Hike date: 5/10/19
Hike number: 1 / 60
My first hike in this project, this season. I extended invites to a couple pals to join me— but really, it ended up feeling right to do this first one on my own.
I had completed the same hike more than three years ago, in a decidedly different season. Last time, seeing a hike at “Stansbury Island” had put me in the mind of somewhere lush and verdant. Turned out that February in the West Desert was in fact dry, dusty, and windswept. No surprises.
This day, though, a clear and sunny May after the wettest winter in years, the vegetation was about as lush as it gets out here. Though the trail was dusty, the flowers were in fuller bloom then I’d seen yet in the city. Old favorites— phlox, paintbrush, lomatium, larkspur— dotted the hillsides. I squealed aloud, even, and stopped in my tracks when I saw the first of my most favorite plant pals— Oenothera caespitosa, the evening primrose that is my first tattoo.
I chose this trail to kick things off for being long and flat— after gaining almost 1000 feet in the first mile, you’re dropped off at the prehistoric shoreline of Lake Bonneville, and skirt the southern contour of Stansbury Island. Like much of the west— it’s a tableau shaped equally by people and nature. The high peaks of mountain ranges— Ruby, Stansbury, Oquirrh, Wasatch— frame the foreground, which is Jeep roads and evaporating ponds on the Salt Lake. Industry. Its own kind of beauty.
Less beautiful are the scattered shotgun shells, clay pigeons, and tattered remains of household objects left behind by the folks who come out here for target practice on the weekends. I didn't see any other hikers that day, but I was treated to a chorus of gunshots and bigger explosives throughout my hike. I was out of range of fire, but aware that the types of people who take to the desert to shoot guns aren't usually keen on the queers.
Despite this unnatural– and unnerving– addition to the day, this still felt like an appropriate start. Lots of good, some unexpected bad, but isn't everything?
When I lived in Oregon, during what seemed like the end of a particularly challenging period, I wrote in my journal: “The desert is blooming.” At the time, this was purely a metaphor: feeling stuck in the temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest, deeply nostalgic for the sun and dry heat of the desert, collaging desert scenes out of National Geographic. But, in this wet spring, super blooms galore, botanical pals on the trail—-the figurative became literal. I am trained as a scientist, but I value inspiration and guidance in many forms. An auspicious beginning, I hope, as I chase my next big thing.
Mileage: 9.71 mi
Vert: 1169 ft