The Great Salt Lake

Today for Canada Day, Murray and I promised the kids a fun day. After work. At 4:00 we picked them up from where they are tended and hit the road. Sortof. We were a little slow-going with a few hiccups along the way, but finally by 5:00 we were on the road and headed for adventure, all wearing matching Canada Day t-shirts that we made a couple days before.

Gulliver was very excited that we were going to Canada. For Canada Day. To go swimming. We tried to explain to him several times that we were not, in fact, going to Canada. But we WERE celebrating Canada's birthday. We had both kayaks (mine and Gulliver's new kayak) tied to the top of the Jeep and we were headed for Antelope Island to try swimming in the Great Salt Lake. It was on my summer to-do list. We've visited Antelope Island a few times, but always in April or October. So today (a particularly hot day!) we were finally going to go swimming.

After a particularly tedious 3-hour drive there (with slow traffic, and two diapers from Joan that were the result of her drinking bubbles solution yesterday... I don't think I need to say more), we arrived at about 8:00, not exactly sure what to expect.

To access the island, you drive over a long land bridge. As we drove, we were overcome by the most awful, putrid, rank, indescribable lake stink. This elicited very strong reactions from every one of us. The kids tried to find things to compare it to. Mostly dog poo. But they were so wrong. It was a hundred times worse than dog poo.

When I had told El Senor that we'd been to Antelope Island in April, he said, "Ew, stinky," and I didn't really know what he was talking about, and figured it must be a seasonal thing.

There is no way to possibly tell you how bad it really was.

But the good news is, it cleared up by the time we made it onto the island. Phew.

We started out by trying to eat food that we had brought, but the kids weren't hungry and were more eager to play in the sand by the picnic tables, which was abundant. So I left the kids and Murray to eat/play while I went to the Jeep to figure out just how exactly to get the two kayaks down to the water, which was 0.34 miles away. I know because I just looked it up. Most or all the journey was over sand, so I figured that dragging would probably be the best method. I took the kayaks down from the top of the Jeep, tied the two front handles together with webbing, and stepped into my yolk. I dragged the two kayaks (40 lbs and 20 lbs) plus gear (paddles, life jackets, phones, clothes, towels).

There weren't many people there (it was late; I'm curious how many would be there during the day, but I don't think many more than what we saw). I got a lot of looks from passersby (European, Indian, Japanese), and I eventually made it down to the beach. Gulliver joined me half way (he is very concerned with 1) not being left behind and 2) beating everyone else). As we got closer to the shore, I could see great black waves of dust being kicked up. Which was a little odd because there wasn't any wind.

As we got even closer to the beach, I found out what the black waves of dust were. FLIES. I looked up the ecology of the Great Salt Lake on wikipedia after our adventure and learned that there are over 100 billion brine flies. I think we may have seen all of them. As you walk, the ground is peppered with these flies, and small clouds of them fly away to avoid being stepped on. So basically, you wouldn't expect to see anyone laying out on the beach.

Gulliver and I finally made it, and I could see that Murray and Joon were approaching. So Gulliver and I got in while we waited, and I got some more surprises! First of all, the water was very very warm. I knew that it would be warmer, but this was like a bath tub. Second of all, it was teeming with brine shrimp! I knew, of course, that the lake was full of brine shrimp, but by "full of brine shrimp" I didn't expect to see every bit of water full of them. I would say there was at least 1 shrimp per cubic inch. If there are 100 billion brine flies, how many shrimp are there? (And by the way, that aforementioned stench? Decaying insects. Feel free to go vomit now.)

Gullie and I scooped up the brine shrimp and let them swim in our hands. Then we went out deeper and deeper. And by "deeper and deeper" I mean "farther and farther" because you had to go VERY far before the water got very deep. I was very very excited to test the buoyancy. Being shorter than me, Gulliver noticed the buoyancy first. "Whoa," he said. "This water is bouncy! It's like in a space ship."

I finally got far enough to test it out for myself, and discovered that yes, indeed, it is very bouncy. Just allowing my feet to come off the bottom was enough to send my feet floating up to the surface. If I worked at holding VERY STILL with my feet below me, then without any movement or effort at all, my shoulders were out of the water. It was an amazing experience.

Now, lest you picture this as anything that it was not, please remember that at this depth, the water was STILL teeming with brine shrimp, both the bright orange wiggly ones and the black floating dead ones. And the surface of the water was all covered in brine flies. Lots and lots of brine flies. Occasionally, a feather would float by, and it was like a brine fly cruise ship.

At this point, Murray and Joon were in the water. Murray was expectedly not exactly loving it. He had also noticed the dead waterfowl at the shore, which I had not, since they were camouflaged under a blanket of brine flies. But he was a good sport, and was helping Joon explore the shallow, warm water, with lots of "wildlife" to look at and enjoy. (Should I add here that we have two bug-obsessed children?) Joon was so delighted, in fact, that she simply explored her new world while singing. Which is something we have never seen her do.

Gulliver at this time was focused on trying to catch a brine fly. To be clear, "catching a brine fly" was as simple as standing up; you'd have at least 10 stuck to your body. But he wanted to catch a brine fly on his finger. He explained to me that these were good bugs. And that daddy was not coming in all the way yet because daddy didn't like bugs. Gulliver got a bug on his finger, and tried to share it with me, but when I put out my finger, the bug jumped on my finger then back in the water. Which led Gulliver to believe that the bugs didn't like me. But they liked him. So he got a new bug. I asked him, "What's his name?"

"Bugs don't got names! That's silly!"

"What's your name, bug?"

"His name is Franky."

"Hi, Franky!"

"Franky don't like you. Franky's scared of you."

Gulliver held onto Franky for a full 10 minutes, because he was so excited to show him to Murray.

I had noticed that Murray and Joon were on shore again (remember, there are GREAT distances to travel between being on shore and being out in the water where I could float), and I was a little disappointed that Murray was going to miss trying out the floating. I was also surprised, considering between the shore with its billions of brine flies or the water with its mere millions (and billions of brine shrimp) the more pleasant choice would be the water. Murray obviously figured this out quickly enough, and came back into the water with Joon.

The four of us finally floated around together, and Murray was able to experience and enjoy the buoyancy of the water. He even admitted that he was having fun. He said he liked about 50% of the experience (it was actually quite pretty and he could very easily pretend he was somewhere exotic or foreign + family time) and didn't like the other 50% (long walk to the beach in sand with a toddler, a hundred billion brine flies, dead waterfowl, and billions of brine shrimp).  We floated and played a little bit, but the sun was setting and it was time to head back.

Do you see the two TINY DOTS in the water way far away? That's me and Gulliver.

The 0.34 mile trip uphill in sand, dragging two kayaks was not a pleasant journey. Oh, did you forget the kayaks? We never used them. We didn't have enough time. But I'm sure that there and back, I managed to burn enough calories to cancel out every bad thing I have ever eaten in the history of my life. Or at least today's bad food. I can hope. Murray and I switched off on the way back to the car.

Showering off the kids (and trying to shower out any places on my body that brine shrimp might be hiding... in an outdoor, open shower) and packing up the car was about as pleasant as you would think it might be. The only thing that coaxed them back up to the car in the first place was the promise of fireworks.

As we loaded up the car, we were treated to a chorus of coyote howls. They were coming from the north, they were coming from the south, they were coming from the east, they were coming from the west. Wait... were we surrounded by coyotes? They're more afraid of us, right? Anyway, as cool as it was, both kids developed a new fear. Of coyotes. For the rest of the evening, we would repeatedly hear from both of them, "I scared of coyotes."

The grand finale of the evening was "fireworks" in the parking lot. I had brought sparklers. I let everyone have two. And then announced, "Okay! Time to pack up!"

Gulliver said, "Wait! No! Fireworks go IN THE AIR." Mom's so dumb.

We gave the convenient excuse of "Canada Day fireworks are like this. When we celebrate America's birthday in 3 days, we will have fireworks in the air."

Finally, at 10:30 p.m. we made our way off the island. And had to drive over the stinky, stinky land bridge again. If possible, the stench was even worse this time. Bad enough that Murray and I were laughing hysterically because every time we inhaled, we were genuinely surprised all over again at Just. How. Bad. It was. And there was a car pulled off to the side of the road, which made us laugh even harder.

All in all, it was a very memorable trip. I don't think that Murray is particularly keen to go back soon, but I'd like to do one more trip sometime this summer and share the unique experience with someone else! I was thinking The Boy...

1 comment:

Jonathon said...

I just realized that I've never actually been in the water at the Great Salt Lake. I think I was too grossed out by the flies and shrimp. I could've told you how foul it is, though. When I lived in Magna, we could smell it sometimes when the wind blew just right. Even a few miles away it's pretty bad. Up close it's pretty much the rankest smell imaginable.