Utah loop road trip: Salt Lake City

We arranged to stay at two different Harvest Host locations: one a little south of the Salt Lake City, and the other a little north. We weren’t sure how much time we wanted to spend in the area, but thought we could drive in from the south one morning, park, walk around, and drive out the north end later the same day.

South of the city, we stayed at Rowley’s Red Barn, a farm shop owned by four brothers along with their farm whose products the shop sold. We were warmly welcomed by one of the brothers, Mark, who reached into one of the many boxes of luscious-looking peaches and handed Ken a couple. After a short chat, we wandered the market, picking up a local cantaloupe and a couple of cobs of corn for dinner. Ken couldn’t resist trying the apple cider slushy (which optionally came a la mode). Apple juice is not my favourite beverage, yet I sacrificed and helped Ken finish the much-too-large-for-him delicious treat.

As night fell, the skies darkened and we were treated to a bit of welcome rain and an hours-long lightening show that seemed to circumnavigate the sky around the barn.

There was another unit parked for the night as well—one you could fit about four Arties into I think—and the kind owners invited us over for a visit after dinner. We enjoyed a pleasant evening with Kathy and Norm, a couple from San Diego, ex-yachters, newish-RVers out for their first long journey. They were kind enough to offer part of a double site they had booked in Lava Hot Springs a couple of nights hence. We seriously thought about getting in touch, and then chose a different route so didn’t reconnect.

We had received a recommendation for Iceberg Drive Inn, a burgers-and-shakes place that wasn’t to be missed and, conveniently, it was on our route, south of downtown Salt Lake City. We stopped and shared a burger combo that included a shake that was big enough to share as a dessert with lunch, and then pop into Artie’s freezer for a shared ice cream dessert another day.

Not knowing anything about Salt Lake City, we thought we would start with Temple Square. We were visiting on a Friday, a possible parking nightmare with Artie, but found two-hour street parking a block or so north of the square, and unlimited street parking under a shade tree another block away. Given the mid-30°C forecast temperature, we were willing to walk a little farther for that shade.

The square is actually a rectangle and is filled with gardens, historic buildings, and modern office towers, all property of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon). There were young women everywhere in the square and inside each building asking if we had any questions and offering tours. After being asked continuously if we had any questions, I finally posed a question to one of the women. “Is this what you do, walk around the square and ask people if they have questions?” (I explained that we had been asked that question many times already and was polite and curious.) She informed me that she and the others were all on a mission there, and it was their job to ensure visitors had a good experience and understood what they were seeing.

Mormon Tabernacle

Just outside of the Temple Square is the Deseret Book Company, a publisher and store with a target audience of LDS members. The square was spotless and the buildings and gardens lovely but, being non-religious folks, it felt strange to realize how much of the city (and, we found out later, the state and even neighbouring states) were steeped in a single religion.

We found a brewpub at which to grab a refreshment and sat and watched the transit trains and rental scooters go by. As we walked back to Artie, the streets seemed quiet for a Friday afternoon, but possibly the smart people were wandering around in air-conditioned buildings and not out on the heat-radiating streets.

About 20 miles west of Salt Lake City is the massive Great Salt Lake. On the way there the landscape gives way to mountains of mine tailings, and right at the lake near the Great Salt Lake Marina and its namesake state park is an enormous copper smelter stack, almost as tall as the Empire State Building. It’s an odd site right across from a huge lake.

But then the lake is odd, too–highly saline (5-27% compared to an ocean’s typical 3%), very shallow (average depth is only 14 feet) with almost half of its area described as marsh or mudflats. Entry to the marina/state park is $3.

The little visitor center was hopping and the signage and movie were interesting. Outside of the center is a path down to the lake, which we took. But as we got close to the shore, the smell was revolting and overpowering. Ken had learned that it is a result of a biomass of brine shrimp that washes up onto the shore and putrefies. Above the smelly smears are swarms of flies that happily coat your exposed body parts if you stand still for a millisecond.

Antelope Island across the lake

With the smell and the flies, I was happy to turn tail and rush back up the path to the comfort of Artie.

An hour or so later we were at Wasatch View Ranch, our stop for the night. The owner had told us during a choppy and loud car conversation that he wouldn’t be there, but that we were welcome to drive in and stay for the night. The mountain views from the ranch were lovely, and as soon as we parked we were visited by two of the non-human occupants of the ranch.

Throughout the evening, a few people drove in through the gate, did whatever they needed to do, and left without showing any interest in us at all, even when we were sitting outside in our chairs. At one point the wind turned and we quickly learned how close we were to a sewage treatment plant. As we were scrambling to see where else we could stay for the night, the wind changed again and, thankfully, didn’t change back until morning. And that time we were prepared to close the windows and doors and make a quick escape.

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