One of the big topics of conversation is how your natural environment affects what you eat.  (Let me clarify – I mean the conversation among the voices in my head. The conversations with my real, human friends are much lighter, and usually end with a chuckle. The voices in my head all sit at a long table, in a shadowy conference room. They could launch a missile crisis as easily as they could plan a ladies tea party. So serious.) These days, our natural food environment isn’t all that natural. When we need food, we go to the grocery store. What they have on special, I usually buy. If the grocery store doesn’t have my favorite flavor of Pop Tarts, I sulk, and then I buy the whatever the Quaker dude is hawking. At heart, I’m still a hunter-gatherer, but I get do my food gathering in air conditioning, with coupons.

Human foot print filled with salt at El Sal del Rey

Human foot print filled with salt at La Sal del Rey


Down the road from the ranch is La Sal del Rey, a natural salt lake that, for thousands of years, has been a destination for wildlife, salt harvesters, and weekend thrill seekers like me. I had never visited the lake, so my husband and I took our youngest son who was home from college.


Sample of natural salt crystal from El Sal del Rey

Sample of natural salt crystal from La Sal del Rey


Let’s be frank: It was a little smelly. Billions of snails, both alive and dead, lined the banks, and crunched under my boots as we hiked. (For some reason the voices in my head told me a natural salt lake would be an outstanding backdrop to take a head shot photo of me to feature on my blog. Geared up in a cute outfit, full makeup, my grandfather’s Stetson, with my tripod and 2 cameras, the hike was about a mile in, and a mile out, in slippery, unstable salty mud. Yeah, I said the voices are serious. I didn’t say they were bright.) Birds, insects, mammals, gastropods, and humans are all attracted to this salt lake. There were paw and hoof prints of almost every native species, from deer, to bobcat, coyote, and even a dead turkey. They had come for the smell, but they stayed for the salt licking.

Coyote footprint fills with salt at El Salt del Rey

Coyote footprint fills with salt at La Sal del Rey


Absolutely everything was coated with salt. Walking across the sandy flat was like being a giant, with microscopic paparazzi at your feet. The sand flashed and sparkled.


A 2 second brush with salt mud shows crystals within an hour

A 2 second brush with salt mud shows crystals within an hour


Not only could a native gather salt here, they could hunt the game that was attracted to the salt lick.  The mosquitos, the smell, and the caustic environment were a tradeoff for the convenience of easy hunting and abundant salt at this spot. I would bet the natives tribes would only camp here occasionally, as fresh water is a few miles away. As an American food historian, I can only imagine that this was a similar scene at the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Where ever you are, take some time to explore your local natural lakes, rivers and geological formations. Let the voices in your head convene at their conference table (like mine do) and contemplate what it was like to survive without a grocery store, air conditioning, and piped-in music from the 90’s.  It’s always humbling to walk in the reality of how much human life has evolved.




  • reynaReply

    March 25, 2017 at 11:14 am


    • Melissa GuerraReply

      March 25, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks so much Reyna! I do want to write another book, blogs are great warm-ups for bigger writing. Stay tuned, and tell your friends! un abrazo xo mg

  • Rachel LaudanReply

    March 25, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    Melissa, Love this post. You keep expanding my Texas horizons. Now where’s that head shot?

    • Melissa GuerraReply

      March 25, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      Ha! Thanks Rachel! I will post it. I actually like it, second only to the one I took of you. Such a gorgeous smile in that shot. You were in your element! Hugs!

  • Jane KittlemanReply

    March 25, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    It’s one of my favorite places in the valley. So glad you took time to visit.

  • Bobbie Stewart MuellerReply

    March 25, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    I swam there once as a child. I still remember how magical it was. It was before Disneyland, so it was our “Disney” in my childhood in Hargill. The moon was full and with every full stroke, the crystals scattered like twinkling Christmas lights. I remember we needed a hoist to get out because the edge of the lake was so slick, that there was nothing to grip. The salt water kept you afloat, almost like the Dead Sea in Israel. I take your article to say it’s all dried up now. It was probably 1942-1944 when I was swimming in the salty lake; 40 years later in the Dead Sea.

    • Melissa GuerraReply

      March 26, 2017 at 9:32 am

      Hi Bobbie! It’s not dried up, but it is certainly low right now. I have friends that hike in and out of there all the time, and have seen pictures where the water was higher. And other pictures where there was more salt. I would expect that, like all natural places, it is in constant evolution. I will post more pics when I go back. Hugs, MG

  • Jeannette CookReply

    March 26, 2017 at 12:54 am

    Very interesting, Melissa. I remember taking that same hike with my dad about 65 years ago. It was tough walking in the boggy ground, buzzing with critters and hot, hot, hot. Certainly not the lagoon my teenage mind was hoping for, but very interesting. Doesn’t sound as if it has changed a bit.

    • Melissa GuerraReply

      March 26, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Hey Jeanette! Good to hear from you, hope you are well. Say hi to the girls, we see Hale from time to time. Hugs, MG

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