Fall Break on Fifty Bucks

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Jameson Clifton

(Photo by Jameson Clifton)

(Photo by Jameson Clifton)
(Photo by Jameson Clifton)

 
“I want you to do a story on a Fall Break travel destination. It’s on traveling cheaply,” my editor told me.
No problem, I thought.
Having backpacked around Japan for two and a half months on less than $40 per day, I was already familiar with the ramen noodle and canned tuna budget. I began to contemplate exotic destinations I had yet to visit since moving from Australia — Zion National Park, Arches National Park, the Grand Tetons, the Green River, the Grand Canyon, and Lake Powell. There were too many to think of. Quickly, however, my extravagant contemplations were cut short.
“The budget is $50 in total,” my editor finished. “It needs to actually be affordable for students.”
Luckily, an abundance of amazing natural landscapes and travel destinations lie within less than 90 minutes of Salt Lake City. There’s so much nearby that you could spend a whole lifetime exploring the area and never see it all.
One such landscape, from which the city derives its name, is the Great Salt Lake. I’d seen photos of the lake long before I decided to move to Utah, so my interest was already sparked. But I decided to get some opinions from my peers beforehand.
“It smells, and there’s lots of bugs,” one of my friends told me.
“Don’t go, it’s boring,” said another.
This was not a promising start. Had I been misled by the numerous articles I’d read celebrating the magnificence of the largest lake in the western United States? I decided to reserve judgment.
Like many Australians who grow up near the ocean, when exploring the different activities one could undertake, I naturally gravitated toward water-based sports. The idea of paddleboarding on the Great Salt Lake sounded pretty awesome — the only problem, though, was where to get the equipment. I wasn’t exactly able to pack my paddleboard in my suitcase. As luck would have it, with the U’s Outdoor Adventures, an on-campus rental shop, it couldn’t be easier to rent everything one could need for any trip.
An inflatable paddleboard, life jacket, and pump will cost you only $32 for the weekend with a valid UCard. It’s also recommended to add a dry bag to carry your gear in if you plan on paddling far from your starting point. All this equipment will pack into any mid-sized sedan, and the Outdoor Adventures staff is more than happy to help you. Advance bookings are recommended, though, and can be made by calling the shop or walking in.
Although it’s been called “America’s Dead Sea,” the Great Salt Lake provides a habitat for millions of native birds and shrimp. Naturally, I started exploring Google Maps and came across Antelope Island, the largest island of the 11 located on the lake.
The trip is approximately an hour and a half drive northwest from campus. With such close proximity, it’s a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, trail running, watersports, photography, camping, horseback riding and wildlife spotting. Antelope Island is accessed via a seven-mile narrow causeway, which lies to the west of Layton, just off I-15. You can visit the island between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. with a $10 entry fee per vehicle.
The drive from Salt Lake into the town of Layton passes pretty quick and costs roughly $18 in fuel round trip. Once you reach the entrance to the island, though, monetary concerns will be the last thing on your mind. The natural beauty of the area is breathtaking at any time of the day, I imagine, but it is particularly spectacular in the early evening as the sun drops down to meet the horizon. An assortment of color and light illuminates the road ahead as you drive with the lake on both sides of you.
The scent of the crisp, salty air flowing through the windows could fool anyone into thinking they where driving to the ocean. On a calm day, the mountains reflect on the water like a mirror dotted with seagulls.
I can’t believe I live here, I kept thinking to myself. What an awesome place.
At the end of the causeway is a small marina on the right, which is a good spot to park and put in a kayak or paddleboard. If you’re going to be out there for a while, make sure to bring plenty of drinking water, sun protection, and warm clothing — preferably synthetic — as the days get colder.
There are a number of good spots to pull up and have lunch, as well. Of course, you don’t have to be into paddleboarding to enjoy this brilliant landscape. It’s just as beautiful hiking along the shoreline and exploring the local hills. And for $50 or less, that’s what I call a bargain.
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