Monday, May 17, 1999

Postcard from Utah

Yesterday, we did a wickedly hard bike ride on Stansbury Island, an island on the southern part of the Great Salt Lake. Stansbury Island is about 40 miles west of Salt Lake City. I had driven out that way a few times before, but it is an area where neither I nor anybody goes much. West of Salt Lake is generally pretty desolate--it is known as the Great Basin.

The Great Basin is very dry and is the largest area in North America (and probably all of the Americas) with no outlet to the sea. What little water there is just evaporates. One of the most common features of this area are the salt flats--broad flat areas of cracked and dry earth with large accumulations of salt and other minerals. The Bonneville Salt Flats are part of the Great Basin.

In all of that desolation, however there is actually quite a bit to offer. For one thing, the Great Basin contains numerous mountain ranges that are very remote and pristine. These mountains all have their own ecosystems. The Stansbury Mountains, is one of these mountain ranges, and Stansbury Island is the northern most part of this range. It just happens to be surrounded at its base by the Great Salt Lake giving it its island status.

Our group included my friend Tom, his friend Alex, and myself. Alex, is a 21 year-old outdoor jock. He skied 175 days last winter (basically every day for six months) and currently is biking daily. He is in awesome shape and is very athletic. He spent a good deal of the time waiting for Tom and me to catch up, especially me.

We biked for over three hours. The route was extremely rocky, rough, difficult, and a lot of fun. We climbed up the side of the mountain that makes up this island from where we parked the car. After the initial ascent we followed a trail that curved around the mountainside. After we left the car, we didn't see another person the whole time.

The trail was narrow, full of jagged rocks, and precipitous. There were lots of flowers emerging from the rocky landscape as well as stunning views in all directions. Cattle grazed on the flat areas down below, next to the Great Salt Lake. The Wasatch, Oquirr and Stansbury Mountains were all visible to our south and east. More mountains were visible to the west whose names I don't know.

I got much joy out of the ride, although a lot of humiliation as well, as I struggled to keep up without killing myself. It was rough going. Tom had one especially spectacular fall, tumbling headlong onto a mountainside of jagged rock. I had a few mini-falls, near the end as my exhaustion began to get the best of me.

This morning I woke up scratching all over. The island was the home to a substantial population of vicious gnats that attacked during the ride. I had barely noticed them as I was working so hard to keep up.

It was all well worth it of course.

A typical Utah afternoon diversion.


Jim Breitinger
Lunch Break
Orem, Utah
May 17, 1999

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