GHOSTS OF INDUSTRY

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Rising over the suburbs of the modern world is a looming remnant of the Machine Age.

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A few months back, there was a little slope and an entryway which led inside the smokestack itself. When I returned, I was surprised to find that the passage had vanished- a smooth floor of dirt covered where the entrance used to be. Unfortunately the only picture I got of the interior when I first visited is this, which doesn’t show much.

It was a very interesting space to be inside of. The base was ~15 ft. in diameter, entirely empty, illuminated purely by light from hundreds of feet above, and the walls made strange echoes.

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Due to the surrounding construction, I expected that the smokestack would soon be torn down. However, interestingly enough there’s actually a plan to keep it and use it as a centerpiece in a planned community!

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While it’s a shame that the inside isn’t accessible, I’m glad that the smokestack won’t be torn down. It was very cool to explore while in this state of flux between its industrial past and being integrated into the modern world.

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THE PANORAMIC MIRROR

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Clerks at the Bureau of Exploration had long heard tales of a great wonder awaiting them across the Rocky Mountains. Travelers spoke of a vast plane which when filled with snowmelt created a horizon-spanning mirror to the sky.

Reports indicated that this mirror could only reliably be seen in the winter when snow is expected- a precarious time for travel. There were risks, yet the Bureau knew there was simply no other option: we would have to undertake a treacherous winter voyage!

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And a treacherous winter voyage it was. To reach our destination we needed to cross the mountains, and we soon found that the mountains were in the midst of blizzards.

Yet after trundling slowly through snowstorms, navigating highway closures in the hinterlands, and me getting the car stuck in the snow for several hours (note: windshield scrapers double as shovels and fir tree branches create excellent traction for wheels), we emerged from the snow at our destination: the Bonneville Salt Flats.

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Suddenly it seemed as if we were on another world.

Donning our rain boots, we waded out onto the immense surface before us.

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At one point, we split up to wander the surface on our own. Spying a mountain in the distance, I decided to walk in that direction for a long time, soon losing sight of my companions.

It felt something like walking atop an infinite plane from a mathematics class. There’s nothing for the mind to cling to other than distant mountains and their reflections, so far away they might as well be mirages. If one yells into the sky, there is no chance another human can hear it- total isolation. Distances are impossible to tell and even the passage of time is difficult to grasp.

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There were odd things on the way to the mountain: fields of bullets scattered in the mud, as well as many areas with bubbles rising out of tiny holes (a possible indication of life in even so harsh an environment?). The distance to the foot of the mountain was greater than expected- by the time I got there, dusk was well on its way and the storms had caught up with us. I followed my footsteps back to our car, feeling something like an astronaut fleeing to a spaceship to get off some distant world.

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It is a place of vast perspectives and surreal frames of reference. A strange and wondrous place to be!