Salty soak in Salt Lake City

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August 21st 2013
Published: May 5th 2014
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We came close to learning the meaning of life in Salt Lake City. Visiting the Mormon capital of the world, of course we had to check out some Mormon activities at their "headquarters", Temple Square. There is a building called Tabernacle which has very special acoustics and almost 200 year old organs. Daily half an hour organs concerts are given there at noon, so that's where we headed. In the beginning of the concert an elderly gentleman, who was a missionary volunteer, gave a brief introduction to the building and the organs, and also said that after the concert he could answer questions like "what is the meaning of life", "who are we", "why are we here", "where are we going to". We were tempted to go and ask, but unfortunately we chickened out on the last moment.

To reach Salt Lake City, we drove from Yellowstone through almost the whole state of Wyoming. It was about a five hour drive, and we took the small roads, because we wanted to drive through the scenic Mirror Lake road. It was interesting to drive the small roads, as that way we could see more of the rural life in Wyoming. The state seems to be just countryside, countryside and countryside. The biggest city of Wyoming is Cheyenne, which has 55.000 people. Unfortunately we did not have time to stop there. We mostly passed fields and ranches, and the occasional small town, usually consisting of one street lined by crumbled looking houses containing few restaurants or motels or perhaps a post office. The Mirror Lake itself was, well, a lake. It did have beautiful setting of mountains surrounding it, but it was hard to get impressed by all that after seeing the magnificent landscapes of Yellowstone and around just before.

Salt Lake City was really not on our initial itinerary for the US, but we are glad we went. Firstly, it makes the trip more interesting when we by coincidence decide to visit places we didn't plan to visit, and secondly, we ended up having one of the coolest experiences of the trip so far here. We didn't find the city itself that special; it was quite small and quite basic, as in the center has few tall buildings, some shopping possibilities etc, but nothing that spectacular (unless we simply missed to find it). One thing that was quite spectacular, though, was the gardens at the Temple Square area; we have probably never seen that many flowers at once.

What was special about Salt Lake City was the lake itself. Before seeing it (or the city), I had the image in my head of a quite usual looking lake (whatever that means), perhaps surrounded by forest and few mountains. We drove 40 miles to reach the Antelope National Park, which is located on an island in the middle of the lake, and which has the beach. So, first thing where my image had been wrong was that the city would be by the lake. We were also surprised to find quite special landscapes of salty, dry lake bottom, and then a beautiful lake with velvety looking surface and soft reflections. Also we didn't realize that the lake would be that salty, even if the name Salt Lake City should lead one to think that. But it's like the Dead Sea. We spent two hours just floating around in the water, and that was fun. You could just float on your back without wetting your hair, and without getting your neck tired as the water supports you. Or if you tried to be on your stomach and swim, that would be difficult as your legs would float too much. You could also float where there was only 30cm of water, and not even realize it was that shallow. Not to mention the views the lake was surrounded by - gorgeous. To make things even better, the place was almost empty of people. I guess many people are turned off by the dense cloud of tiny flies rising from the sand when you walked to the water, or the supposedly bad smell of the lake. Neither bothered us, the flies wouldn't bite, and there wasn't any once we reached the water. We also didn't notice any bad smell, slight perhaps, but nothing that would be a problem. After the two hour swim, we drove around the surrounding national park area a bit to view the landscapes and animals. We spotted again lots of bisons, one pronghorn (which looks like something between a deer and an antelope), but still not the bighorn sheep we missed at Yellowstone.

After returning to the city, we went to another Mormon activity, which actually wasn't "Mormon" at all. It was just a free concert in a park, where the big band of the church (we assume) played big band music. Lots of families had gathered there to listen, but mostly the audience consisted of older people. We listened for half an hour, then went for dinner. During dinner we tried to figure out where to go and where to sleep on the next few days. We no longer have concrete plans or reservations for more than few days ahead, which sometimes makes things a bit more difficult, but on the other hand, it keeps things flexible. And btw, we are no longer on track regarding what day of the week it is.

PS: Our guidebook talks about the strict alcohol regulations in Utah, and even has a whole chapter "Can I get a drink in Utah"? But when we read more about those regulations, they seem actually very familiar to us can only get alcohol in full-licensed restaurants, beer can be served only after 10am, only beer is available at supermarkets while liquor must be bought at state-run liquor stores...all of this applies in Finland too with only small differences. Conclusion, our alcohol laws are the same as in highly religious Mormon state Utah.

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