Our trip to Utah was strategically brilliant but tactically squirrely.
Carole and Mormon missionaries, South Visitors Center, Temple Square, 1/4/13
When the mapping software showed that the sourthern route back home went through Salt Lake City, I smiled. Another city and state I always wanted to visit. Still, we had maybe half a day for exploration. After consulting various touristy listings, I concluded that I wanted to see two things: The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Lake.
Mindful of Carole's lack of mobility, we booked a hotel just across the street from Temple Square. SLC is laid out with the Temple in the middle, and parallel squares of streets as you get farther out. For a place right in the heart of the city, the hotel was cheap. Not completely cheap: Breakfast was extra and parking was separate.
Indeed, I found Utah to be glaringly commercial. After a nearly billboard-free drive in Oregon and Idaho, the proliferation of roadside ads in Utah looked garish and sleazy. Close to the Temple wasn't too bad, but I could see where a snake oil salesman like Mitt Romney came from.
In the morning, we had the breakfast buffet in the restaurant attached to the hotel. A good thing we had a large meal, as we wouldn't eat again until Wyoming. We checked out, but the parking was good for 24 hours, so we left the car and walked across the street to Temple Square.
The Mormon Temple, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, UT 1/4/13
Temple Square is large and comprises the Temple, the Tabernacle, several Visitors Centers, a bunch of other buildings, along with trees, statues and fountains. Missionaries were everywhere: Always extremely helpful and polite, often carrying The Book of Mormon but never quite pushing their religion. The weather was clear but cold. Carole mostly stayed in the South Visitor Center, catching up on e-mails, while I wandered the Square, taking pictures with both our cameras.
We could easily have spent more than a day just taking tours of various buildings and exploring in or near the Temple Square. Non-Mormons couldn't go in the Temple, but the facade is impressive.
We went to the Church Office Building because it has a balcony on the 28th Floor. For many years, the tallest building in Utah. While open to the public, you can't just go up yourself. Asking on the first floor, a helpful guide checked with security, got us through the turnstyles and brought us to the deck. Decks, I should say, as there are two of them, one on each side. We took pictures and looked out over the city, with a visual tour by our guide.
Dave and Carole on the observation deck of the Church Office Building, Salt Lake City, UT 1/4/13
View from Church Office Building observation deck, Salt Lake City, UT 1/4/13
We're looking at the Mormon Temple and pool, same as the photo above, to include much of Temple Square.
We had a marvelous time at Temple Square, looking up geneological records, visiting the center of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, getting to see a bit of the area from the observation deck. But it was time for the next stop.
The haze prevented us from seeing too far, which should have been my first clue as to the distance to the Great Salt Lake. I asked our guide how to get to the lake, and she mentioned Antelope Island but didn't know an exact route. Fine, I thought, our various GPS can find it. Well, mostly. We rescued our car from the hotel's garage and took off. But to where?
Chicago has a Lake Michigan waterfront. Coeur D'Alene is on Coeur D'Alene Lake. It simply didn't occur to me that Salt Lake City wouldn't have a Great Salt Lake waterfront. Alas, the lake is large but the best view is not terribly close by. Forty miles to Antelope Lake. As the Utah State Park description of the Great Salt Lake says, "The ever-fluctuating Great Salt Lake has frustrated attempts to develop its shoreline." Good for birds, not so good for tourists with limited mobility.
I hadn't allowed for the extra drive time, and our GPS didn't understand the address. I had to look up Antelope Island for a better location.
Antelope Island State Park is 41 miles from Salt Lake City, seven miles from the interstate and then another seven miles across a causeway over the lake. *whew*
Causeway not indicated on my GPS, so it looks like we're in the middle of the lake as we drive from Antelope Island, UT 1/4/13
Antelope Island is larger than Manhattan. The lake is too salty for fish, but wildlife on the island thrives, though sparsely. We stopped at the beginning of Lady Finger Trail at the northern tip of the island, which had restrooms and a good view, then continued to the Museum/Gift Shop.
Wes, friendly clerk/park ranger, Antelope Island, UT 1/4/13
(Top sign indicates "Lake Level Today: 4196.4". More info on the lower sign.)
There are no streetlights, so we needed to be off the island by sunset. We went just a bit further inland to the beginning of Buffalo Point Trail.
Dave with buffalo statue, Buffalo Point, Antelope Island, UT 1/4/13
Buffalo Point, Antelope Island, UT 1/4/13
We stopped for an actual buffalo. Just out there in the wild, with nothing between him and us. Fortunately, he was bored and didn't mind us taking photos. Then back over the causeway to the mainland before dusk. We saw some glorious Utah mountains before the light left us.
Driving through Utah, 1/4/13
I didn't really have any tourist plans for Wyoming. Carole made vague mentions of Devil's Tower, but that's too far off our path.
So I'm glad we picked a great truck stop. We got gas, looked at windmills, and had a marvelous trucker dinner. We could have had seconds on the steaks, if we ate them there.
Somewhere on this drive, we passed a small sign indicating the continental divide. We had to be careful of time zone changes, now the water direction changed too.
We got to our hotel near Casper, WY, a nice place but a bit on the antiquated side. Still, it worked for us and we fell into a deep sleep. One more night on the road and we were headed home!
Continued at 20130105 Trip to Oregon and Back: Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial