Where The Western Things Are: Utah

18 October 2013

For day two of our trip we decided to swing by the Winter Olympic training grounds and take a look. Imagine our surprise when we stepped out of our hotel to see long jumps right in front of us! Apparently, since we arrived during the night, we didn't realize that we were right next to the training grounds! This worked out perfectly for our itinerary and allowed us to swing by the slopes quickly for a gander before heading into the city.

Also we may have potentially seen some Olympians? We're not sure, though. This led us to develop the game 'Olympian snowboarder or stoner'. Can you tell the difference?

One thing I learned on our drive into the city is that Utah is hella beautiful. I suppose it helped that we were visiting in autumn when everything was astonishingly colorful- even on a gray, misty day like the one we experienced. In fact, I felt the rain made things look even more beautiful. 

Our first stop in the city limits was a park simply known as "This is the place". Literally, it's even on maps as that name. If I didn't know the history of this spot I probably would have laughed hysterically at the absurdity of the name. As it turns out, this monument marks the spot where Brigham Young stopped with his caravan, looked out over the Great Salt Lake, and declared "This is the place".

Actually, even with the history, the name still makes me laugh. For the rest of our time in Salt Lake City we referred to everything as "this is the church" and "this is the cafe". We're easily amused, ok?

Other than the monument, the park also has a village recreation to show what Salt Lake City looked like when it was first settled. We were tempted but it cost money to enter and since we're poor we decided to forgo the village and head into the actual city.

Next up was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As Ashley pointed out, there's something oddly European about the fact that the city is built around a church. I don't think many American cities can claim such a thing.

Actually, as I reflect now, this is probably the only church in America that I have made a point to come and visit as a tourist stop which is strange because it seemed like the only thing I visited in Europe were churches (especially in Rome!).

Those who are not Mormon are not allowed to enter the church but there are two visitor centers to satiate your curiosity. In the south visitor center you can learn about the history of the religion and see a model of the inside of the church. In the north visitor center you can learn more about what the practitioners believe and also hang out with Space Jesus. It was a very enlightening trip and taught me a lot about the religion.

By then it was midday and we had our fill of Salt Lake City so we decided to head south. On our way out of town, however, we made a quick stop at the Up House which I found via Atlas Obscura. The house is an exact replica of the house from the movie and is incredibly cute! It had the white picket fence and mailbox as well! The pastel colors stick out adorably among all the other bland, cookie-cutter style homes.

After that it was a long drive through central Utah. On the way we saw beautiful scenery, bought roadside jerky, saw cattle being herded down the highway, and even experienced a flash blizzard. Utah, seriously, what are you? 

Eventually we arrived in Moab, which is a cute little town nestled between two national parks (Arches and Canyonlands). Sadly, with the government shutdown in progress, we could not enter either.

Luckily, just down the road we found Wilson's Arch which satisfied our search for crazy desert arches. This sandstone rock formation is 46 feet high and spans 91 feet. However, the width of the part that you actually walk on is only a couple feet wide. Ok, so it's like 6 feet wide but that was still enough to make me uncomfortable. Eventually I stopped worrying and just enjoyed the mad crazy beauty of the desert.

We wanted to visit Four Corners after that but sadly they were closed before we got there. In a sense, though, our drive ended up being a Four Corners drive in that we did Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado all in the trip.

Eventually night came and it was time to rest. We popped out of the car for a moment and I was blown away by the amount of stars you could see out in the desert. You could even see the Milky Way! The only word I could find to describe it was 'surreal'. So far the West was really impressing me!

What's your favorite place out West?

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  1. Love your photos! I lived in Utah for a couple of years finishing up my undergrad and I never took advantage of all the great national parks. I kind of regret it. Hopefully I'll get to go back someday.

    1. Thanks! And yeah I hope to go back eventually too since we didn't get to do the parks!