What a great weekend. My wife and kids flew to
On my first New Year’s Eve in
In the spring of 1996, duly planning to check
1) Drive I-80 out past Delle, then drive North across the Air Force Range to Lakeside, a railroad siding at the Western shore of the Great Salt Lake, then follow the dirt road next to the tracks for ~25 miles due West before crossing the tracks and driving to the range on a rough 4WD track. The problem with this route was Union Pacific, who owns the causeway, and doesn’t allow trespassing. According to the ranger, they patrol the causeway with a private cop.
2) Drive I-80 all the way West to Wendover, then follow dirt road up Northeast into the Silver Island range, then drive ~20 miles straight across the Salt Flats to the range. This route is only feasible- if ever- in late summer, when the salt/mud flats are baked dry hardpan. The problem with this route is that you have no way of knowing if it really is baked hardpan until your vehicle breaks through a muddy spot, at which point you are irrevocably stuck in an extremely remote place, from which you will never, ever, ever get a tow… And even if you did succeed in getting across, summer is the last time you’d want to be out in this low-altitude desert range.
Neither of these options sounded very appealing. I even noodled around with a mtn-bike-based variant of option #2, but that didn’t seem practical either. And so my resolution languished…
But over the intervening years I spoke with a couple of people who claimed to have visited the range, or knew of someone who had, always via option #1, and always without incident. In the meantime, the range taunted me. It’s a hard range to get even a glimpse of- you can see the Southern end on a clear day from the car window when driving to Wendover, and I’d had occasional great views of the range from other expeditions- climbing Pilot Peak (NV) in 2002 (Pictured left: view of Newfoundland Mtns from Pilot Peak, 10/2. It's the 2nd range, in the distance) and mtn biking in the Grassy Mtns in 2004.
About 2 weeks ago, my wife decided to take the kids East back to see her Mom for the weekend. Her Mom’s in poor health, and she’s worried they might not see her again. So, on somewhat short notice, I had a free weekend. But I’d already planned on a bike race Saturday morning, so a full-on,
So Saturday morning I headed out to the airport for my chilly race, then returned home, swapped vehicles, and headed West.
Tangent: The race was Hell of North, the traditional season-opener race in
How to Access
Rather than a blow-by-blow of how I figured out how to get to the
First, this place is unbelievably remote. If you try this, take a 4WD vehicle in perfect operating condition, with spare tire, plug kit, compressor and full tank of gas. Take plenty of food and water. I also always take a mountain bike along with water and tools sufficient to pedal my way out if needed. If your vehicle breaks down or gets stuck out here, it is likely that you will never retrieve it.
Second, this access involves trespassing. I don’t know how actively the causeway is policed, nor do I know the penalties involved, but discretion and speed are in order. I recommend driving it with headlights off. (On my return trip I saw an oncoming train in the distance as I approached the tracks. I pulled behind a low rise and waited till it had passed, not wanting to chance the engineer radioing ahead my presence…)
Third, if you hike in the range, use extra care. Rescue is close to impossible, and the rocks on or near the upper ridges are- like in so many
-Take I-80 West to exit #62. Drive North on paved road for about 14 miles until you reach a sign warning that the Air Force installation is about 2,000 feet ahead. At this point, a well-graded dirt road forks off slightly to the right. Take it.
-The dirt road is a
-Follow the tracks for 24.8 miles. The first ~5 miles is slow-going, then the road improves a bit. It’ll take you an hour-plus to cover this part. This is the trespassing part, so don’t dawdle. At times the roadway is littered with sharp rocks, so be careful to avoid a flat tire.
-At about mile 11, you’ll pass the pumping station (pictured left), built 25 years ago to lower a rising
-At about mile 23.5, you’ll come to an older, disused crossing of the tracks. Don’t take it. (on the side of the rail here is written “NEW XING 1 MILE ->”). At mile 24.8 is a good crossing (pictured right, looking back after crossing) with extra RR ties filling in the space between the tracks.
-From the crossing, drive South to a junction, the left/East. Follow the road through several intersections around the low knob at the extreme Northern End of the range, then contour around and South along the East side of the range. At about 8 miles from the RR tracks you’ll come to a fork to the Right/uphill which is a rough 4WD trail leading up into