|Buffalo Statue, outside Visitor Center of Antelope Island
The Island, called Antelope Island, lies South of Ogden, the former great center of the Pacific Railroad. It is connected to the broad stretch of land extending below the Wasatch Range by a road bank, which can be glanced in the picture. As the road approaches the lake from the Northeast, the land turns gradually into marches and mud flats, until the mud turns into the salty lake water.
Why the buffalo on an island that appears to be burned and dry, embedded as it is in salty water? In fact, the island is rather fecund, but we did not see this in October, when most of the flowers had finished blooming and the grass dried out. We are standing at an altitude of some 1200 meters, with the island tops rising up to 2000. It rains regularly and there is snow in wintertime. There are many springs and even wetlands, warranting a rich bird life as well as roaming areas for more substantial critters.
|Lonely Buffalo near Bridger Bay
But isn't the island called Antelope Island? What about those gracile mammals? "Yes, indeed!", you can find them here as well. They are called Pronghorn Antelopes. Unfortunately, they kept completely hidden from us that day, no doubt because there was a huge Running Event taking place on the island concurrent with our visit, so the wild ones wisely kept to the calmer areas in the South, away from the hooting, puffing and sweating crowd encroaching on their stamping grounds. But I should not exaggerate; the island is large and the crowd appeared quit thinned out in the great expanse.
|Panorama, looking Northwest from White Rock Loop Trail
But back to the antelopes! Even if I did not manage to get them into the camera this time, I was more lucky (that is, young enough to handle my camera with speed) in 1980. Back then, we were approaching the US Southwest from New Mexico, spending an afternoon and evening in the romantic area of Petrified Forest. In those days, if you were lucky, you could still have a whole National Park for yourself. It had rained heavily earlier that day and was just clearing up when we arrived, so we had a great time taking in the splendor of that monument. Suddenly, when turning around, I saw two animals rushing up a slope (to get away from us, no doubt!). Up with the camera and "Click!" with the finger, and the result is now here for you to behold:
|Pronghorns in Petrified Forest National Park
There is no lack of wild species on the island. Coyote is of course prevalent here, and mule deer and bighorn sheep can been found as well. Bobcats roam the nights, but you may never see one and, in any case, you may not wish to come too close. Lesser mammals like badger, porcupine and jackrabbit, as well as rodents such as ground squirrel may cross your path on the hiking tour.
|Map of Great Basin Source: Wikipedia
This enormous sink, of a size a bit larger than Sweden, is essentially a desolate desert, broken up by a series of north-south oriented mountain ranges – most of them arid and barren as well, except on high. Where mountains are absent, it stretches out essentially flat, with a salty crust covering the shallow valley bottoms. You may not wish for your car to break down, if venturing out far on one of the rare sidetracks to the main routes. Without mobile phone, you will face certain death as soon as your water is running out.
|Into the Great Basin – north-south mountain range in the background
Think of a giant rectangular wedding cake, placed on two tables put together so as to form a unified support. Now move those two tables slowly apart and watch what happens: eventually, the middle part of the cake will start to crumble and crinkle, sizable parts of it falling down in one piece, others clinging on a little while longer. Those later ones will also fall at a later stage and partly align on top of the earlier pieces. As you look at the lower support area, where all the pieces will have ultimately landed, there will be pieces of cake lying level with the support, interspersed with slanting pieces representing elevations above the support. The latter will mostly be aligned some 90 degrees against the disruptive movements. Remains of the cake will stay on top of each table, their ends rather abruptly broken off. Standing on the new lower level looking upwards, those brake-offs at the table ends will look like large mountain ranges to you, rising high above the smaller ranges placed on the lower support.
|Wasatch Range, seen from Visitor Center
But let's move on to more mundane things! After all, we have a hike to report about. As already said, our walk was some 14 kilometers long and ran along a loop in the North, called White Rock Loop Trail. The nice thing about this trail is that it is easy-going. No doubt, our travel guide used it as a warm-up for future challenges. But, even if the terrain is not very demanding, it has a lot of unusual features to show for it, as well as unexpected encounters. The latter did not involve wild animals to any degree, but rather the runners mentioned earlier, as well as the odd man or two on horseback. For riders, this island must be ideal, you can roam freely over hills and dales and feel like a true Westerner, pretending to be a buffalo hunter, like in olden days!
|"Buffalo hunter" on White Rook Loop
|Standing on Beacon Knob
Not that there were many flowers to take in, after all. Due to the late season, there were mostly barren stalks adorning our route. But here and there, some of the lovely petals remained, usually yellow in color. Here is an example for you. I have to admit that I am not familiar with this special flower.
|Last flower on barren stalk
|Flowers and shrubs sheltered by rock