"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Hello from Utah. What a gorgeous state! Steve and I have been to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon before. We've even spent time in Lake Powell and that area, but honestly, the northern part and Central parts of Utah are even more spectacular, if you can imagine.
This week we will focus on our time in Salt Lake City. Next week, we will give you an update on Moab and the National parks we visited.
First off, let's start with one of the weirdest things I have ever seen - - the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is just miles and miles of the Great Basin covered in salt. It looks like snow but given the arid climate, it could never be snow. The first picture in the gallery from this area is not water. That is a mirage reflecting the mountains against it. Isn't that cool? The remaining pictures give you an idea of what i am talking about. In between the Nevada and Salt Lake City is what used to be a giant lake bed which is, I guess, where the salt comes from. Check out this website for more information: http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/salt_lake/recreation/bonneville_salt_flats/Bonneville_Salt_Flats_History.html. Anyway, right in the middle of this salt flats, along Highway 80, is a sculpture called "Metaphor: Tree of Utah" which was created, built, and financed by an artist by the name of Karl Momen. It's 87 feet high and the balls on the tree are coated with native Utah rock and minerals. What a strange sight right in the middle of this stark landscape. I liked it though.
Our next adventure was to see the Great Salt Lake. It's quite beautiful with the surrounding mountains and such. This lake is 12% salt and, much like the Dead Sea in the Middle East, if you swim in this lake, you will simply float. There are no fish that live in the water due to the high saline content, but there are a number of water fowl that feast on the brine shrimp that are present. We met some locals and chatted with them for a bit. They said that the waves out there can reach 10 feet when the wind gets going and that's why the shoreline looks so far from the water. Sort of reminded me of the stories in the Bible about the Sea of Galilee and the storms that took place there. Anyway, the lake water was a funny color of greenish brown (not very inviting) and the salt remnants on the beach did not make this a very appealing place to hang out for me.
We ventured on to see the Olympic Park in Park City. WOW was that cool. This was the location for the various ski jump, free-style skiing (which is where they ski down to a ramp and then do flips and stuff in the air), the bobsled, luge and skeleton events. What a blast it was to tour around the back stage areas for these events and see the tracks and where the athletes would hang out. This venue is still used for Olympic training and qualifying. And because the Winter Olympics will take place again this coming February, Park City will be packed in the fall for Olympic trials. COOL! I cannot wait to watch these events on TV now because they will have so much more meaning to me. Anyway, let me get to the details. The ski jump is almost 400 feet up the top of the hill and the jumpers sail distances of up to 450+ feet once they sail off the end of the ramp. We stood at the top of that ramp and I gotta tell you, it had a significant "pucker factor" if you know what I mean. The bobsled, luge and skeleton runs were also quite cool to visit. These tracks are not very big in terms of the space in which the vehicle and the riders travel. The tracks themselves go about 8/10 of a mile and travel at speeds of 60-80 miles per hour. YIKES! The sleds that the bobsled team uses have absolutely no padding in them and the tour guide told us that she gets very bruised when she rides down the track in one of them. Speaking of which, this place is not just for winter recreation. The bobsled runs are used in the summer for tourists to take a ride. There are also zip lines that go from the top of the ski jump ramp to beyond the landing space for the jumpers (about 1,000 feet). There are 3 adventure courses, chair lift rides, alpine rides, and a free-style ski jumping show daily. Tons to do and a great place for a vacation. Check out this website (http://utaholympiclegacy.com/) and you can see what I'm talking about. Even if you don't avail yourself of any of the thrill rides, the Olympic museum is absolutely cool and very worthwhile to visit. That is free. To make our Olympic adventure complete, we went onto the campus of the University of Utah to see the Olympic stadium and the Olympic torch. We also visited the Olympic Oval, the venue used for the speed skating events. This location was quite the surprise as it lies right in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, surrounded by an elementary school and three-bedroom ranch homes. I cannot imagine how those people survived normal life with all the Olympic chaos going on around them. It had to be a nightmare.
Of course, no visit to Salt Lake City would be complete without a visit to Temple Square. This multi-acre complex houses the Mormon Tabernacle, the Mormon Temple, several administration buildings, a museum, a library, and two visitor centers. The landscaping and flower beds throughout this complex were breathtaking. I am a flower lover so I was just in heaven with all the beauty and color that surrounded us. The Visitor's Center gives you the history of Brigham Young's efforts to build the temple, which was begun in 1953 and took 40 years (to the day) to complete. The temple itself is not used for regular worship services. It is used for baptisms and sealing services (which is what the call weddings). Meetings of the church leadership are held here as well as educational programs. The worship services themselves are performed in the Tabernacle. When we visited the Tabernacle, they had a recorded performance of the world-famous choir playing, which was unbelievably beautiful. The organ has 11,600 pipes and there are only 5 people in the world who know how to play it. We met two Mormon missionaries and we had a rather lengthy discussion about their faith and ours, which was very interesting. We enjoyed our time here and went to dinner at a restaurant that is housed in Brigham Young's house. Nice day.
Our last adventure was to visit the Museum of Ancient Life. This was a great museum which houses a number of dinosaur fossils found in Utah. It's mind boggling to think about these giant creatures roaming the earth and the catastrophe that destroyed them all almost instantaneously. After visiting this museum, we went to see the new Tom Cruise movie "Oblivion".
That's it for this week folks. We are in Moab right now and I cannot wait to show you the pictures from this part of the country. Spectacular!