Saturday, October 29th and Sunday, October 30th
One of the nice parts about spending two weeks in a location is I have time to explore the surrounding area over the weekend. This meant on Saturday I drove out to see the actual Salt Lake and then on Sunday I went hiking in the mountains before visiting Park City. Rather, that was my original plan.
Saturday morning I got up at my usual early hour, snuck as quietly as a mouse in motorcycle boots out of the house (sorry housemates!) and headed off. One of the things about this trip is that I have to get up increasingly early for work, so I tend to keep close to that schedule over the weekends. Except that I’m riding the scooter then and early morning is really cold! So I’m trying to relax a bit more and get started later in the day.
I didn’t do a great job this time, so drove with freezing hands as I wandered north of Salt Lake City. I avoided the main highway, driving through suburban sprawl the whole way up. SLC is big on sprawl; originally the blocks were laid out with the intention of everyone having space and doing some gardening on their land.
Anyhow, Antelope Island is a set of mountains rising inside the salt lake. Various industrious Mormon types built a causeway so you can drive across a narrow spit of road through the lake and into the quite large island. A lot of it is a park land and hiking. The first pictures are from the drive in, before the clouds had burned off.
The Mormons and I have differing views on why someone might leave a bit of nature without adding a bunch crap to it. Still, I’m glad they put a park here instead of just a private ranch.
I took the above photo near the hike up to the Frary home. There’s not much left, some foundations and a grave marker for Alice Frary. Alice and her husband George moved to Antelope Island in 1891 and established a homestead in this isolated spot. After six years of raising a family and farming, Alice fell ill. George jumped on a boat and rushed to Ogden for help. While returning at night with either medicine or a doctor, his boat capsized and he spent the night trying to stay above water. Alice and the children built a signal fire, hoping for aid. When the morning light arrived, George swam to shore and rushed home to find that Alice had died that night. She asked to be buried on the island.
There is a bleak beauty out west. I hike back to my scooter and drove to the end of the pavement arrived at the Fielding Garr Ranch. It had been hit by a tornado a couple of months ago, but was still displaying various historical artifacts, just with less of a roof than before.
Antelope Island was cool, definitely worth some time exploring. The salt lake itself is beautiful; my recollection is that it’s salty because there are no exits for the water to leave. So instead it hangs out and absorbs the brine from the local rock. The other side effect of this is that the level of the lake changes dramatically depending on how much rain there has been. You can see where the water used to be much higher, but years of less rain have shrunk the size of the lake.
The next day was Sunday; there was a chance of rain but mainly not until late in the day, so I headed out to hike Lake Blanche trail and then scooter on to Park City, a nearby resort town that happens to be the home of High West distillery. They make some of my favorite rye, so I was looking forward to checking it out!
As I arrived at trailhead it was definitely more overcast than I preferred. Still, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to go hiking in the mountains, and while I don’t actually have things like a non-motorcycle coat on this trip, it was decently warm so I headed off. It was only three and a half miles up and then retracing back down, so the distance didn’t worry me.
About a mile into the hike I was really dragging. The combination of steep grade and high altitude slowed my progress to a crawl. Apparently they issue you mountain goat blood when you move here as cheerful hikers would occasionally blast past me while I trudged forward. I enjoyed the hike but was breathing super hard and it took a long time. It’s like my lack of exercise has made me out of shape or something.
Nearing the top of the trail it became apparent that I was much higher than when I’d started. It turns out over half a mile of elevation gain is a lot.
It was beautiful, windy and cold up here. I hung out for a while, swapping out to my winter hat and enjoying the views. Then I headed back down the trail, which was much easier than coming up! Although my knees really hate downhill, so I always prefer to go up, no matter how much longer it takes. Also, it started to intermittently rain on me, which I was not pleased about. Fortunately it held off for the most part.
I made it back to the bike, thought about my options and decided to try for Park City. I knew the path was going to go straight up a mountain and above the snow line. As long as it wasn’t raining when I got near there I should be ok. Which meant that, two minutes after I headed off, the rain started again. It kept up a steady but light rain as I drove up the mountain, carefully navigating turns so I didn’t slide over the side. By the time I got to the turnoff to head straight up, everything was wet so I decided to turn around and head back down the canyon. Rain I can deal with, but I had no intention of braving ice sheets on a tiny mountain road with no center line nor guard rails.
So back down the valley I went, slowing way down to crawl around cliffs and turns. About halfway down I went around one turn and saw the long canyon stretched out in front of me, with sheets of rain pouring down. I paused, then started laughing. All I kept thinking is, “I like to do dumb things.”
Eventually I made it out of the canyon, and the rain stopped as soon as the roads straightened out. By the time I made it back to Salt Lake City everything was dry, except for me. It was still early afternoon so I decided to wait out the incoming storm in a bar a few blocks away. It was a nice afternoon, and by the time I walked home it was clear that the rain was, in fact, not actually going to make it to SLC and I could have spent the afternoon exploring closer to home. Still, it was a nice excuse to relax for a few hours.
We’ll close out with a video of the wind across the waters of Lake Blanche.