SOL Utah

HALLOWED GROUND?

We arrived in Salt Lake City, but without any idea where to stay. I took a quick look at the map, taking note of Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake. It sure looked big enough to house at least a campsite or two. We headed that direction. Much to our delight camping was allowed. Posthaste, the tent was pitched and we headed back to town in hopes of locating the next aquatic adventure spot.

When you embark on a trip like this, it’s not much good if the driver doesn’t know too much about paddling (except how to load and unload the gear). Maps, books and the internet are wonderful resources, but over time, it’s become quite apparent that knowing the right people in all the right places is of much greater benefit. After a lengthy search we found the kayaking play park; trouble was, there wasn’t any water. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it was barely enough to wade across and that was problematic. We needed dinner and time to reassess the situation.

There are staples in anyone’s diet, and for us, Mexican fits the bill. After a short tour we happened upon an excellent little venue… not much English was spoken, which tipped the scale in its favor. An hour and a beer later, we left. Our bellies greatly satisfied and filled with hope that tomorrow would yield a fine paddling opportunity somewhere in the greater Salt Lake region.

Rain pelted the tent throughout the night, making sleep a most unnatural occurrence. Daybreak at long last arrived, and even though a night’s rest was unduly deprived, I was happy to leave our makeshift home. Making our way towards the familiar sounds of mountain streams seeking to escape their natural boundaries seemed somewhat more settling to the soul.

As luck would have it, we drove directly pass an outdoors store with kayaks lined up out front! How’d I miss that one last night? I turned in, hoping to hear a few good suggestions. The staff was friendly and somewhat knowledgeable, but the spring melt run-off was long gone, so opportunities were not abundant. We were sent back up the canyon some 30 miles to locate a small riffle on the Weber River. The river flow was higher and faster then in Wyoming, but still not what either of us were used to seeing in Colorado.

Every time I watch Sam climb into his boat I send out a little positive juju. A prayer, if you will, for his safe and happy return to the shoreline. Many paddlers will tell you they know of someone who’s died pursuing this rather amazing athletic endeavor. I fully understand the inherent risks at hand. For some reason, today I had an unpleasant feeling in my gut… perhaps my old runner’s intuition was making an uncalled for appearance. I called out, “Be safe, have fun.” Sam waved to me, tested the water, made a cold face, and was off to tackle his newest piece of paddling paradise. After his routine warm up and roll session, he raced into the wave, side surfing until being mercilessly flushed downstream. Undeterred, he attacked the spot again and again, with the repeated result of flush and roll. This wasn’t a good hole and instantaneously it chose to prevail… Sam caught an edge and was thrown underneath the turbulent waves once again. He emerged a little later than usual, this time shaking his head. I watched and waited – he pointed to his helmet, but I didn’t understand the problem. As he paddled towards me, I finally saw from some thirty feet away, a bump the size of a small tomato had quickly formed on his forehead. Today’s foray with the water came to an abrupt end as we headed off to find an ice machine, discussing whether a hospital visit was necessary. Despite the rather ugly lump, which carried the patented trademark of a typical bar room brawl, the ice pack and tylenol regimen paid a quick dividend of relief and we opted for the road. I kept the ever vigilant eye on Sam’s nasty run-in with the unseen rocks of Weber River.

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