Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Desert Destination: Golden Spike National Historic Site

 With our son's love of trains and a desire to see as many National Park Service units as we can, we headed to Golden Spike National Historic Site over Memorial Day weekend. It's open seven days a week (important to know in trip planning, as so many places are closed on Sundays in Utah). It's about an hour's drive from Ogden, Utah. The first "Golden Spike" sign we saw was not inspiring, so I felt relieved when I saw this cool park sign.

 From the visitor center we could see the two engines, Jupiter from the Central Pacific Railroad and Engine 119 from the Union Pacific Railroad out on the tracks, gleaming in their recreated glory to celebrate the meeting of the Transcontinental Railroad. This was a key moment in our nation's history, as it reduced travel time to get from the East Coast to the West Coast from weeks or months (by horse and wagon or sailing around Tierra del Fuego) to about six days.

 The original engines were used as freight engines after the historic meeting, then later scrapped for about $1000. So the engines out there today are not originals, but they have been rebuilt to the original specifications.

The attention to detail is fantastic. I had to point out the flag to Desert Boy and ask him if he noticed any difference between it and the one at the visitor center. He didn't quite see that there were a lot fewer stars on the 1869 flag.

Every day during the summer Golden Spike has steam demonstrations, starting up the engines. They said Jupiter has a square wheel (something I don't quite understand), so they were only using the 119.

The ranger warned us it could be noisy. (Desert Girl's fashion choices amuse me every day.)

We all stood back as engine 119 departed.

 Then it chugged onto a siding near the visitor center, then backed up and returned to its starting place. The demonstration was just the right length to keep the kids interested. On Saturdays they do a reenactment of pounding in the golden spike (there were actually four spikes pounded in the ceremony).

We tried for a family photo. Some day the kids will appreciate these, even if they don't at the time we're taking them!

Then it was time for Desert Girl to work on her Junior Fireman booklet (ages 3-5) and Desert Boy to work on his Junior Ranger booklet (ages 6-12). They both had quite a few activities, which meant that we learned more than we would have without doing them!

Next it was time to get the books checked and get their badges. It was the first badge Desert Girl had earned, so she was mighty proud.

From there we went to take the West Auto Tour route, but for some unknown reason, it was closed. I would have liked to have continued on to the Spiral Jetty, but we were in our van and the road becomes high clearance for the last three miles, and I really didn't want to walk with two kids that were starting to get whiny.

So we turned back and took the East Auto Tour Route, which follow along the old railbed.
 From the drive we could see the flats with their occasional pools of water. This is quite a desolate spot, and if it weren't for the meeting of the railroads, very few people would come out this way.

 Can you see the two cuts in the photo above? The two railroad companies built miles of parallel track to increase the amount of government land they received. Finally, Congress put a stop to it and declared they would meet at Promontory Summit. Nevertheless, the land still bears the tales of this competition nearly 150 years later.

 We stopped so Desert Girl could climb by the Chinese Arch. It was difficult to get and keep railroad workers during the construction, as mining enticed many would-be workers with promises of quick gold. The Chinese were instrumental in completing the railroad.

 Desert Girl doesn't care if she's wearing a dress, she'll still climb.

 Life is good.

After leaving Golden Spike, instead of turning back towards the Interstate, we turned the opposite direction and drove about a mile. I had read on the blog Tips for Family Trips about the ATK rocket display and figured that might be fun.
 My husband was absolutely enthralled! Desert Boy had fallen asleep, so Desert Girl and I wandered around. She wasn't too excited about rockets, but she really, really liked the pink rocks.

 She also like balancing on the curb (clutching the rocks and with her new badge attached). It's nice when we can all find something to be happy about!

1 comment:

A said...

We so wanted to go there on our trip out west! It seemed just a little too far. The pictures look great...we should have gone!

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