the great salt lake

In my quest to desperately squeeze the last bits of summer out of this month, I decided to take a trip to the Great Salt Lake in an attempt to float. The Great Salt Lake is enormous and one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. It’s about 25% saline. Even people who haven’t been to Utah or spent much time here have seen it from an airplane window seat. From the sky, it’s a strange blend of blues, greens, reds, pinks, and blacks–strange colors that most don’t associate with bodies of water that haven’t experienced an oil spill. Those colors are created by microbes, algae, sulfur bacteria, and other…stuff. It’s beautiful and weird.

view of the Great Salt Lake

view of the Great Salt Lake

In the past, my only experience with the Great Salt Lake was at the Great Salt Air, which is an events venue that has burned down, like, three times in the last century. There, the beach is crusty and weird. Brine flies cover the ground. The place is littered with the wings of dead bird sticking out of the ground. Half the face of a gull. Everywhere. These conditions can be found all over the lake, but I’ve since discovered that some beaches are better than others.

Fast-forward to Saturday. Z and I drove (the relatively short distance) to Antelope Island with the intention of floating in the lake. According to the weather report, it was going to be one of our last weekends of summer, and I wanted to make the most of it. Despite “high wind warnings,” we threw some sandwiches and junk in the car and took off.

buffalo hump

buffalo humps: wild bison roam the island

Antelope Island is beautiful. We ate lunch at a rocky outcrop, which ended up taking awhile to climb in and climb out. Then, we wandered around the island until we came across a beach area with showers. This is a must because floating in the Great Salt Lake is not for the faint of heart, and when you’re done, you definitely want to shower off all of the salt and sulfur smells.

By the time we got to the beach, the wind was really blowing hard. Blowing sand stung my legs and face. Regardless, I pulled off my outer clothes and made my way toward the water. This beach was much nicer, and there were a couple of groups already floating in the water. The brine flies were not a problem, but I wonder now if that’s because of Saturday’s high winds.

We waded out to our thighs. The wind was blowing so hard we alternately had to talk each other into staying and trying to float. I was the first submerge up to my torso in the water, but Z was the first to actually lay back and try to float, which he did–easily.

Finally, I took my turn. With visions of brine shrimp in my head, I had some vague idea that I’d like to float without actually getting my hair wet. I’ll bet that’s possible because it is so easy to float out there, but the wind and the waves made it impossible on Saturday. So, I just went for it. And, it was awesome. The water temperature was cold, but once I was submerged, it felt nice.

I am newly in love with this state.

I am newly in love with this beautiful state.

I had a strong sense that spending long lengths of time floating in the Great Salt Lake would be good for the soul. I definitely plan on doing it again. And again. When I got out of the water, the water dried immediately and left a layer of crusty salt all over my skin and hair. I showered it all off, but the next day and today my skin has felt incredibly soft.

Hot springs often tout themselves as being healing and medicinal, and I think that can be true. However, the Great Salt Lake is the only body of water where the benefits of the water have lingered. It had the effect of Epsom salts. I know the water is sometimes polluted because it has no outlet, but I think the salt has a way of negating some of that. The water where I was seemed clear and clean. It felt good on my skin. It felt good to be buoyant, and it beckons me to return.

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