Throughout most of my childhood and adolesence two landmarks held my bearings of what I knew as home. They were both comforting and enchanting. To the east was the towering Wasatch mountains jutting straight out of the flat valley to 11,000+ feet. The Wasatch run north to south and stretch from the Idaho-Utah border all the way into the central Utah Wasatch Plateau and then crumbling into the redrock canyons of the “Colorardo Plateau” of southern Utah. The Wasatch have always drawn me into them. In the Wasatch Front valleys there is no escaping the towering view they command. You step outside your door and see snow capped peaks and green rocky canyons inviting you to be dreaming of playing in them. When planning trips to them you can often look out your window, point, and say something like “…we go up that canyon there, follow that ridge, and climb that peak over there…” Not many urban areas have that kind of accessability.
But to the west is a vast wilderness that has been mostly forgotten as such. The Great Salt Lake is a remnant of a giant prehistoric lake (Lake Bonneville) that was as big as lake Michigan at one time and then dried up about 16,000 years ago. Now, all that is left is a salty puddle that is larger than the state of Rhode Island. Most people in Utah (and elsewhere I guess) view the Great Salt Lake as a giant stinky wasteland and pay little attention to it. They have their reasons. To start, you can smell it from miles away. Decaying Algea and brine shrimp washed up on shore creates a distinctive smell. Also the salty water burns your eyes, sinuses, and mouth when you get in. And brine flies. I remember when I was a young kid we went out to Antelope Island and I got out of the car and walked toward the shoreline. Which from a distance looked like a nice black sand beach, but as I got close it all flew away in a dense storm of tiny flies that engulfed me. I ran away scared and disgusted.
Also, for those of you not from Utah. Locals know it as the “Great Salt Lake”, not the “Salt Lake”. If you call it just the “Salt Lake” people might think you are talking about Salt Lake City with poor grammar. The name “Salt Lake City” is often shortened to just Salt Lake. But the name “Great Salt Lake” is never shortened to just the Salt Lake. Its greater than that. : )
It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how amazing the Great Salt Lake really is and that it’s shoreline is often a barrier that has kept its allure a secret. Because most people think of it as a gross wasteland, almost no one goes out there. So you have a giant body of water with no one on it. No motor boats, no jet skis, no water skiers, no beaches packed with people, no drone of engines, just water, bugs, birds, and brine shrimp. And its quiet. What most people don’t know is that the smell and the flies are only on the shoreline. Once you get out on the water you leave the flies and smell behind you quickly. And even the shoreline has some good spots that aren’t buggy if you look around. With all of that combined it feels like an unexpectedly wild place.
Though the water does burn your eyes something fierce, it is great swimming. The lake is super shallow, most of it is less than 15 feet deep, so it warms up to a really nice swimming temperature in the summer. It is way warmer than the reservoirs that most people go to in Utah. Also, one of the coolest things about it; you float! For real. Since it is so salty it makes things extra buoyant so you can just relax and do nothing and just float with your head out of the water.
My friend Shawn has a 25′ sailboat docked at Antelope island and took a hand full of us sailing on a beautiful sunny summer day. The pics speak for themselves.
Rope swing from the top of the mast. We would get the boat rocking really hard from side to side and then when its tipping far to the side you can get a nice swing out into the water.
Thanks Shawn for taking us sailing! And thanks to my great friends Steph, Eric, Izzy, and of course Mothra.