Freeze Your Tail Off by Bart Williams
What do you get when you combine single digit temperatures, approximately 60 4×4’s and over 90 of your favorite traveling companions? Yes, the event that questions all prudent and sane logic, Expedition Utah’s Freeze Your Tail Off run! This year the crowds showed up in force, with new and old faces alike, comprised of men, women and children. I’m more surprised at the women that showed up, not because they can’t tough it out in the slightest but because they are generally smarter than us men. My current theory is that those gals were there to watch exactly what men do when at the prime of our stupidity, similar to the research by Jane Goodall while living with apes. This way, they can remind us just how dumb we are for another year, wearing out just in time for us to head to the single digit desert again next December. The pattern seems to work, I’m sure we will all be shivering around a campfire with numb toes in a year from now. 😉
Sun Tunnels by Bart Williams
Each year this growing group of stalwart diehards braves Utah’s cold winters and heads to one of the more remote corners of the state to ring in the winter solstice marking the southernmost position of the sun in the sky. The run started like each year before, meeting in Delle, the trek on I-80 to Wendover and then the brutal and worsening washboard road from the Salt Flats up and over Leppy Pass towards Lucin, all in search of the morning sun. Why are the sun and its location so important to this event? In 1974 artist Nancy Holt began construction on the now-famous Sun Tunnels. The tunnels consist of 4 large cement tubes, arranged in an “x” formation. More importantly the pairs of tubes line up with the rising sun, one pair aligning with the summer solstice and another with the winter solstice.
Winter Solstice by Bart Williams
As morning dawned, one by one people poked their heads out of tents to see if the night was ever going to end and the sun arrive, bringing its heat with it. Minutes before 8am the sun did pop above the horizon, unfortunately masked by a low hanging band of clouds. Perhaps 2013 will offer an unobstructed view of the sunrise? But really, do we need another excuse to head to the desert? The FYTO event is more than Sun Tunnels, winter solstice or cold weather, it’s about getting out and enjoying Utah with friends and family.
The cold morning at the Sun Tunnels by Dave Affleck
After thawing our toes around the morning’s campfire, the group diverged in multiple directions. Some headed towards their warm homes via the fastest route possible, others seized the moment and spent the rest of the day enjoying the region’s fascinating sites and sounds. This year’s group split into two parties for Saturday trail ride opportunities, one continuing north through Lucin and east towards Brigham city along the Transcontinental Railroad and the other group heading south for a voyage around the Silver Island Mountain Range. Both are fantastic opportunities full of rich Native American, pioneer, railroad, and mining history as well as wildlife and unparalleled scenery. My travels would have me along with the group circumnavigating the mighty Great Salt Lake along the historic Transcontinental Railroad Route (TCRR).
Looking out over the Salt Flats by Gary Horn
Hastings Cutoff by Gary Horn
Our group was led by Stephen Nielson (author of the recent Expedition Utah research article on the TCRR), who gave great insight as we stopped at the many ghost towns along the route, Lucin, Watercress, Terrace, Red Dome, and Kelton. Each served an important role in the building and servicing of the TCRR throughout its history. This section of the TCRR was in active service starting with its completion in 1869 up until 1904 when traffic was diverted across the Great Salt Lake along the Lucin Cutoff, a much shorter route favored for its efficiency. It has been over 100 years since anyone lived in some of the ghost towns we visited, others like Lucin had occupants as recent as the 70’s. The years have been hard on many of these ghost towns but the stories they still have to offer are worth the visit to me.
I was accompanied for the trip by my old brother Bart and his son Kolton. Bart is an accomplished photographer and wanted to stop by the Spiral Jetty for a quick picture, I was absolutely happy to oblige. The Spiral Jetty is a massive earthen artwork that spirals out into the water, 1500 feet long and up to 15 feet wide. Well worth the visit no matter how many times you’ve been there, in my opinion anyways. From there it was homeward bound to get ready for the holidays. Some don’t get the FYTO event, perhaps they never will until they come join us 😀
Spiral Jetty by Bart Williams
What is Freeze Your Tail Off all about?
FYTO got its start in 2008 as an idea sprung on Expedition Utah by several members who had visited the Sun Tunnels for the famous summer solstice celebrations that year. The summer solstice was a great experience; why not give the winter solstice a try we thought? While 2008 didn’t pan out for our group, I was determined to make a go of it in 2009. Fast-forward to December 2009 and I planned the inaugural event as a combined Expedition Utah event and Cruiser Outfitters customer appreciation run. The 2009 event consisted of less than a dozen vehicles full of participants but we had a fabulous trip around the lake. In 2010 and 2011 the event was really gaining traction, each year adding a few more participants to the roster. By 2012 the event was viral with participants coming from all over Utah to join in on the fun.
Desert Fist by Bart Williams (Located west of the Sun Tunnels)
Pre Sunrise at the Sun Tunnels by Gary Horn
Sun Tunnels after sunrise by Brian Passey
Have your own FYTO experience or pictures? Please share them!