Exploring Utah: The Crossroads of the West
Welcome to MarMar Monday! KB’s sister, MarMar, is excited to share her travels with you. This week we’re chatting about her time exploring Utah: temples, arches, and baseball caps, OH MY!
Isn’t it the best when your best friends live in places that you have never been to before? For me, that meant hopping on a plane from Nashville two days after my college graduation and touching down in Salt Lake City, Utah to spend an entire week with Miss Jenna B. Stone: best friend and animal rights activist/vegan extraordinaire. Now, mind you, I went into this week with very limited information on Utah. Actually, the idea of Salt Lake City had a terrible taste in my mouth, because the last story I had from it (sans-Jenna) was my freshman year of college finding out my boyfriend(?) drunkenly acted a fool of himself on a college choir trip. BUT, I was ready to experience the beauty of “The Crossroads of the West” for myself.
Utah Fun Facts!
Somehow, I didn’t know that Utah was home to the 2002 Winter Olympics? To be fair, I was, like… 6. But, most of the slopes built for the games are still in operation during the winter! You’ll find them in Park City, Utah, right outside Salt Lake City. The Sundance Film Festival‘s headquarters is in Park City, so if you go around that time, there is a good chance you can see some prime celebrity spotting. A lot of stars actually have houses in the ‘burbs because of the amazing winter sporting the area holds!
Oh yeah, and the main filming location of High School Musical, a Disney Original Movie that featured little-known actors Ashley Tisdale, Zac Efron, Corbin Bleu, and Vanessa Hudgens, was filmed at SLC’s own East High School.
Temple Square and the Church of Latter Day Saints
I feel like I got to see SLC through such a unique perspective. Jenna’s AMAZING mom Kenna is still part of the Church of Latter Day Saints, so she was able to guide me through the cultural aspects of the Mormon religion as well as answer any questions I had (because all I knew came from The Book of Mormon on Broadway). Jenna, Ms. Kenna, and I actually visited to Temple Square, which serves as the focal point of the entire city. The cities grid system literally starts and spreads from this temple, which shows how deeply the Mormon faith affected the birth and structure of Salt Lake City as we know it.
The Visitor Center
The temple is not all there is in the square! This ten-acre plot holds a Visitor’s Center where you can learn about the Mormon faith! The center also shows a model of the inside of the temple, as only those who have been baptized in the Mormon faith may enter. One of the coolest things about the Visitor’s Center is that the workers are actually individuals who are on their Mission’s – a two year period in a Mormon’s life where they are assigned to a region of the world to spread the gospel of the church and better their communities!
You can also visit the Mormon Tabernacle, which you’ve probably seen on TV; it’s the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As a vocalist, I wanted to phonate SO badly after stepping foot in the Tabernacle. It is designed to be acoustically perfect and the resonance and reverberation that can be made in that hall is TO DIE FOR. The Tabernacle is actually where we went first, since I was fan-girling harder than Antoni from Queer Eye when he see’s a corgi, and the first person that I met on the grounds was actually a young woman on her mission…. from Kentucky. Y’all… it’s a small world after all.
Now, I want to get real with everyone, obviously, going to Temple Square and learning about the Church of Latter Day Saints didn’t convert me into a believer in their faith, but it did give me an understanding of believers ways of life, and a way to respect others beliefs even if they are not my own. I’m gonna say that again: respect others beliefs even if they are not my own. Say it with me? To yourself? Your neighbors? This is one of THE most quintessential barriers that humanity has blockaded itself with today. If we can find a way to appreciate the cultures of different peoples, imagine what this would could be.
I’m off my soapbox, but thank you for reading. Or if I’ve lost you, have a great rest of your day!
Remember how I said Jenna was my vegan extraordinaire? Well, for that week, I *tried* to follow in her footsteps. I only made it, like, three days, but hey… baby steps. Whilst I was there, she took me to this AMAZING cinnamon roll place (my favorite brekkie pastry, might I add) that was completely vegan! It’s called Cinnaholic, a bakery franchise that got its start thanks to the hit TV show Shark Tank. This place is amazing, affordable, and I went three times during my trip. Salt Lake actually has a pretty large vegan population (OKAY UTAH), so if your stomach guides your travels, my vegan lovelies, go there!!
I was also introduced to the Salt Lake City gem called Cafè Rio. That’s when I stopped being vegan because the salmon quesadilla made me see God herself. So, if you have one nearby, do not sleep on it.
The Great Salt Lake
Pro tip: yes, SLC has a lake. You do not swim in the lake. You do not touch the lake. For the love of God please do not smell the lake.
Considered to be the largest lake in America that is not part of the Great Lakes region, the Great Salt Lake has more salinity that the OCEAN. It’s nicknamed “America’s Dead Sea” and is home to brine shrimp, waterfowl, and other birds. Theoretically, you could swim in the lake, though it would be much more like floating; many people simply opt out because of the stench.
An island named Antelope Island State Park sits a bit off shore. Can you see where this is going? It is the largest home of free roaming Bison in the states. Fooled ya 😉 You can also find pronghorn antelope and other smaller fur babies on the island, though. Park visitors can explore the park through the lens of the olden days at a restored ranch from early settlement at the tip of the island.
We Stan a National Park
But… there is so much more to the state of Utah than just Salt Lake City! One morning, Jenna and I woke up at 4am, hopped in her car, and set off 3.5 hours down the road to Moab, Utah in the southeastern part of the state and the Arches National Park. This park contains the highest density of natural arches in the world. It also is adjacent to the Colorado River, but you wouldn’t know that without google maps because it is very. very. hot. in the summer.
Pay close attention to the local weather, and remember that most of these trails are upwards of 3 miles long each way. For example, we went during a wind advisory, which wasn’t a big deal until we got up to the Delicate Arch (you might recognize it from Utah’s license plates). I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE. Seriously. The wind almost pushed me off the mountain, and I am an experienced hiker. In true millennial basic fashion, I wanted to get a bomb IG pic ft. the arch and me, so I went over to it and stood under it. I have never hit the ground more quickly in my life than when a wind gust blew! I felt my life flash before my eyes. That was the first and only time in my life I have been paralyzed with fear.
Well, the arch is situated around a large bowl of nothingness, so I had to go all the way back around this rim to get back to Jenna and safety. During so, my favorite classic white vineyard vines hat whips off of my pig-tailed head and lands right in the middle of that bowl. I’m like… 99% for sure that it is still there today or some lil lizard made a house out of it. Needless to say, I ran back down that mountain. BUT, within the park there are easier trails with so many amazing sights. Use this to plan your own trip.
When you’ve made your way through Arches, make sure to drive a few miles down the road and visit Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands sits right on the Colorado River and is such a sight to see. Admission is $10 per car and you can drive alongside the cliffs and glimpse at the beauty of water erosion. Canyonlands is called “Island in the Sky” for a reason and is definitely a Moab must see!
Final Thoughts on Utah
Utah has so much uncharted territory left and I cannot wait to return. I fell in love with the National Park System, learned to appreciate nature, and took my first steps in conservationism while in Utah. If you want to experience some of the most genuine, loving souls, scenery that could have only been crafted by the Gods, and memories to last you a lifetime, the Beehive State is the last that you should sleep on.
all my love,