Worms at Great Salt Lake | Salt Lake City, Utah | Cross Country Road Trip | Emergency Walmart Camp Out | our queer life | Clara & Cole

PSA: The Sand is Worms 

The Great Salt Lake, outside Salt Lake City, Utah

After traveling hundreds of miles, Clara insisted on trekking across loads of “sand” to the waters edge.

I hate worms. Especially dead worms. If I had know the sand was made of worms, I can’t say I would have agreed to exploring the beach area.   

We made it all the way to the water’s edge before realizing the worm situation. Brine fly larvae.

Salt, Water, and Brine

The amount of worms cannot be under stated. 

Forest, Clara, and I took off across the sandy salt flats towards the salt lake. I figured the water would be clean-ish, and swimmable. The sand was crusty with salt, like ice on snow. 

As we got closer to the water, the ground softened. Forest took off running, and I ran too, with her on the other end of the leash. I must have landed particularly hard on an extra soft spot, and my foot slid into a muddy hole. Instead of white or brown, moss green "sand" appeared beneath the crusty top beige layer as my rainbow croc sunk into the muck. 

This was the first hint that something was very wrong. I chose to look away and continue on toward the water. Dirty croc and all. How bad could it really be?

The edge of the water looked to be covered in a thin layer of ice. This salt crust hid horrors under the surface. Hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of brine fly larvae. Dead and alive.

This discovery led me to further examine the"sand" (dead flies worms, dried decomposed). It dawned on me what I had stepped in. I knew something seemed off with the green sand! 

How could one swim in this? Were the other tourists aware? Why did I choose crocs for this? Am I the only one to have missed the memo?

I ran back toward the parking lot and park building. The Park provides showers and hoses at the entrance to the walking paths, thankfully. After a good rinse, we took stock of the other path options. The second path we picked was via rocks, and much shorter than the beach version. We headed back to the meadow for a picnic before returning to watch the sunset from atop boulders on the Great Salt Lake waters edge.

“How bad could it really be?”

Warning Signs

Our tarp accumulated a multitude of flies and fly bodies over a period of hours. 

After laying out and trying sardines on our blue tarp, we packed up and headed back to the rock path entrance to take our sunset stroll.

Upon folding the tarp, I found a collection of flies, more than typical. I had noticed many in the sky, but figured it was seasonal and part of the local ecosystem, like flies on the beach at low tide along the strand line. In hindsight, these were probably fully grown brine flies! The adult version of our friends, the beach worms.

“I found a collection of flies.”

Refuge on the Rocks

We hopped across rocks like frogs on lilypads.

From atop the rocks, we could see clear across the Great Salt Lake. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I don’t know if I would have believed someone if they told me the water was full of worms. The surface looked like glass. In order to see through the reflection of the blue sky, I had to get within a couple inches of the water. Then and only then did it become clear the level of saturation. The Great Salt Lake seemed supersaturated with brine flies and larvae. 

“I still can't get over how many people were swimming!”

Chased from the Campground?

After hours some man walked his dogs by driving down to the end of the road, kicking them out of the pick up, and driving along next the dogs as they ran all the way back to the camp ground. 

I can’t overstate my surprise when the same man kicked us off the property after sunset despite us having paid for a campsite. We slept in a Walmart parking lot in Salt Lake City, instead. 

Before leaving, I researched free camping options in the United States, just in case. Walmart parking lots received mixed reviews, and I tucked the thought to the back of my mind. 

“A quintessential roodtrip experience.”

Before venturing out to the Great Salk Lake, Clara checked in with the State Park reception building, and paid to park overnight and camp in the parking lot.  

After sunset, we moved our car to a spot beneath the trees in the parking lot, and got ready to bed down for the night. Before we could settle in, this blustery man inserted himself in our business and began questioning us about our right to stay there. I had noticed this man earlier, draped in Americana apparel, and walking his dogs from his pick up truck. I assumed he was a regular, RV dweller. I am still not convinced he was officially associated with the park staff in any way. 

Rather than challenge his aggression, we retreated to our car and headed back toward Salt Lake City.  Given the late hour, Walmart quickly became our only option. 

In the wee hours of the morning, some random man showed up and tinkered around with a vespa for a while before riding it in circles in the lots for hours and hours, until the sun came up. 

It was oddly comforting, the rhythmic sound of an engine driving in circles, like ocean tides or a white noise machine. Eventually it lulled me to sleep. 

Clara & Cole Queer couple living a block from the beach.  Planning the ultimate queer DIY wedding.  Alt-left, feminist atheists who think science is really cool.  Guardians to two majestic dogs, Ocean and Forest. We love homegrown adventures, beach days, queer gardening, and other shenanigans. We try new things. DIY projects, travel, etc.

Forest & Ocean Forest: 3 year old brindle Pit Bull and Chihuahua mix from Palo Alto, California. At 35 lbs, she makes her presence known despite her short stature.  Ocean: 8 month old American Staffordshire Terrier from Rhode Island. Also 35 lbs, she is almost double the height of her sister!