I learned a few things about myself over the past few days. With a few days off at the ER I headed west, to Salt Lake City, to kidnap the TETON Sports #yourlead van. They have big plans for the van this coming summer, so I jumped at this opportunity to take it for a spin + make sure it’s ready for adventure.
As usual, I arrived with nothing on my agenda. I wanted to explore the trails around the SLC metro area, but I wanted to avoid the snow. This ruled out the eastern canyons + anything headed toward the mountains. They weren’t snowy so much as they were a mix of icy mud. Eh. No thanks.
In the end, I choose Antelope Island State Park. This monumental decision was made from my seat on the airplane as we were landing. As I stared out the window I saw this lumpy looking island with a long road leading to it. Hm…it looked empty + snow free. I was sold + after a few hours in the TETON Sports showroom I headed for the island.
Antelope Island State Park
After paying my entrance camping fee I switched my radio over to the AM station to get the scope on the island. I learned that the island is known for free-range bison, yappy coyotes + a ranch that was operational for 133 years. With over 40 miles of unpaved trails there was no way I would see the entire island in one visit…but that doesn’t mean I didn’t try!
My first stop was the visitors center, because I was a visitor + these centers were created for people like me! I gawked at beautiful photos of a much greener island [summer time!] + watched brine shrimp float around in lake water. In the gift shop I flipped through a few books, but convinced myself I didn’t need them…for now. As I was wandering the visitors center I overheard someone ask where to see the bison + realized I needed to make a trip out toward the ranch to take a peep.
I naively figured these free range bison would be as elusive as free range cattle are in Wyoming [either you see 400 or you see none]. I was very, very wrong. There were bison everywhere. On my drive out the Fielding Garr Ranch I drove past at least 8 different clumps of bison..just chilling + nibbling + roaming.
Quite honestly, I had no intention of stopping at the Fielding Garr Ranch. It was a ranch…how interesting could it be? Well, I had to turn around in the ranch parking lot so I gave into curiosity + ventured down to the buildings. Guess what I found there?! A volunteer with a brochure, some ancient ranching tools, a home-built in 1848 + a whole bunch of really interesting history. Yea…all of that. At a ranch. On an island. Who know.
There was also a Great Horned Owl couple snuggled up in a tree on the ranch. They mate for life + this tree is their home. They didn’t wiggle much since it was the middle of the day, but I can now say I got to gawk at Great Horned Owls in the middle of the day…as they cuddled up at the top of a tree, on Valentine’s Day. Aw, lurve!
Bridger Bay Campground
My assigned campsite was in the Bridger Bay Campground, which seemed to be the only campground open mid-week in February. When I arrived at the campground my site was one of very few campers/campervans hanging out on a nearly empty island. As the sun began to set we all ventured away from our mobile homes to soak up the last rays. Along the way I ended up with a few free range bison between me + the van. As a farm girl, I was far more nervous than I expected to be. They are HUGE!
After going off trail to get around the mini herd of bison I whipped up my standard vanlife dinner of pasta + veggies then settled in for the night. Ah…all the excitement of vanlife, amirite?!
White Rock Loop
The next morning I headed out to explore the island on foot. It was rock-the-van windy, so opted against a summit of any sort + went for a loop around White Rock. This is where things got exciting…I RAN! In a nonchalant ‘this looks nice + runnable’ sort of way. Or at least that’s how it started. Halfway through the loop it became more of a ‘if I run I can get out of this &^#$ wind sooner’ sort of run. Because no matter how elated I am to be a ‘runner’ I will forever be a very ‘whiney runner’. I even whined out loud when no one was there to hear me. #sorrynotsorry
White Rock Loop in Antelope Island SP is a 6.2 mile loop full of long runnable stretches of trails with short jaunts of climbing or rocky descents. While you’re out there you’ll get views of everything — the peaks of Antelope Island, the horizon across the Great Salt Lake + the skyline of Salt Lake City with the Rocky Mountains towering behind. It was a beautiful run + I came upon even more bison along the way. Most were far off in the meadows, but a few were chilling near the trail, ignoring me as I ran by.
The rest of my Thursday was spent eating + working…because even when living the vanlife bills need to be paid + bellies need to be filled! Yay responsible adulthood!
I wasn’t sure where I was going to sleep on Thursday night + seriously considered an overnight in town [Walmart parking lot or the likes] but that just felt wrong. I knew how awesome Antelope Island SP was. It was only 15 minutes + $15 away, I’d be an idiot if I didn’t return. So return I did.
Frary Peak Trail
Friday morning dawned much calmer than Thursday did, so I drug my tired legs out of the van + to the Frary Peak trailhead on the eastern side of Antelope Island. The trail up to Frary Peak was *highly* recommended by multiple people. When you arrive at the island you see this peak towering above you, all jagged + inviting. I won’t lie, I seriously considered this particular trail on Thursday but the wind deterred me. Apparently my short run the day before got me a bit too confident come Friday…
I headed up the road to the official trailhead [closed for the winter], then took on the rocky trail. Those friends of mine were not wrong — it was a beautiful trail that looped from the eastern to the western side of Antelope Island. In a past life [+ hopefully near future life], this would have been an amazing short run with views to distract from the steep, technical sections. But, alas, my underused legs were a bit abused from the day prior.
My adventure was cut short by time + I didn’t make it beyond the first panoramic overlook. I can’t complain, it was still a gorgeous run [ahem, hike]…that I got to take on in shorts! SHORTS! In February…glorious. When I lived on the Front Range I took advantage of many shorts days in the middle of the winter.That may be the single thing I miss about living in Denver!
I finished off my trip to Salt Lake City with an afternoon of working in a coffee shop [then later the airport]. My bout of vanlife was short-lived, but it was still amazing to get out there + check out a new chunk of Utah. I had no idea this area existed + I kind of fell in love while I was there. It’s safe to say I’ll make the trip out to the park many more times…because it was amazing!
I was also incredibly impressed by how clean all of Antelope Island State Park was. From the bathrooms to the trails to the parking lots to…everything. It was litter free + I never had the chance to snag any trail karma picking up trash while I was out exploring. Well done Utah, well done! Y’all are awesome trail stewards!
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