Wahoo! Current state count up to and including Utah: 14! By Monday morning, though, it was time to hit the road again - I could feel it in my veins, hear it in my heart. I saw a bumper sticker that summed it up so well: "All who wander are not lost." Wandering time was definitely nigh.
I left Logan with a full agenda for the day's trek to the south. I first stopped to get some fresh Cache Valley produce (cantaloupe, watermelon, peaches, blackberries and raspberries!) and then stopped again when I reached the wonderful Smith and Edwards salvage yard in Ogden. I of course ended up finding numerous metallic treasures I was compelled to take home with me. Back on the road approaching Salt Lake, I saw what is by now a familiar plume of acrid yellow smoke covering the horizon - a large wildfire burning in the hills overlooking the city. I tried to pinpoint the column in the distance as I turned and headed west to the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake but couldn't determine the source. I was headed to an interesting place I'd read about called Saltair III that boasted beach access to the lake and cool clean showers after your dip. I'd been drawn to the venue after reading about the soap opera setbacks experienced by its original incarnation (built in 1893), including fires, floods and fickleness. When I arrived at its much more modest modern replacement, it was pretty sparsely populated with just a handful of cars besides mine dotting the parking lot. I suited up in the discomfort of the hot car and headed out to the lake.
I was completely underwhelmed when I finally reached the water's edge. Not only was every square inch that stood above the water along the shoreline swarming with zillions of tiny gnat-like insects (it did look cool the way they scattered as I walked along – much like miniature schools of fishes) but once I finally started wading into the water, I noticed that it was a veritable soup of particulate matter. I say particulate matter, because who knows what the hell that stuff was. I’m guessing it was a casserole of insect parts, algae, mud and au gratin potatoes. In a single instant, I understood why I’d never heard Salt Lake mentioned before in any sentence having to do with recreation. It's mostly a lake to look at, apparently. Still, I was determined to float in the damn thing. How could I come this far and then let a little thing like organic mystery soup stop me? My thought being that since I float so easily anyway, I should be able to walk on this water. I gingerly eased myself down into the water and soon realized with frustration that I was sitting on sand. The water was only about a foot deep where I plopped down which would make it difficult to float, even for me, even in this water. I got up out of the water and waded out a bit further, the salt burning the lining of my mouth and overwhelming my tastebuds where a little lake water had managed to seep between my lips. It made me think of sucking on an anchovy. A little further out I found a spot that seemed to be a good 18-20 inches deep and so slipped back down into the wretched waters to fulfill my determination. Wow. Sure enough, I could float. I don’t know what I was expecting, now that I think of it. I’m a hard person to measure a baseline on since I’m so naturally buoyant. But that was pretty much it - I floated easily. Huhn.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t dilly-dally on my swim. I hurriedly waded back to my pile of stuff on the beach and began herding the swarms of gnat-like things away in an enormous swirl so I could snatch up my canteen and pour cold water over my face and arms and hair. I loaded up all my stuff and started back on the hot, salty 1/3 mile walk trek back to the parking lot. I could see the smoke from the distant fires in Salt Lake City writhing along the horizon, making an intriguing backdrop behind the distant Saltair III. I encountered a large group of Asian tourists who had obviously just disembarked from a bus I could see idling in the distant parking lot and were headed out to the shore. The first one asked me, “Did you go IN????” I replied proudly, “Why yes I did!” “Well how was it then – was it nice?!” she queried eagerly. I just couldn’t muster a fakey tourist-friendly lie. It would only lead to grave disappointment. “Well, to tell the truth, I'm afraid it’s really pretty nasty out there” I told them. The group of them began giggling nervously at my answer so I added hastily, "But you should definitely still go out to the water's edge and stick your toe in, just to say you did it!" I left them to fashion their own relationship to the Great Salt Lake and beat it on back to the parking lot so I could hop under the shower as quickly as possible. It felt really good to sluff off the salty slimy second skin I'd developed.
By now it was more than time to get some miles under me on my way toward Moab, Utah. I passed back through Salt Lake City and got close enough to the fires to see the leading edge licking a line down the side of a mountain (although I couldn't spot any flames, just smoke). I left Salt Lake behind and began passing through a litany of small towns where I saw various and sundry marvels including a 70s space age building complex (four white domes with gothic arch entrances and Jetson style porthole windows) and a elk antler garden that had definitely seen better days (but was intriguing, nonetheless) and a pod of gigantic wind turbines that held me in thrall for a good half hour.
As the golden hour approached, I started searching for a good place to watch the sunset which unfortunately was only mildly interesting. No matter - there would be plenty of scenery the next day at Arches National Park. I was on my way toward Green River (where I'd decided to lodge for the night) soon after the sun slipped below the horizon.