May 25, 2010

Antelope Island

So...I'm feeling slightly under the weather today and even though it's absolutely gorgeous outside, I'm takin' it easy in bed for a while and working on another new post for this blog (which is rapidly becoming worrisomely addictive--maybe the novelty of it all will wear off after a while. And anyway, after I make it through my standard morning routine, I don't feel as bad about wasting a little time later on).

One personal reason for telling all these stories and posting all these pictures is so I'll be able to come back here from time to time while I'm away in Chicago and remember a few of the things I love about Utah...and for me, there's a lot to love.

Earlier this year I was in the middle of playing a run of "42nd Street" at Pioneer Theater while simultaneously working full time at Cannonball. Needless to say, I was exhausted and felt like taking a little break from the world. So one Saturday night after Rob and I had our usual goodnight call, I shut my phone off for the next 24 hours and drove out to Antelope Island for some trekking.

Antelope Island is the largest of the Great Salt Lake's 9 islands and is most known around here as being home to a large herd of buffalo. I enjoy it mainly for its open space and miles of trails, most of which are flat or only mildly graded. This makes it a great place to go early in the year before I've gotten in shape for real hiking. It can also be extremely buggy, so it's good to go either before the weather gets too warm, or when there's a healthy breeze to keep the swarms at bay--the day I went ended up being the latter.

The trail I took started out at the Bridger Bay campground and wound around the north-western side of the island snaking idly through thick patches of sage brush and piles of the concrete-like rock that is ubiquitous on the island. The day I went, a lush carpet of grass, peppered here and there with tiny purple flowers, blanketed the ground around each fragrant bush and oddly-shaped boulder.

As I walked among all this loveliness I got more and more carried away with the close-up setting on my camera and stopped almost every few feet to take a shot of some flowers or interestingly textured rocks. My desert-island outing became less about stretching my limbs and more about collecting little bits of natural beauty.

I have a history of keeping my nose close to the earth. All during childhood I was constantly combing the ground looking for bugs (check out the tiny red mite on this yellow flower), rocks, shells...interesting stuff that any normal person might completely miss. Once (I think I was in 1st or 2nd grade) I got really lucky and my odd little habit paid off. During a family outing to the Kennecott Copper Mine I actually found a diamond laying in amongst the sand and pebbles on the sidewalk. It was already polished and cut and had likely fallen off of someone's wedding ring. At the time, my mom had a diamond missing from her wedding ring, so we took the one I'd picked up and had a jeweler set it into the empty spot.

Eventually, I did start to make some progress along the trail and enjoyed the gradual unfolding of spectacular Salt Lake views and vast high-desert vistas. Until I returned to my car later in the afternoon, I didn't meet or even see a single other person. The solitude was refreshing.

Once, I sat down on a rock to relax and enjoy the breeze. It was silent except for the sound of wind through grass, the melodious trill of the meadow lark (my favorite bird song), and the distant rolling of water onto shore. As far as I could see there was nothing visible to remind me of where or when I was.

I felt as though I could've transported back in time 1,000 years without knowing it and everything, smells, sights, sounds, would have stayed exactly the same...well, as long as I would've arrived after the recession of Lake Bonneville (the huge ancient lake that covered much of Utah and Idaho thousands of years ago, of which the Great Salt Lake is only a meager remnant)...if I'd hit before then, I would've been instantly underwater and not nearly as caught up in idyllic reverie!

In any case, this sensation is not really new. I guess it's what the desert usually does to me. my concept of time is lost and I'm overcome by a sense of the land's as much a "religious" experience as anything else.

I was able to observe a good bit of wildlife along the trail. Many different kinds of birds, some deer, antelope, buffalo, and even a lizard sunning itself on a rock (I was amazed at how colorful they are up close).

I took an off-trail jog over to the water's edge and discovered that (as is typical at the GSL) the shoreline was covered with mounds made up of the husks cast off by brine fly larvae. It's actually a little gross (though oddly beautiful blown up in a me anyway). I remember going swimming in the lake when I was little and stepping right over these brown piles and into the water without a second thought. And don't ask me how a lady bug would've gotten in with this mess.

After a few hours I made it back to my car with more bug bites than I would've preferred, but satisfied that the outing had been the perfect remedy for non-stop work and too much time in an orchestra pit.

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