Once again we needed to be close to an airport so I could fly to Pittsburgh for work. The RV Park at Hill Air Force Base was the perfect solution. The RV Park is across the road from the fitness center, a couple of blocks away from the Base Exchange, Commissary, Post Office, and Chapel. It was not like a typical campground, being in the middle of these facilities, but it was certainly convenient.
When we initially made the plan to go to Salt Lake City it was intended to be a place to rest and take it easy. However, we were impressed with how much there was to do here.
I have always associated Salt Lake City with the Mormon Church, officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. We chose to drive in to see the Temple on Thursday because that’s the night the Tabernacle Choir practices and their practices are open to the public. Temple Square is a great place to visit if you want to increase your understanding of the Mormon religion. In the two visitor centers there are volunteer guides available to answer questions and displays and movies describing Mormon history. We took a tour of the Temple Conference Center. What a huge venue! It can seat 21,200 people with no obstructed views of the main stage. Some of the ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Olympics were held in the center. It is an amazing place. After our tour we walked up the hill to visit the State Capital Building. The building is another impressive site, I love marble buildings. As we toured the House and Senate Chambers it was easy to see Utah has a smaller population than Michigan; the chambers were much smaller than we were used to seeing.
After dinner we returned to the Temple to watch the Tabernacle Choir. The tabernacle was full and the choir was magnificent. It was obvious the this was not your typical church choir! I can’t think of a much better way to spend a Thursday night.
On Saturday, we drove up to Park City to visit some of the 2002 Olympic venues. We got a better appreciation of the challenge of ski jumping when we were able to actually stand in the upper starting house for the ski jump after looking at it from the landing field. The courage these athletes have to hurdle themselves down the slope and sail into space is awesome. Our tour also took us to the top of the bobsled and luge runs. What an opportunity to get “up close and personal” with Olympic history. We took a bobsled ride down the mountain to see if we had Olympic potential. There is also a small museum devoted to the development of skiing in the Park City area and the 2002 Olympic Games. An interesting feature in the Olympic part of the museum was the individual stories of the athletes as well as the staff and volunteers of the games. The best part of the trip was watching future Olympic athletes practicing ski acrobatics. We watched them on practice ski jumps that ended with them landing in a pool of water. Some of the future athletes were as young as 8 and 9 years old. The practice was so entertaining that I could have watched it for hours!
We attended the Utah State Fair and had a great time wandering through the booths, sampling the food, visiting the animal stalls and displays, and watching acrobatic acts. We have attended more state fairs since we have been on the road than we ever did back in Michigan!
Even though I had visited Salt Lake City when I was in the National Guard, I had never been to the Great Salt Lake. The best place to enjoy the lake is from Antelope Island State Park. Antelope Island is known for its scenic beauty, especially in the northwest quadrant of the island at Buffalo Point and White Rock Bay, where mountains and hills overlook the Great Salt Lake and other islands that are visible in the lake. Antelope Island was used as a ranch for cattle and sheep from the earliest days of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. The Mormons controlled the ranch on the island from 1848 until approximately 1870. The island was purchased in 1870 by John Dooly, Sr, and he established the Island Improvement Company which managed the island and ranches from 1884 until 1981. The Fielding Garr Ranch is now a museum, operated by the State of Utah. At the ranch you can see how sheep were raised and the living conditions the family had in the late 1800’s. Antelope Island State Park was established in 1981 as part of the Utah State Parks System.
Pat & I hiked to the top of one of the mountain peaks and were rewarded by a spectacular view of the entire north end of the island. While it was one of the shorter trails, it was a challenging climb.
In order to experience the Great Salt Lake, we launched our kayaks from the marina. The Great Salt Lake is extremely salty, with salt levels reaching as much as 25% of the lake, by volume, so it does not support fish, but does support large numbers of brine shrimp which provide food for visiting waterfowl. The water level fluctuates quite a bit and the level was very low during our visit. When I went to swim in the lake we had to walk about a 1/4 mile from the beach to get to the water’s edge. Then the water was so shallow I had to walk several hundred yards further to get into water deep enough to float. We both thought the Great Salt Lake would not be a great place to “go to the beach.”
In between our sightseeing we “hung out” at the base, did some cleaning on the trailer and made plans for the future. Hill AFB has a very nice museum with nice indoor displays and airplanes ranging from a Vietnam era C-130 to a B-52 Stratofortress and B-1Lancer. I rode my bike to see it and had a great visit; however, the return ride was almost all uphill and there were moments when I wasn’t sure I would make it back to the trailer!
On September 20th, we headed south for the Dixie National Forest and Red Canyon Campground.