Tag Archive | Salt Lake City

Moab 2015: 3 Mormons and a Catholic. Buildings!

If you had a morning to do some sightseeing in downtown Salt Lake City, where would you go?

We began our day at Temple Square to see the Salt Lake Temple, arguably the most famous Mormon Temple in the world. Non-Mormons are not allowed inside, but you can tour the grounds and check out some of the other buildings. We strolled around for a short while to get some photos of the Temple, the Assembly Hall and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir building. The choir practices in the afternoon, but we didn’t want to hang around that long.

The Assembly Hall at Temple Square - Built 1880 - Gothic Revival Architectural Style

The Assembly Hall at Temple Square – Built 1880 – Gothic Revival Architectural Style

A Burst of Color Early in the Season

A Burst of Color Early in the Season

The Salt Lake Temple took over 40 years to build – it was started in 1853 and was completed in 1893.  It was designed by Truman O. Angell, one of Brigham Young’s brother-in-laws, who was also the architect for the Lion House and the Beehive House.  Construction originally began with sandstone, but had to be halted during the Utah War – the foundation blocks were buried to avoid being a target during the conflict.  If you haven’t heard of the Utah War, it is the conflict between the Mormons and the U.S. Military that led to the massacre of 120 California bound settlers by the Mormons that is known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  But I don’t want to get into that here.

When they resumed building after the Utah War, they discovered that the sandstone had cracked, so they replaced much of the sandstone with gray quartz monzonite and built with it going forward.  The stone has the look of granite.  The temple is 222 feet tall and has several ornate pinnacles.  The temple is absolutely stunning and so large that it is next to impossible to get it all in one photo.

The Salt Lake Temple - Built 1853-1893

The Salt Lake Temple – Built 1853-1893

A statue commemorating the fact that many Mormon Pioneers made the journey on foot with their only belongings in a hand cart.

A statue commemorating the fact that many Mormon Pioneers made the journey on foot with their only belongings in a hand cart.

After the temple, we walked two blocks down the street, past the Mormon Church Administrative Offices, and saw the Lion House and the Beehive House.  They are next door to one another and were built by the Mormons for Brigham Young. The Lion House was built in 1856, and has 20 bedrooms.  It was named for the large statuary lion that sits above the door, although some say the lion is there because Brigham Young’s nickname was the lion.

The Lion House - Built 1856

The Lion House – Built 1856

The Lion House housed several of Brigham Young’s 55 wives and 57 children, in a long three story building with 20 bedroom suites along long main hallways on the second and third floors. The basement houses a dining room that is open to the public today. It serves comfort food, but no alcohol or caffeine, in keeping with Mormon customs. Only the dining room is open to the public, but the Mormon church rents the Lion House out for events, so you can sneak a peak at the interior on their website.

The detail of the lion on the Lion House

The detail of the lion on the Lion House

Next door is the Beehive House, which was Brigham Young’s office, as well as being the residence for one of Brigham Young’s most senior wives and her nine children. It was built between 1853 and 1856.  A brief 20 minute tour is available for free, provided by Mormon missionaries, called Sisters, who serve as docents for the tour. I warned Jon ahead of time that the docents are known to proselytize, and after originally saying he wanted to wait outside, Jon grudgingly agreed to do the tour with me.  “You can put up with it for 20 minutes,” I said, “For me.”  What a guy!

The Beehive House - Built 1853-1856 - Greek Revival Architectural Style

The Beehive House – Built 1853-1856 – Greek Revival Architectural Style

Our docents were from Arizona and Italy. They let you know at the beginning of the tour that they will be sharing information about their faith, but didn’t give the hard sell to anyone on our tour (there were six of us). We wandered around the rooms, stopping briefly in each one, admiring the furniture and hearing some brief information about the Mormon belief system.

The beehive detail on the top of the Beehive House

The beehive detail on the top of the Beehive House

Our docents did not know much beyond the script of their faith. They didn’t know who designed or built the Beehive House, whether any of the furniture was original, or even how many wives or children Brigham Young had (although I do suspect they might be instructed to tell tourists they don’t know the answer to the wives/children question, in order to distance the Mormon church from its controversial polygamist history).

The interior of the Beehive House

The interior of the Beehive House

All in all, it was a historic home tour unlike any other I’ve experienced. The home was really just the backdrop for the explanation of their faith, rather than the star of the show.

I would have preferred if they would have explained why they built the home with a beehive on the top, or beehive accents in the home (the newel posts are carved beehives).  The beehive has been a religious symbol of industriousness since Roman times, and the word Deseret, used by the Mormons to describe their proposed territory during the 1800s, means honeybee.

It also would have been nice if the sisters explained anything about the business that Brigham Young conducted from the home, or when it ceased to be a home and office and became a “museum.” But, based on the reviews I had read, I really didn’t expect much history from the tour, so it is hard to be very disappointed.  To be clear, all of the historical information in this post was gleaned from the internet.

Our last stop of the morning was a couple of blocks down the street, at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City’s Catholic Cathedral. It is stunning, constructed in the Neo-Romanesque style in 1909, with the most exquisite gargoyles flying off the towers. We didn’t go inside, instead just admiring the outside for a few minutes before heading on our way.

Cathedral of the Madeleine - Built 1909 - Neo-Romanesque Architectural Style

Cathedral of the Madeleine – Built 1909 – Neo-Romanesque Architectural Style

One of the towers of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, with its flying Gargoyles.

One of the towers of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, with its flying Gargoyles.

The detail of one of the Cathedrals' Gargoyles

The detail of one of the Cathedral’s Gargoyles

With that, we headed back to the car, which was still parked in the hotel garage, and headed out for the almost four hour drive to Moab.

Moab 2015: Red Rock Brewery SLC

After a day of hiking and sightseeing, what do you crave most?  If you said some good food and a beer, we have something in common!

After we wrapped up our visit to Antelope Island, Jon and I were tired and hungry. We made our way to our hotel for the night – The Plaza Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City. I wanted to check out some of the historical sites downtown before we made the drive to Moab, Utah the next day!

The Plaza Hotel was great – I reserved a small queen room for $100, right next to the Mormon Temple and very close to several other historical attractions. The accommodations were good – the room was cozy, but were weren’t going to be spending much time there. We checked in, changed, and were on our way again to the Red Rock Brewery in downtown Salt Lake City!

Considering that it was a Wednesday night, we were unprepared for how busy it would be! They told us it would be a 25 minute wait, but it ended up being a little more than 45 minutes. Jon was not happy, and I was just plain hungry…  But we had walked the half mile there, so we didn’t have an easy option to just get up and go.

When we were seated we didn’t have to wait long for our server to take our order. I ordered the Amber Ale and a steak salad. Jon ordered the Elephino Double IPA and a Cobb Salad to eat.

Jon's Red Rock Brewery Elephino Double IPA - Not So Hoppy...

Jon’s Red Rock Brewery Elephino Double IPA – Not So Hoppy…

Jon's Red Rock Brewery Cobb Salad

Jon’s Red Rock Brewery Cobb Salad

My first beer was good, nothing spectacular but solid. My steak salad was excellent! Jon wasn’t happy with his first beer, an IPA – I actually liked it because it wasn’t super-hoppy, and because it had an elephant on the label (I can be swayed by such trivial things…).

My Steak Salad - along with my Amber Ale and Jon's Elephino IPA (he wanted me to finish it because I liked it more than he did).

My Steak Salad – along with my Amber Ale and Jon’s Elephino IPA (he wanted me to finish it because I liked it more than he did).

We each ordered a second beer – mine was a 5 oz Honey Wheat. It was horrible. It tasted like Pabst, or something similar. It was actually the worst beer I have ever had in a microbrewery – I was so disappointed. Jon on the other hand, loved his 20th Anniversary Imperial Red – it had all the hops he was craving.

As you can see by the photos, I’m clearly never going to make a career for myself as a food photographer.  I’m just always too hungry to do appropriate staging…

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel, vegged for a little while and hit the hay. We needed to be rested for a full day of touristing!

Moab 2015: Antelope Island History

What happens when you combine a late night, an early flight, and a herd of bison?  A fabulous experience on Antelope Island – just outside of Salt Lake City!

The mountains below on our flight to Salt Lake City

The mountains below on our flight to Salt Lake City

We had to get up at 2:30 am for our 5 am flight, but it meant that we were in Salt Lake City at 9:30 am! We had the whole day to explore.  The main purpose of our trip was to visit Moab, Utah, but I wanted to check out a couple of places in Salt Lake City too!  We got our rental car, and found out we had been upgraded to a shiny black Buick Enclave.  We drove up to Antelope Island, stopping on the way for some picnic food.  Soon we were there!

Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, 15 miles long by 4.5 miles wide at it’s widest point.  It is a prairie grassland with igneous and sedimentary rocks – the oldest rocks here, from the Precambrian period, are some of the oldest rocks in the United States.  If you are a rock person, you’ll be interested in the fact that these rocks are even older than the rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!

Antelope Island is named for the antelope that made their home there when the island was first “discovered” by white men – John C. Fremont and Kit Carson – they were actually pronghorn, but who’s keeping score? Mormon pioneers set up some early ranches on the island, and soon livestock owned by the Mormon Church were grazing on the land. Antelope Island claims the title to the oldest building in Utah still on its original foundation, and built by white people – that’s a lot of qualifiers, isn’t it?  It is the Fielding Garr Ranch.

The Fielding Garr Ranch house was built in 1848, and Garr, a widower, lived there and managed the ranch with his nine children until 1870. At that point, the island was purchased by John Dooly, Sr. Dooly established the Island Improvement Company, which managed the island until the State of Utah purchased it – parts in 1969 and the remainder in 1984. And Dooly is responsible for adding what is arguably the island’s most distinctive feature – a herd of bison.

In 1893, Dooly imported 4 bison bulls, 4 cows and 4 calves to the island. He planned to establish a herd and profit on selling the rights to hunt them. At that time, American Bison were almost extinct in their native range. The bison herd exploded to several hundred animals with no natural predators on the island, but for some reason the idea of organized hunts never really took off.

The Wasatch Mountains from the Fielding Garr Ranch

The Wasatch Mountains from the Fielding Garr Ranch

After using the bison to film Western movies – notably a silent film called The Covered Wagon in 1923, an organized hunt was arranged in 1926 to slaughter the herd. What a shame…  However, small numbers of bison survived and were left alone. They managed to reproduce and reestablish the herd that exists on the island today.

Today there are about 500-700 bison on the island, they are rounded up each year for health checks and vaccinations and excess animals are auctioned off for breeding stock or meat. There are also about 250 mule deer, 200 pronghorn, 200 bighorn sheep, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, porcupines and small rodents. The pronghorn and bighorn sheep were both reintroduced after Antelope Island became a State Park, having been eliminated by hunting and to make more room for sheep and cattle during the island’s ranching days.

Antelope Island is also excellent habitat for migratory birds. Although the salinity of the lake, up to 25% salt content, makes it unable to support fish, the lake has huge populations of brine shrimp (tiny little things) and brine flies that birds love to eat.

Apparently in the early 20th century, there was talk of making Antelope Island into a National Park, but that plan never went anywhere. I could see it being a National Park – the scenic beauty and diversity of wildlife is amazing. Without knowing this, Jon even asked me, “why isn’t this a National Park?” You’ll get an idea of why so many people think it should be when I show you our visit!

Moab 2015: A Trip is Born

Jon is a masterful schemer. He always manages to get me to agree to a trip to someplace he wants to go and this time was no exception. How? One strategy is to find a race in the destination he wants to visit. In December 2013, it was the Sacramento marathon. In March 2015, we made a return trip to Moab, Utah, for a high elevation half marathon.

Of course, I wouldn’t be so willing to oblige if the locations were less desirable, but given that Moab is home to both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and I loved our short time there in April 2014, of course you know my reaction to his proposal! I began to plot our course – we would fly into Salt Lake City, then drive down to Moab (just under a 4 hour drive).

The pieces began to fall together. I knew I wanted to visit Antelope Island, just north of Salt Lake City. I have been dreaming about Antelope Island since reading a fellow blogger’s posts about it, and had it on my list when Jon and I were considering driving from Washington on our Southwest adventure during the spring of 2014. When we made the decision to fly instead of drive, going out of our way to Salt Lake City was one of the things we had to cut (so many places, so little time!).

I also have read a couple of books lately about the mainstream Mormon faith and its polygamist offshoots, so checking out the historic Mormon sites in downtown Salt Lake City went on the list.

And Jon had been drooling over the idea of a zip line adventure when we were in Moab a year ago, so I asked him if it was still on his bucket list. Of course it was – what a stupid question! I, being terrified of heights, wasn’t sure I would be brave enough, but after researching the zip line company, watching the videos, and reading all the Trip Advisor reviews, plus conducting a Facebook poll of my friends, decided that I would give it a try. When your aunt, who is in her early 70s, says you should go for it, you can’t very well chicken out, right?

Salt Lake City to Moab

Salt Lake City to Moab

With all that, I vowed to fill our free time with hikes in the parks, trying to fill in the gaps of what we didn’t see a year ago, and cheering Jon on at the finish line of his race. A trip was born!