We departed Bryce Canyon on Tuesday with temps of 27 degrees and light snow falling. When we arrived at Pony Express RV Resort in Salt Lake City, I thought for sure I must be suffering from dyslexia when I looked at the thermostat. I just couldn’t believe it was a comfortable 72 degrees here!
This is a lovely campground with easy access to Highway 215 (although it is a bit noisy) and to the Legacy walking/bike trail. It has HUGE pull-thru sites, manicured lawns, full hookups and free Wi-Fi and cable.
Salt Lake City is home to the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS), whose congregants are also known as Mormons (like Donny and Marie Osmond!). Joseph Smith founded the Mormon faith as a young man in New York State. Ironically, ancestors of the very people who, among other reasons, came to this country to escape religious discrimination, persecuted the Mormons for their beliefs. The Mormons were driven from New York, to Ohio, to Missouri, where the then governor signed an Executive order to “exterminate” the Mormons, to Illinois where Joseph Smith was murdered. Brigham Young, who took over for the deceased Joseph Smith, brought the Mormon pioneers here, where they built their forever “Zion”, their heaven on earth.
For me, Temple Square is 35 acres of glorious wonder, with its majestic buildings, lovingly planted gardens, and extraordinary works of art. And it is filled with some of the friendliest, helpful, engaging, and genuine people I ever met. Don’t stop on the corner and look at your map—6 people will offer you assistance! And if you ever want to research your ancestry, this is the place to come. Access to millions of records, computers, and support are offered—free of charge. In fact, other than parking, every tour, every rehearsal attendance, every museum—it doesn’t cost a dime!
The actual Temple is like a visit to the Wizard of Oz—no one, not no how, gets to see its interior—unless, of course, you are a card-carrying LDS member in good standing with a recommendation from your religious leader. But the exterior is quite remarkable on its own. Through the perseverance and toil of the pioneers, it took 40 years to complete this hand-cut granite structure with its six towers.
The Tabernacle building is where the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs. Watching the rehearsals of the organ player, the bell performers, and the choir moved me to tears, with the resonance of their harmonies. The organ has 11,363 pipes and the acoustics are so refined that, LITERALLY, you could hear a pin drop (this was demonstrated for us by the organ player!), so I made sure I stayed as quiet as a church mouse at all times!
The Mormon Conference Center truly is an architectural wonder. Completed in 2000, it took only 3 years to build, but required 4 ½ years of planning. 1.4 million square feet on 4 acres of land, with a roof that can support 18 million pounds, it touts itself as the largest building in the world with unobstructed view. No columns, no equipment, not a thing to block your view of the stage. It’s true—there ain’t one bad seat among the 21,000 in the house (I should know—I “tested” about 100 different seats! Would have tried more, but Mom put the kibosh on my antics). We even visited the roof, which was a paradise of its own. Gardens, waterfall, and magnificent vistas of the city and nearby snow-topped mountains.
We enjoyed the beautiful stained-glass ceiling, the authentic period furnishings, and the lovely violin/piano music at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which now operates as a hotel and banquet facility. We capped off one evening with dinner at the Garden Restaurant, which resides on the 10th floor of the building, offering us a splendid view of the area.
We spent nearly 2 days taking in all there is to see in Salt Lake City, both inside Temple Square and outside. The City fathers have done a terrific job of blending old with new, renovating historic buildings for contemporary uses, and maintaining the charm and ambiance of this fine City. They have a unique way of dealing with “panhandlers”. They request you put the “spare change” you would normally give a panhandler into specially labeled meters throughout the City. The City, in turn, will use these funds to provide food, shelter, clothing, etc. This policy is indicative of the Mormon beliefs of helping a fellow man, but also making him an accountable and productive citizen. Like someone once said, “give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.”
We couldn’t come all this way without seeing the Great Salt Lake, which is the only inland sea other than the Dead Sea. So we headed over to Antelope State Park, where the mule deer and antelope (A.K.A. prong horn deer), play, along with bison and a wide variety of birds. That sweet aroma of salt--I felt like I was back east along the Atlantic Ocean! However, due to the high salinity (15% vs. 3% in oceans, on average), you won’t be swimming with the fishes here—only brine shrimp can survive in these waters. But the shrimp, along with the brine flies, make a delectable meal for native and migratory birds.
We also visited the Capitol Building, which was completed in 1916 and underwent a massive renovation project from 2004 to 2008 to make it earthquake proof and restore its historic beauty of neoclassical revival style. And beautiful it is, with sculptures, Corinthian columns, murals/paintings, and stately furnishings. I was impressed we could walk right in—no going through security, no searching of handbags, no escort of any kind required—so NOT like most government buildings. The Beehive State, like its namesake, has exhibited industry, thrift, and productivity, and has kept true to its roots!
Our last little side trip today was to the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit. This is where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads met on May 10, 1869, to form the first transcontinental railroad. Built over the course of 6 years by mostly Irish and Chinese immigrants, these railroad workers laid a total of 1,776 miles of track across desert, rivers, and mountains, using about 6 million stakes. And they did it efficiently, completing an average of one mile of track per day. They broke all previous daily output records on April 28, 1869, when they laid 10 miles of track, all with hand-held tools!
The original locomotives involved in this event were scrapped in 1903/1904. However, replicas of the 119 (Union Pacific) and Jupiter (Central Pacific) were built in the 1970s and have been lovingly maintained since.
We capped off our day today with a visit to the Sea Bear Ogden Fish House for dinner. This was an “as seen on TV” place Dad insisted we patronize. With all age-appropriate staff donning kilts on their waists and guns on their hips, this family-owned business supports and upholds our Second Amendment rights. Good food and good people—a great end to our visit to Utah.
Tomorrow (oh my, look at the time! I mean today) we head out to Yellowstone, so I’ll speak to you next week. In the meantime, I dedicate this video from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as an expression of gratitude, respect, and admiration for all the mommies out there, both those who are with us in this world and those (like my special Grandma) who have departed to the next. Love, Hugs, and Kisses on Mother’s Day.