I was raised LDS, and my parents live in Utah. Salt Lakes, are nothing new to me. However, the fact that we had one in Slo County...was. For those of you that don't know what a salt lake is, it's when a lake only has inlets. This causes the water to bring salt from surrounding territories, and deposit them in the lake. The water cycle, doing what it does, causes evaporation to remove water. Over an extended period of time, with no ability to flush the salts out, the lake becomes alkaline.
Normally, due to being so shallow, the lake has a natural ebb-and-flow. Each rainy season, filling up with water. Each summer, drying up to a shimmering white crust.
Enter the drought we are having currently. The Soda Lake is dry as a bone (making the boardwalk look rather silly), and you can walk out on to the crispy surface.
As you stand in the middle of the lake bed, peer out, you start to feel like you took a right-turn to the surface of Mars. The parched, wind-blown desolation caused by well over a year without a drop of water falling from the sky, has an almost baleful feel to it. Yet, that same devoid landscape has a striking beauty at the same time.
As you approach the lake, there is a little hill, and dirt road on the right. Go up it. From the top (50 foot walk from the parking lot) of this hill, you get a panorama of the entire valley. This is an amazing vantage point for taking pictures.
For most people, I recommend this being the end of your day trip. Take a picinic blanket. Have a lunch with a view. Go home. Amazing day trip had, great pics for Instagram taken, story to tell the friends. The end.
If you are a little more adventurous like myself, keep heading south on soda lake road. About a mile or two up the road, you will make a left (sirlner soda lane). After this left, it becomes an adventure. We drove these dirt roads (can't really get lost we found, as they all loop back to a main road) for hours on end.
As I drove my Lexus HS (so your car can PROBABLY do it) down these dusty, pebbly roads, I couldn't help but feel like I left Mars for the Old West.
Elkhorn road (off of sirlner) gives you the opposite perspective of when you drove soda lake road. It also gives your suspension the opposite ride.
Take your time. Explore this area. How many other places have a salt lake, freshwater lake, and the ocean, within an hour of each other?
Slo County is an amazing place, that we all need to take the time to discover a little more of. Soda lake, is the prime example.