The Dead Sea of my Childhood

So this past weekend I had the opportunity to spend a Saturday volunteering at a local Make A Wish Event.  I am a Make A Wish Ambassador for the Utah Chapter and this is my 3rd year, I enjoy this work immensely.  This event happened to be an ATV Ride held out in the west desert of Utah in Grantsville, which is about an hour or so west of Salt Lake and a little bit west of the city of Tooele (pronounced too-ill-ah).

So driving out to Tooele you get to pass by the south end of the famous Great Salt Lake.  I would like to tell you that it is a wonder to behold, I sure would.  But frankly, and this is my humble opinion, as a person who has lived in Salt Lake all my life, and been to the Great Salt Lake several times, a wonder it is not.  Now, given, in its ‘hey day’ it may have been something.  But those days are gone, my friend.

As I passed the Great Salt Lake, of which I had to really squint to see any actual lake at all, what I saw was barren land with literally no growth anywhere and patches of dirty, standing water which looked entirely void of any life.  Yet, I knew if anything, the West Nile Virus and those mosquitoes that carry it were surely living the high life out there.  In the far distance I could make out a body of water as I drove farther west and, one lone sailboat way off on the horizon.  But that may have been my imagination, I’m not sure.

But then, there it was, the majestic Salt Air palace, restored as a beautiful homage to its former glory and the glory of the Great Salt Lake of the past.  Apparently an Events Center, Museum and Visitors Center for folks to learn and relive the wonder of this anomaly located in the Utah desert.  And from what I understand well worth the trip if you like that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, my childhood memories of horrible elementary school field trips came rushing back and I chose not to stop.   I had a vision of myself parking and then taking a big breath and holding my nose as I ran to the building.  You see, if my memory serves correctly, the lake stinks.  I mean for real, to high heaven stinks.  No matter what time of year, hot or cold, it stinks.  In fact, sometimes we get this terrible snow in the winter called ‘lake effect snow’ and OMG, it’s so bad I get the dry heaves.  I have worked out that way and heaven help me, it’s just awful.

I mean it’s full of salt people!  And it has no outlet…like to the sea.  It is completely landlocked.  It is so salty nothing but brine shrimp and weird fish can live in it.  And the flies, in the summer, oh Lord, the flies and the bugs.  Horrible.  Now, my disclaimer is that I literally have not been to the shores of the Great Salt Lake since I was in Mrs. Mayben’s 4th grade class in 1976.  It was the Bi-Centennial year.  We took a field trip that year to the Great Salt Lake, and about ever year before that.

It was the same song and dance every year; you wore your (one piece) swim suit under your clothes and brought a towel and a sack lunch from home.  We would ride the bus for like an hour out to the stinky, smelly, bug infested lake and eat our lunch on the rocky shores while trying to avoid a brine shrimp crawling up your OP shorts.  Once my sister stepped on a dead fish lying on the shore, it was hilariously gross and provided us laughs for years.

There were a always a few brave souls that took to the water and rode home on the bus awash in a sticky white film.  Even I tried it the first time, the salt made me itch so bad I felt like I would turn inside out all the way back. We were all a little sunburned, on that bus ride back and more than a little ravaged by the mosquitoes and biting flies, but also glad to be somewhere othere than school all together.  But those were fleeting moments, trust me.  Because, as I said before, quite frankly, it stunk, and it was buggy and sticky and hot.

Several years ago, I hired a great guy from Denver who moved his family to Salt Lake in the spring.  After he had been here a few weeks,  a bunch of our team, including him, were sitting at a local restaurant having lunch and talking about weekend plans.  Gregg (his name was Gregg) said something like, “so hey, do you all go out to the beach on the weekends?”   We just looked at him dumbfounded.  “What beach?” I asked.  “You know, the Great Salt Lake!” He replied. The faces around the table pulled back in what could only be described as a grimace, and, almost involuntarily, I blurted out “Oh Gregg, hell no!”  This was followed by the entire table reciting similar memories to those I have shared above.

The fact of the matter is there are countless beautiful, gorgeous lakes, reservoirs, canyons and National Parks in Utah and hundreds of excellent things to do and see.  In your own opinion the Great Salt Lake may be one of them, come take a look for yourself!  As for me, I am scarred from the memories of my youth, but I am a native Utahn and I call ’em as I see ’em.

Happy Trails!


Great Salt Lake 2017


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