Day 29 – Our First Taste Of The South West

Monday, September 20, 2010
Miles To Date: 
3 925

The highlight of our morning today was going out for our first diner breakfast of the whole trip. We both had an American pancake stack which was very tasty but the portion was huge and nearly knocked us out! Soon after we left Pocatello and headed south to the Idaho/Utah border. This was officially our last time in a state considered to be in the Rockies, and our first time in a south western state. The scenery changed somewhat during the drive, from the pine-forested mountain scenery found further north, to a more barren but still mountainous landscape. Our main stop for the day was the Great Salt Lake, and more specifically its largest island: Antelope Island.

Surprisingly the island isn’t home to any antelope, but a large herd of a few hundred bison, along with deer and thousands of seabirds. It is reached via a 7 mile long causeway across the lake itself. The lake is considered to be ‘the Dead Sea of North America’, since it is up to 25% salt in places and cannot support any fish due to its salinity. Our visit came at the end of the summer so it was largely evaporated, with large expanses of salt visible and possible to walk out on.

The highlight of the island was visiting a historic ranch, which claims to be the oldest non-native building still standing in Utah. It was built in the 1840s and used for a number of agricultural purposes until 1981 when it was closed. Unlike many museums, all the items were available for inspection, and I even got to lie on a bed that would have been used over 100 years ago! One of the park rangers there was amazed that we were from the UK and he gripped our hands in turn and said ‘it is an honour to have you both here’. He was very friendly and spent time showing us some things we might have otherwise missed!

As we were leaving the island we took a detour to the highest point for some views of Salt Lake City in the distance. On the way back down we saw a bison herd moving from the top of a hill to the lakeside – quite an amazing site with the young bison cheerfully running ahead, and then rolling in the dirt while waiting for their mothers. As for Salt Lake City, we haven’t driven into the city centre yet but it seems pleasant. Tomorrow we are driving out to the salt flats and visiting the Mormon church if we have time.

Photo(s) of the day: panorama of the mainland and lake from Antelope island – shows how most of the lake has evaporated!…and us out on the old ranch.