Thursday, July 23, 2015

Temple Square in Salt Lake City

We knew that with the weather forecasts we've been seeing and temperatures sitting at 100*+ every day, that we probably weren't going to be getting a break in heat any time soon. We had already been in the Salt Lake City area for about two and a half weeks, at this point, and really hadn't done any 'touristy' stuff yet, so we planned a tourist day! Jamie had said something to me, on our drive into SLC, about the Temples and how extravagant they are and he really wanted to see them. I didn't even know what he was talking about so I researched them a bit, even with us not being religious people, there's no way you can pass up the opportunity to see them in person.
Our friends dad (J.D.) is a big History buff and even more so a HUGE Temple History buff, so we invited him to come with us and he accepted, he even drove! Since he is Mormon, he knows more about these Temples than you could possibly dream, he's been inside the biggest Temples and was baptized in the Salt Lake Temple (a place you cannot go into unless you are invited). Going to Temple Square was sure to be a full day of information and History, that's a fact! Today will be a History lesson for all...Learning is Fun!

First off, Salt Lake City is a great city; the people are very friendly and it's probably the cleanest city I've ever visited. Having spent A LOT of time at Disney World growing up, it totally reminded me of The Magical World of Disney! The air is clean with smells of trees and flowers, NO trash on the sidewalks or streets, people saying hello and smiling, even the Salt Lake Temple looks like Cinderella's Castle...all we were missing were some Characters singing and dancing & the rides! Although we did get a tour!
Our first stop of "Tour de Temples" would be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 
This building is pretty dang tall! J.D. used to work here years ago and wanted to bring us up to the observation deck on the roof-top, that would have been a great view, but they now close it off to visitors for security reasons and you have to have a coded card to even step onto the elevator. There was so much to see so, we moved on and out of the building, placing us in front of an artistic type of water fountain that winds you right in front of The Salt Lake Temple (the one you can't go in). 
The Salt Lake Temple is very majestic, probably even more so since you can't go in it! It is absolutely gigantic, to me, it looks like something out of a movie!
The walkway leading around and to the Temples are very vibrant and colorful with so many flowers, trees, plants and's absolutely gorgeous. I kept falling back because I couldn't pass up all of the photo opp's, so excuse me if my 'facts' aren't all there (or right) but you'll get to see purty pictures!

The next building we entered looked like any well-kept historical building from the outside but what a difference once you're inside! This building is what used to be the Hotel Utah, built in 1909~opened in 1911, now known as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. {During its 76 years as a hotel, the Hotel Utah was internationally recognized for its elegance and world-class service, attracting people from US presidents and celebrities to tourists.} 
It is now a social center where many weddings are held as well as banquets, conferences, lodging and learning. There is also a theater (shows are free but tickets are required), a genealogy research center (free to use, with volunteers to help you), 3 restaurants and many reception rooms. Just the lobby of this building can make you stand in awe for a very long time (make sure to look up), the features include an art glass ceiling, gorgeous chandelier, massive marble pillars and grand staircase. 

My pictures totally don't do this place the justice it deserves. I felt like I should have had a beautiful gown on waiting for the arm of my man to come whisk me off to a romantic dinner, overlooking Temple Square.

Snapping out of it...

To pay tribute to the Latter Day Saint Movement, there is a bigger than life statue of Joseph Smith in the lobby of the building. Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church in 1830 in New York, he was killed in 1844 by a mob in Illinois. After the Hotel Utah closed in 1987, the name of the building was due to Church leader Gordon B. Hinckley who saw there were many monuments for Utah's founder, Brigham Young but none for Joseph Smith.

We walked out of the Memorial Building and into another building, I can't remember exactly what it was called (maybe a Visitor's Center?) but it definitely had a museum type feel to it with exhibits, short videos and cut away models of the Temples. There was a cut away model of the Salt Lake Temple, I made sure to take a picture...this would be the closest we were going to get to seeing the inside of it!
The Baptism Pool
Next up, The (Domed) Tabernacle...which we were able to go inside...finally! The organ in that place was amazing, I've never seen a musical instrument like that before, nothing like the organ at church when we were kids! 
The acoustics are awesome in there, one of the tour guides got on stage and started talking, then ripped a piece of first I had no idea why this was so amazing, then J.D. told us that the acoustics were built so well no one needed microphones. When she ripped the paper, it sounded like she had 200 mics right at her fingertips, it was so crisp, it was crazy!

We left there and went into the next building which was another Visitor's Center. The bottom floor is full of hands-on exhibits, huge paintings with descriptions and volunteers answering any questions you may have. 
To go up to the top floor, there is a circular walkway which leads up to a room, that (to me), felt more like we were in a Science Center than a Mormon facility. I found this room to be very odd and didn't really understand the meaning but took pictures anyway. *While writing this I did some research on the meaning of this room, there are many many different viewpoints on this room and what it stands for. If you are interested ,I would Google Utah Christus Statue yourself and see which description fits your beliefs.*
Next we would be led through the Conference Center by a tour guide. It was cool but I kind of already felt like we had a tour guide...and she wouldn't let me lag behind to take pictures, so that made me a little salty...but I still got some pics!

We went into the 'church' part of the building which is underground, actually most of this building is underground and freaking HUGE!!! 

The organ itself is astronomic. Our tour guide told us that we can only see 144 of the 7,100 pipes, most of it is behind the wall...that also moves!

Sorry, it's blurry...I was being rushed!
 There are three floors to the congregational area, seating 20,000 people. When we were there they were just starting to tear out the original carpet...meaning they will have to take out all 20,000 chairs and then put them back in! She said it will take them many many months to do this...I guess you can say, Job Security! haha

Pic of the original carpet!
We DID get to go up on the roof of this building though and the top of the building also has 'history' built into it. The sun lights represent the Mountains, the fields of grass and flowers represents the deserts and forests. You can see the Capitol building from the roof-top as well as most of downtown Salt Lake. This was part of the tour that I didn't hear very much of because I wanted pictures, so excuse me for not really giving you the whole schpeel of what she was saying. Plus, I had limited focus at this point, my blood sugar was dropping and mama needed food!

 So...we made it through Touristy Temple day. I'm glad we went so we could scratch that off the "list". 
Now it's time to get on outta this heat. 
Next stop...The Uintas, where it'll be beautiful and the temperatures will match the scenery!
Fingers crossed!!


Monday, July 20, 2015

Racking Up Miles of Fun!

You are probably going to think we're crazy...or maybe you already do! 
We drove from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon area (about 112 miles give or take). We found a great place to camp and would probably be left alone for at least 2 weeks, if not more. We were able to get blazing 4g on our wifi hotspot, something we hadn't had over the last month and the spot we found is very private...only the deer and pronghorn around. We figured we would jump online and check emails, as well as research to see if there might be other spots to camp around this same area. When I logged into my email, I had received an email from a girlfriend of mine, who travels part-time with her man. The email was short of begging us to come to Salt Lake City. We hadn't seen each other in about 5 months and we were all ready for a visit; girl time-guy time, hang time, party time, relaxation time, everything and anything. My girl told me in the email they already had some places for us to stay and said they would give us "backstage passes" to everything around. Since we had never been to Salt Lake before, and that's pretty much their backyard, we talked about it for a couple of hours and decided, "Why not!?" Crazy kids!
The next morning we ate brekkie, packed up, took showers and headed down the road, about 260 miles to Salt Lake City!! 

The drive took us all day and considering the day before driving the most beautiful road in America...this drive was bor-ring. Everyone says there's over population....? Not around I-15!! It's pretty much barren road with a farm here and a temple there. As you get closer to the Salt Lake City area, you start to see the different mountain ranges, including the Uintas, which are really beautiful...but you have to drive for several hours before anything really changes. 

We arrive where we will camp for the next week or so, waiting for our friends to finish some business deals and other work related things. We camped at 5 mile Recreation Area, which is a 5 mile area of trails and 'fun zones' where you can ride dirt bikes, ATV's, Razors, whatever toy you may have, as well as dry camp. It is a free BLM area and it seemed like everyone that lived within 2 hours of the place knew about it and was there using it! We had never seen BLM that hopping before, there were people everywhere.
The first night we parked pretty much in "downtown" 5 mile. There were ATV's going past us every minute or two, one guy decided to circle us about 30 times (no exaggeration). It's not the cleanest of places due to all of the dust being kicked up by all of the toys, so the next day we decided we would move. Before we moved that morning, our friend Jake came by to spend a few hours with us before he had to go pick-up his girl at work, so we drove the mountains in his Samurai. 

It was a great few hours getting up in elevation in the Oquirrh Mountains to beat the heat (at this point it was reaching 98* at 5 mile). The girls had a blast sticking their noses in the wind and we were able to see what was around us, sitting at about 10,000 ft. It was gorgeous up there! We looked for other places to camp but decided we would just stick with where we were, but move up the hill a little bit where people couldn't drive around us all day long. Jamie found a great spot and we moved right away. We tucked up on this hill overlooking the main road (73) and the Oquirrh's.

We stayed here for 5 days...5 of the hottest days in our van-lives. The temperatures reached between 100-107 every day. Needless to say, we didn't get much done in these 5 days but laying around in our bathing suits, squirting ourselves and the dogs with a spray bottle, making sure we had tons of water in the fridge for all of us. Thank goodness we had our awning up and have 2 fans, otherwise I really don't think it would have been do-able. If it hadn't been for waiting on our friends, we would have left or gone to higher elevation but we stayed. Most definitely the 5 worst nights sleeps we've ever gotten!
Once we got the word they were done with their business, we headed to meet up with them. We had to do some shopping to restock our food supply, so we stopped off at Wally World (Wal-mart). Jamie went in to do the shopping as I waited in the van with the way in hell I was going to leave them alone in this heat, even with their sweet set-up! 

At least, with me with them, I could turn the A/C on if needed and keep the doors and windows open. Jamie did a great job and was in and out in way less time than I was expecting, thank goodness!
The drive into their town was much prettier than the drive into 5 mile, the mountains sit right at the edge of the town. It's a great place. 

We met up with them and some of their friends, where we were invited to stay, and everyone was apologizing for the heat (as if they had anything to do with it). I guess SLC was having a heat wave and temps were about 20 degrees hotter than usual...figures! haha
While we were visiting we met some of their friends, spent Father's Day with Jake's family, was able to go see a show that Jake does sound for (His band, No Limits, is an exciting-get-you-outta-your- seat-and-dance- kinda show. It was so fun, if you are able to go see a show, DO IT!!)

One of their other friends invited us to come stay on his property for a little while, so we moved over there and spent the remainder of our time there. 

It was the perfect place for us to have privacy but also get out of the heat with a great swimming pool on-site! Ahhhhhh, with those 100+ temps, it sure was nice to go lounge on some noodles and slip down the slide, even the dogs got in!

 We had a really good time over there, he was a great host and we even had some "farm friends" to hang out with when we got bored! The best lil buddy was Willie Goat, he hung out with us like one of the dogs and actually got along with the girls. He would sit in the chair with you and let you hold him, he wanted to be a part of the gang and would come lay down on the mat, under the awning with the girls. He became part of our little family while we were there and after almost 2 weeks, it was hard to say good-bye...he's a good lil goat!

One night, we went up to Big Cottonwood Canyon for a nice evening stroll, on the boardwalk around the lake. The temperatures were pretty much perfect up there...we even saw a Moose! My first Moose sighting ever! I had my camera on the wrong setting so all of the pics from that night are blurry, but I did get a picture of the Moose!

We are planning on going up to the Uintas in the next couple of days to beat the heat, I guess it's going to stay at these scorching temps a little bit longer and we are over it!
Until then....

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Driving Utah's Scenic Byway 12

We started our drive down Scenic Byway 12 around noon, not too bad of a start since we did some hikes and picture taking inside of Capitol Reef National Park that same morning.
I had 3 Rangers from different parks tell me that Scenic Byway 12 is The Most Beautiful Road in America, so we were both pretty excited about what we were about to see for the next few hours.
We started the drive in Torrey, the Eastern Gateway to Scenic Byway 12. Right there at the corner of Highways 12 and 24 is the carwash and Visitor's Information Center...a place we knew well over the past day and a half! At the Visitor's Information Center they had a booklet for Scenic Byway 12, so I made sure to grab it when I saw it, for this would be our guide down the beautiful road.
The drive started with forests of quaking Aspen trees, (we're not really sure if they were all quaking, some of them could have been Mormon or Amish) still very green...probably due to all of this rain we've been getting this Summer. There are also Firs, Pine and Spruce trees. Everything is green and lush and very different than what we've been seeing for the past month or so. Our first stop would be Larb Hollow Overlook, at about 9,800 feet in elevation. I believe, at this point in the trip, this is the highest Joon has ever been and she did really well!! We stopped and made lunch at the overlook, having a little van picnic. It was windy and pretty chilly up there but sooo beautiful, you can see, what seems like, forever!
{Larb Hollow Overlook is another "must stop" along Scenic Byway 12, on the Eastern flank of Boulder Mountain. Travelers are rewarded with spectacular views of the sparkling blue waters of Bown's Reservoir, the stunning deep magenta wedge of the Waterpocket Fold, the towering Henry Mountains and the vast landscapes beyond- a region so remote it was the last to be surveyed and mapped in the United States.}

The booklet reads that there are numerous amounts of wildlife in the area including deer, elk, black bears, and mountain lions as well as smaller species and tons of birds, but we mostly only saw birds playing and trees!

Since we're never really in a hurry to get anywhere, we thought as we drove we would look for BLM and maybe stay out here in this truly wild area for a week or two. We looked and looked for forest roads as we drove the mountain but our conclusion was either, the good spots were taken and/or the other spots were waaaaay too close to the road for us. I'm not saying it couldn't have been done but we don't like to camp close to a main road for many reasons, the main two being; my dogs safety and our privacy. So we drove on. 

We thought maybe driving down one of the Scenic Backways off of 12 would be a better route for us to take to find camping, so when we arrived at the turn-off for Burr Trail, we turned down it and started looking for a spot. When we turned off we saw about 20 people standing next to 5 different vans that were decorated in shoe polish, everyone dressed in running gear. At the time we had no idea what was going on but later found out the race, Top of Zion, was being held that day and the next, a crazy two day relay race! Those people have more guts & stamina than I do, that's for sure! We would see the relays of runners and "chase-vans" for the remainder of the day into night.
Back to the Trail...Burr Trail is an awesome road, it's a 30 mile road; some paved, mostly graded gravel and seems to be taken care of for being a "wild road". It can be accessible by passenger cars but can be impassable when wet, everything gets really slippery around here when it rains. As we drove down a few miles, we saw some great spots, almost as soon as you turn down the trail, a couple were already taken (the best ones of course). We drove maybe 6 miles until we decided to turn back due to no internet and didn't want to waste the gas. *At this time we didn't really have an idea of how remote this road actually is. We thought for sure there had to be a wifi tower or something...anything, but no. There was nothing. We would be looking the entire trip on Scenic Byway 12....never got a wifi signal, never got a phone signal, so be prepared for this if you are going to travel this road. We had no clue and luckily didn't need any services!*
I do regret not stopping at the Anasazi State Park Museum. {The Museum is located on the site of an Ancestral Puebloan habitation that archaeologists believe was occupied between 1050 - 1175 A.D. There is a partially excavated and reconstructed village consisting of almost 100 rooms. They also have artifacts and a theater on-site.} It would have been really cool to see but I think at this time we weren't sure where we were going to sleep for the night and wanted to get there before dark, so we kept driving. Maybe another time.
After coming off of Burr Trail, the road gets really interesting and a bit scary at one point. The "scary" part of the road, especially if you aren't ready for it, is The Hogsback. The Hogsback is between Calf Creek Recreation Area and Boulder Town. I'm going to quote the booklet because they describe it so well. {As the asphalt clings to this thin razorback ridge of slickrock, the terrain spills steeply off to each side toward winding creeks and canyons below, where cottonwoods provide ribbons of green, gold or gray depending on the season. Driving here is slow and cautious, but the vistas are incredible.} And it really is a thin razorback ridge of slickrock! We weren't ready for it. I actually thought it was a road like Burr Trail, that you turn off to drive. I had no clue we were about to drive this, all of a sudden we're there with a huge class A going the oppostie direction at the same time! I'd like to have known what was going through that Class A drivers mind! The picture (below) isn't great but it kind of shows you what it's like! Craziest thing we've done yet, this Summer! haha

We pulled over at the next turn out to take in our surroundings and kind of catch our breath from The Hogsback. I believe this area is considered, part of or the beginning of, The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (which a ranger told me would take about 12 years to see the whole monument, so it's pretty big)! 

We drove past some trail-heads and Calf Creek Recreation Area (another stop I would have liked to make if we could have camped there). The Rec Area has a 13-site campground...that was full, a day-use picnic area and trail-head. The reason I wanted to go there was due to the amazing 126 ft. waterfall I keep seeing in all the magazines, but it's a 6 mile (round trip) strenuous hike and once again the campground was full and we didn't know where we would be sleeping, so we drove.

Over the next couple of hours our scenery would change dramatically from barren, gray rocks barely sprinkled with any type of green to lush fields, blue blue skies and huge beautiful mountains. I felt like we were in Montana or maybe Idaho, although I've never been to either place, that's what it looks like in my mind. 

Just as we would get used to one 'form' of scenery, it would drastically change to something completely different. It was almost like we were flipping pages in a book, it was that radical.

Right at "the end" of our trip on 12 we turned a corner and saw our first glance of Hoodoo's, the rock formations Bryce Canyon is known for...that was really something else and truly amazing when you're not prepared for it, (even if you are prepared for it, it's still pretty amazing)!

Scenic Byway 12 really is a beautiful road to travel. I am happy that we were able to see "The Most Beautiful Road in America", and all of the major differences, all in the matter of 7 hours. We found a great place to camp not terribly far from the park and are surrounded by Deer and Pronghorn, or what people call American Antelope (even though they are not part of the Antelope family). 

Park Number we come!