Camping at Antelope Island: Always Worth it

Camping at Antelope Island: Always Worth it

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Introducing Lauren Udwari, a friend, writer, and photographer that promises to become a regular contributor to Seasons of Salt. She moved to the City of Salt in 2011, and voraciously explores Utah with her husband Josh and her dog Margot in her quest to live up to the words in her tattoo: “all good things are wild and free.”  Read her full bio here.

After a stressful work week, packing up the car and two dogs for an overnight car-camping trip feels like a daunting task. All that gear (tent, sleeping bags, dog bed, cooler, firewood, headlamps, layers, etc.) for one night…is it worth it?

As time goes on, we find ourselves busier than ever. It’s getting harder to disconnect from our demanding realities. So my answer to the question above is: YES. It’s worth it to slog through 5PM, post-work packing for a cool summer evening beneath the stars, among the wild things. Even when it doesn’t pan out quite the way you imagined it.

My husband Josh and I hadn’t been camping for months. Our busy schedules that left us with just one free weekend night discouraged us from planning anything until this past weekend. We decided to go for it, against logic and rational thinking.

After work on Friday, we sorted through camping gear, packed the cooler with dinner, marshmallows, and tequila (the essentials), and made our way north to Antelope Island: one of our favorite places to camp in the Salt Lake area. It’s close yet remote, quiet, filled with wildlife, and affords the best, unobstructed sunrise and sunset viewing around. But don’t tell anyone that.

Unfortunately, Antelope Island also comes with a unique set of challenges requiring a bit of preparatory research: various pesky bugs at different times of year (biting gnats in the early summer and mosquitoes in the late summer) and bison that have been known to stampede through camp every once in a while. You can tell everyone about this!

After battling I-15 traffic for an hour, we arrived on the island. The first red flag: nobody on the island. Normally, around this time of year (early fall), the island is packed with campers taking advantage of bison before the round up and the lack of bugs. As we continued toward Bridger Bay campground, trying our best to beat the setting sun to camp without breaking the causeway limit (respect it: cops patrol it), we noticed another red flag: despite the warm temperatures, the few campers we saw were covered head-to-toe. As we pulled up to camp spot 18 and parked the car, we realized what the problem was: MOSQUITOES!

Josh and I left humid, buggy Maryland in 2011 hoping to leave the mosquitoes behind. But, thousands of miles away, here they were…in droves. Despite layers and bug spray, they attacked on repeat. The dogs were covered in them within minutes. We debated with the friends we met there whether it made more sense to head home after a quick dinner and campfire or brave the insects and spend the night.

We put the wild debate on hold to pull out our cameras and catch the gorgeous setting sun: a hot pink fireball, rapidly descending, casting the most beautiful light in the process. It was hard to focus with all the mosquitoes; I was sure I didn’t get any good shots.

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As the fire crackled and our friends’ kid gathered scraps of wood with 1,000 mosquitoes on his face (he did not notice; the power of childhood resilience!), I proposed that we stay. The fearless kid shouted in agreement, “Daddy, let’s camp!” Since a kid’s vote is worth several adult’s, we committed to staying. When the last of our wood turned to ashes, we crawled into our tents, trying not to let any bugs in with us.

It proved to be a wonderful decision. It was that perfect temperature in which you felt comforted by a warm sleeping bag but could sleep without the rain fly. As you drifted to sleep, safe at last from the vicious biting bugs, visions of the milky way stretched across a star-filled, sapphire sky. Definitely worth the hassles of post-work packing, traffic-navigating, and mosquito-slapping.

Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, so I’ll let you imagine what the morning was like. Let’s just say there was no time for orderly packing or brewing the standard pot of coffee. We got out of there fast, with the same hot pink sun guiding us out of the park at sunrise.

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May this serve as a little motivation to get you outside in the coming weekends. Even with dismal conditions, camping is always rewarding in its own special way. One night under the stars is better than none.

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