This place is like some kind of heaven. It’s unreal. First of all, the area is simply massive. We thought it would be some large kind of oasis, but it actually takes an area that looks comparable to the entire Salt Lake valley. It’s just huge. And it’s teeming with avian life. This was May, of course, so it may seem different at other times of the year but for us it was almost otherworldly. In fact, at one point we talked about how it would be to encounter an earth like planet untouched by human kind- and how this must be what that would be like. Of course, we were driving through it violating the peace as humans do. But there was a very real and tangible sense that given the chance for an indyllic existence, life might look something like what we saw there.
As amazing as the wildlife refuge was, the best part of the trip was still to come.
We decided that after crossing the desert to get to the refuge we had used more gas than we would like. This led to some discussion about what would happen if we ran out of gas in the middle of the Nevada desert, and some quick estimates around the likelihood of finding a gas station along the way. We decided to scrap the Deep Creek mountains, and follow the Pony Express route east. So, we left the wildlife refuge (sad face).
The first Pony Express marker we found was at Black Rock. It’s basically a black rock in the desert. We noticed a significant amount of animal pellets, and traced them to a pile of dirt with the signature marks of some mammalian subterranean creatures. We kept moving.
The rest of the drive was both indescribably beautiful and featureless in the way that the fade of a cloudless sunset from blue to crimson is. Well, not entirely featureless. (I’m not going to talk about the Dugway Geode Beds. It was cool, but there’s not much else to say. Either you’re into geodes or you aren’t.)
We were coming up on the Pony express marker number 86 when we saw a large herd of horses. “That’s cool,” we thought. We got closer. There was no fence guarding this dirt road. There was no ranch here. In fact, for hundreds of miles as far as we knew all of this beautiful land was public. These were wild horses. I had never seen wild horses before, and I certainly didn’t have any expectation of seeing them on this particular trip. Here we were, with a handful of inviolate majestic beasts nearly an arms reach away as we pulled up in my Jeep and these animals weren’t so much as bothered to take notice of us. (no, I didn’t take any pictures and no I’m not sad about that.)
We contrasted that experience with one later when we came upon some horses kept behind a gate at the residence of one retired Air Force vet who appeared to have in his collection several rusty children’s swingsets, old tractors, trucks, cars, RVs, clutter, odds and ends, bits and pieces, oddments, miscellany, scrap, and waste. Those dopey horses stared at us as though concerned we might set up off one of the many booby traps their owner probably had devised for the unforgivable sin of having come within spitting distance.
I’m sure I exaggerate. But the residences one finds in Vernon, Utah are nothing if not unique.
I digress. Let me finish describing the trip. We found an old dog cemetary, the last indication a lonely childless woman known as “Aunt Libby” lived in the area. That’s how the plaque described her, anyway. Nearby we decided to make camp so we built a fire, cooked dinner, and began to enjoy the beauty of the dark clouds framing the incredible wilderness of Juab county. The dark clouds kept getting darker. “Hmm,” we thought. It began to rain and thunder. We packed up our things and drove the rest of the way home, stopping only briefly to release our own water in the torrent of nature’s.
This probably makes sense in the travelog, but it was just a two day trip and I’d like to keep the travelog focused on more global adventures. ↩︎