**This story won 2nd in humorous travel stories at my work. The prize? An iTunes gift card. Woo!**
Summer of 2009, my boyfriend (now husband), and I, decided to take a weekend trip to Utah. We wanted to get away from the Texas heat and enjoy a little “winter” weather. What did we know about Utah? Well, not only are the temps a lot cooler, but it has mountains and the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere. The largest! I was pretty sure I read somewhere about all the healing wonders of salt in said ginormous lake. I couldn’t wait to go float on my back gaining holistic healing superpowers. Ahhh!
I had magic dreams of the Great Salt Lake. Watching the sunset on the beach, absorbing the magical minerals into my pores, and breathing in the pure mountain air with my honey by my side. We would enjoy all the gorgeousness of nature together. I just knew, knew, I would be the earthiest gal around. Restored, renewed and ready for the orange ozone alerts upon return Texas.
Flying over the Great Salt Lake to land in Salt Lake City, I could see the lake from the sky. It lit up with the setting sun and it was spectacular; blue and pristine. I about jumped out of my seat in glee. There it is! The Great Salt Lake! Right there! Awesome! We planned to trek the next day to Antelope Island – home of the Utah buffalo – and apparently, antelope too (heh). They all live happily ever after on the Great Salt Lake. What fun!
At the rental car counter, Hertz offered my boyfriend an upgrade to a Jeep Wrangler, top removable, it was a sweet deal. Oh yeeaah! He really wanted a Jeep Wrangler, plus I could see us on the road to the beach, wind whipping our hair, shades on as we cruised the lake front – ultra cool. Yes! We took the upgrade.
The next day, we make a stop at Wal-Mart for beach gear. We pick out straw towel sets with matching pails and buckets. We take the top off the Jeep. The sunshine is beautiful and bright through the roof. Perfectly clear blue skies for a perfect drive to the lake. We head off to an island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake – Antelope Island. Weee!!
My first clue that I should have done a tad bit more research than Wikipedia was when the SMELL hit us like a ton of bricks. Not only was it the worst thing I have ever smelled (and I grew up with LOTS of dogs – HOUND dogs), but it went on for MILES. The entire area around the lake was marsh. The marsh was full of BIRDS. The birds – well, they were full of
poop unspeakable evil – let’s just say, they had serious intestinal issues. Must have been something they ate. Since the top was off, there was no closing the windows. We held our breath, which? Turned out to be a very good thing.
Enduring and labor breathing along the road to the Great Salt Lake, we finally catch a sheer glimmer of beauty through the icky marsh. About that time was when a firestorm of BUGS enveloped the Jeep. Not just the Jeep, but the windshield, the side mirrors, our clothes, our hair, ears……… everywhere. This was no ordinary swarm of bugs, this was a massive attack of gnats pumped up on minerals. It should have been our second warning to stay away from the Great Salt Lake. But nooooo. We kept going. Eyes squinted. Mouths closed.
We started noticing these swarms more and more, not just on the road but everywhere else. In bushes, and roaming the countryside in clusters of intimidating wing spans. I started feeling uncomfortable the closer we got. Not to mention, still picking off the kamikaze gnats tattooed to our clothes and foreheads.
Arriving next to the Lake, I couldn’t help wonder if another bug bombing was on the way. Outside the Jeep, we had zero protection. Not even the windshield. I get out ready to duck for cover. Every step tentative. The air at the lake felt odd. It’s flat, no sound, no echo. More bugs here and there, but no roving gangs in sight, just loners. Then there were the birds. Loud birds. An island off the island of birds. Yes, more birds! Then the lake itself up close and personal just looked stank. I didn’t even want to put my TOE in it. To get close enough to do that, I had to step over algae and foam, and guess what? Yeah, more bugs. Bugs covered the top of the sand on the beach and bugs of a different kind roamed in the lake. They were like mini seahorses, but deformed and atomic looking. Scary.
It was a ghost town on the beach. No one. In the middle of summer. Now, I knew why. Regardless, I was determined to stand in the Great Salt Lake, no matter what guts it took. I marched my way over by way of the least contaminated path through the foam, the mud, and more waves of flying bugs from my disturbing footsteps. Swallowing hard, I removed my shoes and socks, then stepped my bare feet into the Lake. Next to Jason, I stood there. Trying to feel peace. Trying not to be creeped out. Trying to take in the wonder of the Great Lake. It lasted for about ten seconds. Then we hit the road faster than the bugs could follow us (I hope).
Come to find out, the Great Salt Lake is also known as “America’s Dead Sea”, and home to three things; birds, brine shrimp, and algae. The only creatures that can live in a lake with that much salt concentration. It is as gross as it sounds. I didn’t get much minerology therapy, but I will say the mountains are very nice. Park City!
Our great escape ended on the summit – bug free.
*I feel the need to add an edit to this post. Salt Lake City is amazing. Wonderful, kind people. Beautiful Mormon temple with an incredible history. The mountains are breathtaking and there is SO much to do there. A weekend is not long enough. Just scratch the Great Salt Lake off your to do/to see list.