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Sierra magazine
Explore | Antelope Island, Utah

"The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper." --Eden Phillpotts

We stood in a basin between the Wasatch Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, a place where there is always wind, where sand and clay sustain saline marshes, salt grass meadows, and the goosefoot that grows on the flatlands. The plan was to hike Frary Peak on Antelope Island in Utah's Great Salt Lake.

The long hike's step-by-step drudgery heightened our awareness of the water-ringed desert and its camouflaged beauty. In places, the water ran red, made so by brine shrimp and the algae they eat--nature's way of adding crimson to this salty remnant of an ancient freshwater lake. Other species once lived here: woolly mammoth and ground sloth, black bear and musk ox, and even two extinct species of horse. Fossils tell their stories.

We spotted an abandoned chukar's nest in a scrape near some scabland sagebrush. Its lining looked meager--a bit of bunchgrass, a feather or two. It also told a story: of the partridge that had hatched eggs there before leaving to dine. A pocket mouse darted across my bootlace and scrambled down a hole in a furry blur. We began to notice other creatures scurrying and flitting through the stillness--lizards and beetles and iridescent flies.

A carved-rock stairway rose up before us, its steepness enough to test the fortitude of any pilgrim. At the top, balanced on a ridge as narrow as my boot, we took in the view. From this height there seemed to be more blue to the sky, more gold to the ground, more coppery veins to the boulders. The grasses, greenish maize, moved in hypnotic undulations. Shading our eyes with our hands, we stood high and humble, our wits grown sharp, our minds made clear. --Rita Leganski

Photos by Charles Uibel



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