Thursday, June 13, 2013

First swim in pink lemonade

Jonas had a ball on this Dad/Son
History of the railroad causeway that caused the Great Salt Lake to really seem like conjoined twins, but one being disturbingly strange.

This morning I got a text from Becky that she is planning to be at the Spiral Jetty this evening.  She told me she was craving root beer so I made a plan to meet her there with a large root beer float.  I called Cathi to get the "Go" for the plan.  She was on-board as long as I took Jonas for some Dad bonding time.  Great idea.

So I got off work at 4pm and stopped by to pick up Jonas and the spoils for Becky.  I could tell throughout the day that meeting at the Spiral Jetty was in jeopardy because it was still a ways away for her to be there at 8pm.  The spotGPS page I was getting on my cell, but it was extremely slow and for some reason wasn't updating every 10 minutes like it's supposed to.  I didn't see any accessible roads near the shoreline that would take me close to her so I went to the Spiral Jetty anyway hoping for the best and that she still might be able to make up some time.

One small step for Gords, a giant leap
for GSL swimmers
But when I got there I could tell that with the strong wind in the wrong direction, that it was probably not going to work out.  So I stripped down to my suit and got in and for a test swim.  I could see from a distance arriving the pink hue to the color.  It was VERY creepy to see.  When we got up close to the water, it was even more creepy.  You could see rocks, but they were covered in salt.  It really was like looking at water that might more resemble a lake on Mars or some other strange planet.  This was not the home planet I am used to.  I dipped my hand down and scooped up a handful of water.  Put it to my mouth and tasted the water.  It wasn't as toxic as I thought it was going to be.  It had a smoother salty taste to it.

I waded out to the very center of the spiral jetty and had Jonas take a few pictures.  Then I went to the outside edge towards the lake and with the storm front coming in, the waves were very intimidating.  The vastness of the lake was overwhelming.  I waded out about 50 yards and the water was up to mid thigh.  The temperature was warm.  Probably high 70s.  I knelt down and started to swim freestyle with my face in. I couldn't see underwater very far, only about a foot.   Couldn't see my hands.  Even though I swim like I normally do in the GSL, the "fumes" of the salt still made it into my nose and seemed to make it down my throat even though I did not take in any water.  It was extremely toxic.  It reminded me of when I was a stupid teenager and opened a container of pure hydrochloric acid and took a sniff.  It nearly made me pass out.  I tried to focus and just deal with it, but I only made about a dozen strokes and it was just too much.

I am probably one of the last people to call the GSL "non-swimmable", but the north arm, I dare say you would literally have to be a superhero to swim in there more than a mile all freestyle.  I converted to breaststroke, and that was just fine, but I'm not a breaststroker, and definitely not a long distance breast stroker.  Capt Matthew Webb would have totally kicked butt on a swim here.  If I were to plan a swim up here I would really need to brush up on my breaststroke.

After my swim I got out and setup a quick little base where we got some water starting to boil with my single burner propane stove.  I brought along a few freeze dried dinners (which are so delicious).  While that was boiling Jonas and I tried to locate Becky's cache and stick in our goodies for her, but we were unable to find it.  We did happen to find:

  • a black widow spider web
  • A 4 foot garter snake
  • A 1 foot rattlesnake
  • A red ant hill with hundred of large red ants
  • about a dozen rabbits
  • a coyote
It was getting dark fast, and the storm had moved around west of us and was now to our north.  The wind direction changed from a southwesterly wind to a northeasterly wind.  A direction that would actually benefit Becky's travel direction.  We lit a propane lantern and ate our dinners at the makeshift firepit near the base of the spiral jetty.  We found some rocks and made our own little cache for Becky.  I inscribed her name in the firm sand near the firepit.  I sent her a text describing the location of the cache, but I'm worried that she won't see it because the lack of cell service.  My text was just queued and was sent as soon as we started making our way home.  Makes me sad that our cache will probably go unopened by her, and probably discovered by some unsuspecting tourist. 
While I was looking out and hearing the rumbling of the waves coming in with the high winds, it sounded just like the ocean.  I had Jonas with me, and that was comforting, but if I was out here by myself that would conjure up very insecure feelings of loneliness I think.  Becky must be extremely comfortable with solitude.  What she is doing takes a superhuman amount of bravery.  The lake can be extremely aggressive and unforgiving and while she is smartly staying relatively close to the shoreline, it can still be quite daunting to be out there.  I can only imagine the amount of strength she must possess.  

About 9:45 we collected our stuff and walked by lantern light back to the car.  I took another look back to see if any light out there was on the water, and there was none.  I was sad to leave.  I wished I had a tent and the day off work so that I might be able to stay, but Jonas had school as well.  

On the way home the GPS was telling us to take a shortcut and I didn't realize that it was not the same way we came.  We came to a locked gate.  I was confused why someone would lock a gate that was previously open.  We back tracked and the GPS told us to try a different way, another locked gate.  I started to panic a little inside.  We backtracked even further and finally the GPS took us to the road we came in on.  Whew! I thought we would be spending the night in the car waiting for some rancher to come unlock the gate.  

Finally drove into the driveway at home at 11:45pm.  What an adventure!  

I walked in the bathroom and looked in the mirror.  I looked like the sandman.  I had salt all over my face.  The water on the north arm is much more fine.  The salt is less abrasive and smooth, however in much greater concentration.  It's also extremely deceptive.  The smell of the intense salt goes unnoticed by me.  With my nose surgery from several years back my sense of smell is MUCH less than the average person.  I didn't notice any difference in the smell of the air than at the south end.  That pink water though is just so strange.  I definitely want to come back and give it another try when I have more time, and a kayak to paddle with me, and when the water and wind is calmer. 

Here are all the pics from our visit.

Total: 50 yards in about 2 minutes.  Wow!  Like swimming in acid.

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