Geographically, Salt Lake City is quite amazing. On one side, mountains rise to over ten thousand feet. They're literally right against the city: the north-south VFR route is called the mountain road, and the GPS keeps popping up with extreme terrain warnings as I fly it. On the other side is an immense lake, saltier than the ocean, and around the lake stretches a plain so flat that it's the place to come to set land speed records.
I'm not sure whether the person who said this was not paying attention to the name of the city and the lake, or simply possessed of a sense of humour drier than I could detect, but with deadpan delivery he observed curiously, "It looks as if there is salt all over the ground."
And well, it does look that way. Sort of like it looks as though there are huge pointy rocks to the immediate east. The Great Salt Lake is salty on the inside and salty all around the edges. And it's vast. And flat. There are a few islands, though, here's Antelope Island.
I pity the pioneers who had to cross this state at ground level and at walking pace. Here's a sample conversation between me and a coworker while we drove across part of the state.
"That's sure flat."
"That's a lot of salt."
"I guess that's why they call it the salt flats.
fifteen minute pause in conversation
"Man, is that ever flat."
I can just picture the poor pioneers with no other topic of conversation for days.
I know Brigham Young's crew stopped at Salt Lake City, but I know others went further west. There's a peak west of the lake called Pilot Peak and it's not named for the benefit of people like me, but for those who navigated by it in much slower times.
From my modern vantage point the lake water looks purple in places. I don't know if that is from the minerals in the water, or the lake bed. There's a whole lot of nothing everywhere else, especially north of the lake. I loaded twenty-five litres of drinking water just in case we had to land out there for some reason. If I had a double engine failure or an uncontrollable fire and had to land immediately I think I would not land out in the flattest part. Although I know it is as flat and hard as a runway, I might take my chances in the scrubbier part closer to the road. Getting down is one thing. Getting out is another.