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The Lake of Paradoxes

...the beauty of the Great Salt Lake exceeded my expectations...

For years I’ve had the opportunity to fly over these lands and marvel in their changing colors, textures, and reflections, many times finding myself lost in the processes of enjoying these moments versus capturing these moments. The struggle seems to become more upfront as of late, whether the distractions of remembering it later outweigh the enjoying of it now. The beauty of the Cub being reasonably economical to operate, I’ve found myself more entrenched into the latter camp, trying to set days aside for the former to better focus on the fruits of those endeavors. 

Days like yesterday don’t come very often this time of year. Winter weather storms typically postdate the doldrums of valley living, where the remnants of life, liberty, and the pursuit of warm homes mix with stale air only to be confined within the mountains that make this place so picturesque. Overcast skies hide the warming light of the sun, and the winds, well, they continue to blow across these lands. And you hope they do, so this putrid air can be moved to bring forth clear views of the skies we long to enjoy. 

Waiting for what some might call the perfect weather while balancing the lives of three intrepid adventurers, it’s easy to see that opportunities like this come few and far between. The other day, and many other like it, they did not align. The skies were overcast, the temperature certainly not open-door shorts and t-shirt weather, the lighting not ideal. Our plans for what the day would consist of were even shot, as the snows that had melted were apparently covered with Great Basin dust, leaving the pure white snow neither pure nor white. 

But the beauty of the Great Salt Lake exceeded my expectations and even overshadowed my previous experiences over these frigid waters. Temperature changes appear to have an effect on the microorganisms that call the lake home, creating deeper purples than I’ve ever seen.  

The more I caught myself staring into this purple abyss, the more I became lost in those moments. Neglecting my duties for a brief second, I’d lose sight of Taylor’s lens hanging out of Josh’s Cub, only to hear their calm voices reassure me I’m where I was supposed to be. Physically. 

Mentally, however, is another story. 

Days later, I’m staring into these images reminding myself of Dale Morgan’s words about the Great Salt Lake. “The lake of paradoxes, in a country where water is life itself and land has little value without it, Great Salt Lake is an ironical joke of nature – water that is itself more desert than a desert.” As a former desert dweller, I’ve become fond of the beauty of the desert. While the laymen may glance over her uniqueness under the banner of blandness, the observant will see those sights that others may miss. Altitude surely makes the search much easier. 

What may have been the obvious shortcomings of the wind, the weather, and the way the sunlight was broken through the overcast layers up high, I found myself in the company of good men, each with their talents and abilities overcoming the shortfalls of our circumstances. Washed out lighting gave Taylor opportunities to capture the soft imperceivable division between the ground and the air. Somewhat smooth conditions gave Josh the ability to put Taylor’s lens right where it needed to be, and the luckiest one of them all, I got to spend two hours reacquainting myself with our Cub, with our surroundings, months since our last meeting.

Some say pictures are worth a thousand words, but images like these are worth more to me. Beyond the visual senses being intrigued by the mystery that the backdrop unlocks, looking deep into this image I can feel the rush of the cool salt air coming off the surface of the lake, having been stirred up by the propellor as we make a fair clip across the ground. The scents of the lake open my nasal passages as my body remembers the sensations of human flight, the freedoms that one enjoys while at the controls of such an aircraft. My muscles can feel the slight resistance to the straight and level runs as I command a series of medium-banked turns. Through these watchful eyes, adept to the blatant disorientating perceptions this lake brings forth at such low attitudes, I’m staring out to infinity, yet can see the small flakes of white that appear like stars in this deep purple galaxy just below me. 

Today’s flight, a first for me in the A220, with a full load of passengers, under the watchful eye of a competent instructor pilot, I’m flying much higher, much faster, with much less effort required of me. The grey skies of my departure and destination may keep cub pilots on the ground, yearning for those blue skies, flying in their mind the routes of the past, looking at images like these too, as my captain would say, “keep flying sexy”. For me, there may be no Josh, there may be no Taylor, and, due to FAA and Company Policy, there surely aren’t any cameras rolling. But I still feel it. I still enjoy it. I love it. For even in these unfavorable conditions, there’s always blue skies above to ponder into…or deep purple abysses. 

Roy Evans II is a professional aviator with over 25 years and 11,000 hours of accident and incident free flying in all types of aircraft, from light singles and twins, to experimental, vintage, light-sport, unmanned aerial systems, gliders, turbopropellor, narrow body and wide body turbojet powered aircraft both domestically and internationally. Outside the flight deck, Roy is happily married to his college sweetheart, a father to five of their amazing children, and the President of the Utah Back Country Pilots Association. When his chores are done, he’s likely to be flying his 1949 Piper PA-11 Cub Special around the Utah and Idaho backcountry, with one of his children asleep in the backseat wondering how much longer til the next huckleberry milkshake.