On the southwest portion of the Great Salt Lake of Utah is a very special island that one can only get to by land.
This very special island is called Antelope Island.
In our hearts, Pilot and I can hear this very special island call us. Come away, come away, it says. It's two days before Christmas and we have a long weekend so we get into the land boat and make the eleven hour journey through snow and sleet and angry mansplainy land barge drivers and other land scows that don't understand that ice makes you keep going even when stopping is the preferred outcome of your reaction.
After a seemingly endless pilgrimage of 750 miles on the I-84 Canal that involves spending the night in the land boat at an iced-over rest stop somewhere outside of GoBrandon, Idaho, we arrive at the beautiful land bridge that takes us into the beautiful Antelope Island State Park where I pay forty dollars for a place to moor my land boat for two nights and a place to take a shit out of the wind.
Refer to first photo for view of the island from the land bridge that I forget to photograph because I'm not thinking of you, but of myself and my desire to test out the abovementioned facilities.
We pull into the campsite to confirm that it does indeed exist and that the views are as spectacular as promised in the online brochure and by the friend who writes better and camps better than I do.
Then we pull out onto the road, the little road along the edge of the big beautiful 28,000 acre park, drive, park, and go for hike.
I want to climb to the top of Frary Peak but I suck at reading maps and I end up taking us along the Mountain View Trail which lives up to its name and these mountains are indeed very beautiful but I'm not climbing on them and that's what I wanted to do so we turn around.
"Dude, Pilot, I can see your underwear."
I'm not bummed, though, because I'm getting high on the cool textures and shapes all around us.
Like this mint chip lichen pig nose butthole.
And this voluptuous rock woman that belongs in a John Waters movie.
And more rocks and lots of scratchy yellow tufts and silky grey blue clouds and smooth-talking sexy ass mountains.
"Hey, take a picture of me on this rock."
"With your underwear showing like that?"
"Yeah what the fuck do I care? I'm a fucking dog. My dick is showing, too. Just take the picture."
We get to the trailhead for Frary Peak and I realize that the combination of time of day, elevation gain, lack of recent mountain-climbing experience, and threats of late afternoon thunderstorms don't make for ideal Frary Peaking conditions so I opt instead to take the road more traveled that goes to Dooly Knob.
Like all upward mountain climbs we find false summit after false summit until at last we get to a ridge where the wind is so strong I fear it might blow me right off the mountain. And my little dog, too.
Even though Kerouac says it's impossible to fall off of a mountain, you fool, I still take a page from his book and hunker down low for a few minutes and distract myself with more trippy textures and colors that make up this beautiful death trail I erroneously believed would be fun.
Unfortunately my self-soothing technique works and I calm the fuck down and Pilot and I continue upward until we get to the top, whereupon I put on his leash because by this point I've decided that a dead dharma bum doesn't know everything.
"Would you look at that fucking spectacular view."
"Of what, your underwear?"
As we all know, when you climb a mountain you must, of course, turn around.
So I do.
And I see my land boat way way way the fuck down there.
And I see the shallow sea they say is salty.
Which is why they call it the Great Salt Lake.
And I search for my reflection in the snow-covered hill that is Frary Peak.
I don't find it.
But I reflect on other things, like whether or not I actually enjoy climbing mountains in strange faraway places and if such activities would be less or more enjoyable if Pilot and I did them with another human being and maybe another dog. The only conclusions I come to up here on this mountaintop are that I would rather be here than not, and that the clouds are looking fucking freaky and Pilot and I better book it back down the mountainside before the sky eats us.
Once off the mountain and back in the land boat, we head over to a drive-up mountain called Buffalo Point, where we get out and wander around in the frigid wind until the sky catches fire.
And the mountains catch fire.
And sky mountain cloud rainbows start popping up all over the place and the sun shines through the rain and my heart is beating so hard you can probably feel it and I wonder if I'm dreaming because this skyflame orgasm is going on forever all I can do is hold on until darkness quenches the flames.
We stay out until last light and then head back to the campsite.
As with any worthwhile encounter I am left wanting more so I decide to build my own damn fire. Which turns out to be pretty nice for a minute since I haven't had a fire while camping in god knows how long, probably years, now.
Pilot goes to bed.
All is quiet.
All is still.
I sit around the fire and eat and write by firelight, which makes me feel like an accomplished camper.
But the chunks of firewood I bought at the grocery store are too big and I don't have an axe to make them smaller so the fire keeps petering out and I have to keep shoving kindling and trash underneath it and blowing on it until I feel like I'm gonna pass out and it turns into a big stinky pain in the ass and isn't fun anymore.
I guess the wind is watching and feels sorry for me because it decides to come down and help. As I'm crouching there like an idiot on my hands and knees with my face inches from the fire blowing and blowing and trying to get it up the wind comes rushing down the hill, crashes my party, flips my camp chair, and tosses my journal into the air, but, thankfully, not to a fiery death.
Not yet, anyway.
The fiery death comes moments later when the wind rips into the firepit and sends the flames sky high and sends millions of burning embers red hot screaming into the dry dormant scrub brush. The entire island catches fire. Everything burns. Everything dies. Including me.
And my journal.
And my little dog, too.
Next thing I know I'm knocking on Heaven's door, journal in one hand, dog in the other, asking if we can have a do-over. The pearly gates open and out comes a cute, gender-defying cherub in a long white gown. They levitate to the perfect height of condescension, look down, and wordlessly point to my journal. I hand it over. They flip through the pages, pausing more than once to raise an eyebrow and grunt a disapproving grunt, then slap it shut and drop it in the garbage.
"I can't say you've presented me with any material that justifies giving you a second chance," says the cherub. "But I do like your dog. He's cute. You have ten seconds to try again."
In a flash I go shooting plummeting pellmell out of the sky and back onto Antelope Island, where I grab my two-gallon water jug, shove my ignorant fire-fluffing past-self out of the firepit and out of my way, and douse the flames before the wind can get to them.
Then I climb into the land boat and go to sleep.
The offended wind rocks the land boat all night long like I'm in there gettin' lucky but I know I'm not, can't fool me, wind. I dream vivid dreams that I'm standing on the dock of a salty harbor, staring out to see. In the distance I see three ships come sailing in...
View from my "bedroom" window in the land boat.
On Christmas day in the morning, bright and early and cold, we get up and do morning things like relieve ourselves and make breakfast and hot caffeinated drinks. The wind is still blowing. I recall the night before and wonder out loud if it was all a dream. But Pilot remembers the cherub.
"Check this out," he says, handing me my journal.
I open it up.
All the pages are blank.
I still can't believe it but I put it behind me, lesson learned, no more fires ever, and wander aimlessly with Pilot out onto the beach where dogs aren't allowed and where I forget to take pictures of anything except this dead thing.
We wander back into camp for more caffeinated beverages because it's that kind of morning. The plan is to head over to Frary Peak and give the whole mountaineering thing another go since the skies are clear and we have plenty of time.
Then the magpies show up.
Just like I'd heard the island calling me in my heart I'd heard the magpies calling, too.
I didn't know when they would show up, but show up they do, in little orca costumes to boot.
Magpies, like crows, are in the family Corvidae, which (oh hey) explains both my Hive name and the reason why we run out of time to climb Frary Peak on day two.
This Maggie manages to hypnotize me and steal my heart and most of my morning. I don't know how she does it, but I'm not complaining.
Turns out I have an automatically and instantaneously regenerating heart anyways so plenty of love and plenty of kibble to go around.
Since we don't have time for Frary, Pilot and I land boat up to Buffalo Point again, which, much to my delight, is crawling with non-English-speaking non-Christmas-celebrating people playing on the rocks and leaning into the gale force winds.
So Pilot and I also climb on the rocks and lean into the gale force winds and don't take any pictures worth sharing except for this one of a holy rock.
I lean down and put my ear up against the hole to see if I can hear the Salt Lake.
"Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Glooo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oooooo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooooo-oo-oo-oo-oo-Oria, in excelsis Deo
Glooo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oooooo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooooo-oo-oo-oo-oo-Oria, in excelsis Daaaaaa-yaaaaay-Ooooo"
Not exactly what I was expecting but, hell, it's Christmas in Utah.
After Buffalo Point we scarf down a late lunch and digest some views from the land boat before heading over to Gravel Pit Trail which will take us up a less long, less arduous trail with less wind and more views of the same unbearably beautiful mountains surrounding the Great Salt Lake.
Pilot and I decide to take on a little summit and turn up a trail to Beacon Knob. We pass a geological gargoyle that I imagine has been around much longer than humans have been on this continent.
A quarter mile from the knob we spot some bison in the not-far-enough distance, a sight which encourages Pilot and I to have a spontaneous uphill race to see who can make it to the top first.
Pilot wins, of course, because he always does, he's way younger than I am. He waits for me at the the hey-you-made-it bench where we sit down and take in the view of the trash pile surrounding the dilapidated hut next to what I'll later learn is a weather tower but I don't think it gets used very often because there's nothing inside it except a can of WD40.
Anyway, the thing is a shit prize for running up a hill past the murderbison but I decide to give it a chance in black and white.
To the south I see that little heartbreaker, Frary Peak, with little Dooly resting at her feet.
Oh, Frary. I can't attend you here and now as I'd like, but I'll get you, my pretty.
And my little dog will, too.
To the west I see that time has again eluded and deluded us, and it's going to get dark in less than an hour.
Pilot and I sprint back down the hill past the bison who have mysteriously disappeared and book it back to the land boat and drive around to the west side of the island so we can catch the tail end of yet another fucking epic sunset with more bison that aren't scary because they can't get us while we're in the land boat.
Then just like that it's dark again but too early for dinner and too dangerous for fires so we pull up the anchor and drift around the island at 2mph in search of night creatures.
We spot a rabbit hanging out with a field mouse (see nearly indistinguishable white blob casting a shadow at the edge of the road). At first I am surprised by their comradery, but later I'll realize that this is how kangaroo rats are made and they must be husband and wife.
Once we've drifted down every available night road and seen every available night creature, we head back to camp and drop anchor. Cold dinner, hot chocolate, wind, and, eventually, sleep.
Wake up to snow.
We do icy cold burning frozen finger morning things and wander around aimlessly for a little while trying to wake up while I try to wrap my head around the truth that we have to leave today, and soon.
"Hey take my picture next to this snow-crusted tumbleweed."
"Is my underwear showing?"
"No, but that coat makes you look fat."
The heart-theiving, sticky-beaked time suckers return to say hello, goodbye, give me all your kibble.
I give them all my kibble.
Eventually hello, goodbye turns into just goodbye and we're all sad.
Pilot and I take the land boat out for one last drift around the sparkly island we've called home for the last two days.
The island figures out that we're about to leave and tries to convince us to stay another day by showing us all the things we like to look at in less than thirty minutes.
And I tell her my god I wish we could stay, I wish we could stay for hours and days and weeks longer, but we don't have enough food or money or time.
She gives it one more shot.
I shake my head. I don't say anything. Me and Pilot and the island, we all cry silent tears as I turn the land boat around and turn it back into a boring old car and straight shoot back to Portland through the ice and sleet and dark snowy night windows 95 screen saver.
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All the stuff (pictures, words, etc.) I put in this post and any of my other posts is mine (unless otherwise stated) and can't be used by anyone else unless Pilot and I say it's ok.