Southeastern Utah – National Parks Road Trip – Day 15 – Natural Bridges, Hovenweep & Four Corners

The Spanish Valley is south of Moab, and our initial scenery leaving in the morning.  As we made our way down US 191 we passed a natural bridge arch before coming to a giant rock with ‘Hole In the Rock‘ painted in 30’ letters on the side of it. Apparently it is a 5000 square foot house someone carved into this giant rock, but we were too early in the day for them to be open, so we continued on our way.

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South of Blanding we reached Utah 95, a narrow state highway  that runs out through the desert up and down small hills. As I turned onto this road a dirty old 4 wheel drive pickup passed me, which of course I took as a challenge to keep up with. It is 38 miles from Blanding to Natural Bridge National Park, and according to the GPS should’ve taken us 45 minutes to make the drive, but following Deliverance Boy I did it in 30 minutes.

Once we did land at the park headquarters we received instructions from the ranger on the best option for a couple of hours of time that we had. As with many parks they have a auto tour loop that we took, providing views of three natural bridges and as well as a view of Native American ruins. The trails were steep and strenuous so we skipped the longer hikes and soaked in the view from the overlook. The first natural bridge named Sipapu was large and had a lot of rock above it with trees and a river below it.

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Our next stop was at the Horsecollar Ruin overlook. Here pottery was once found that dates these ruins between 1 AD and 13 AD. The ruins were well preserved but accessed was denied to them. These ruins are considered to be the best preserved ancient Puebloan ruins ,mostly due to their isolation. Horsecollar Ruin earned its name because the doorways to two structures resemble horsecollars, the site was abandoned more than 700 years ago.

We moved on to see the Kachina Bridge where the White Canyon and Armstrong Canyon meet. Kachina Bridge, known as the middle bridge which spans the canyon equally from both Owachomo and Sipapu bridges, is named for the petroglyphs of dancing figures resembling Kachina dolls. Kachina Bridge is larger than Owachomo but smaller than Sipapu. Owachomo Bridge is a natural bridge 180 feet high and spans 106 feet across thin stone and is older than any other bridge. Erosion through the years has thinned the span of the bridge. It was beautiful and we were happy to see it since it will not last forever.

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Leaving Natural Bridges we continued south on Utah 261 another nondescript highway across the desert – for about 30 miles – then you come to the Moki Dugway, a dangerous road to drive made of dirt and gravel carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa. It consists of 3 miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks (11% grade), which wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the valley floor near Valley of the Gods. A nerve racking but really cool drive down the mountain side.

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Just beyond Moki Dugway we arrived in the Navajo Nation to the town of Mexican Hat, Utah, where we stopped for lunch at the Olde Bridge Grille. The town is named after a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base at the top of a small hill. The village itself is small, home to fewer than 100 people We had a burger and vegetarian taco on Navajo bread. The Navajo bread was delicious.

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Just south of Mexican Hat is the Monument Valley, a place of mammoth rocks in the desert with beautiful thin spires on the Arizona border. The rock formation resembled a city from a distance and it is also the site where Forrest Gump stopped running in the movie of the same name, which of course I needed to recreate, much to the amusement of the European tourists parked along the road. Returning back through Mexican Hat we had gone just a few miles before we were stopped by the Sherriff’s Department while a Toyota commercial was being filmed on the road ahead.

By mid afternoon we arrrived at the Hovenweep National Monument. There are Pueblo ruins of a culture there that thrived from 1 AD to late 1200 AD. A variety of structures, including multistory towers are perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders. We hiked the Little Run Trail to tour the ruins at Little Ruin Canyon which is made up of Square Tower, Tower Point, and Twin Towers. Towers at Hovenweep were built in a variety of shapes- D-shapes, squares, ovals and circles.

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These towers had different purposes, including tool and grinding work areas, kivas (for ritual/social functions), living rooms and storage. We started at the overlook to see the stronghold house which is the upper story of a large structure with well-shaped stones. Then we climbed down the trail for a close-up view of more buildings. The Holly group is at the head of Keeley Canyon. The five buildings at the site are known for a rock art panel that has been interpreted as a summer solstice marker.

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The Hackberry group was a medium sized Pueblo III village in the east fork of Bridge Canyon. The Horseshoe House is a D-shaped structure containing three rooms surrounding a possible central kiva. The architectural style suggests ceremonial or public use

As we hiked the loop we saw Rim Rock House that had peepholes built into the walls; the purpose of these peepholes is unknown. We continued down the trail to Hovenweep House which is one of the largest structures in the community. Next we saw Hovenweep Castle in the Square Tower Group. The Cajon Group is at the head of Allen Canyon, is primarily a remains of a tower, estimated to house 80–100 people, that was constructed on a boulder that sits below the rim of the canyon

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Cutthroat Castle group is in an offshoot of Hovenweep Canyon. Cutthroat Castle, the largest of the remains, is on the north side of the stream. Cutthroat is unique among the units due to the lack of a spring, the numerous kivas and the fact that much of the architecture sits below the rim.

Goodman Point group contains small and large clusters of pueblo buildings built partially underground.

Finally the Square Tower group, with the largest collection of pueblo buildings at Hovenweep. These towers still have lintels showing that these were some of the most carefully built structures in the southwest

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Leaving Hovenweep we passed Palomino horses roaming freely on our drive to the Four Corners. We arrived at the entrance to the Navajo Nation being required to pay the $5 entry fee per person to enter their tribal lands to get to the Four Corners monument. Prior to the trip I had read that with modern survey techniques the actual marker is really not at the point of the four corners, the original surveyor, using 19th century tools, missed where the spot should have been by about 1800 feet. The marker was placed in its current position and accepted by the U.S. Congress. From that time forward, the marker has been the legal divider among the four states.

We took turns standing on the spot of the Four Corners at the center where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah meet, contorting ourselves to place a body part in each quadrant of the circle. After our Twister exercise we strolled the booths of vendors with their souvenirs that surrounded the monument. There was no food available here so we went to headed back onto the road to Cortez, Colorado, where we came upon the Sky Ute Casino on a suggestion that someone had given us. The large casino had a restaurant but it was an hour wait before we could eat so we drove on to Cortez to spend the night.

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Checking into our hotel we found a nice casual restaurant called Destination Grill next door. We sat on the deck in the cool evening and enjoyed a very good dinner.

Arches and Canyonlands – National Parks Road Trip – Day 14

Our morning started at sun rise at Arches National Park. The entrance road leads through large stones and past rock formations named after items which they resembled such as the Organ, the Tower of Babel, Park Ave. the Courthouse and the Great Wall of Rock. We moved through quickly without traffic to get to the Window Arch and Double Arch, two recommended to see at sunrise.

The sun highlighted an area of rock and then instantly shadowed the same rock as it moved along the rock and shone through windows of rock. The gravel loop trail leads to three massive arches (North and South Windows and Turret Arch), with options for viewing the arches from all sides. As we passed the north side we were greeted by a number of jackrabbits hopping about the area.

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Also known as the Spectacles, the North and South windows stand side by side, though separated by some distance, cut from the same sandstone fin. A large “nose” separates the Spectacle arches visually from the southwest, made of a gigantic fin over 100 feet wide. Turret Arch is southwest of the Windows. The whole Windows area is full of unique and captivating stone formations, with many arches among them. As we left this area we passed the Parade of Elephants, a section of sandstone, the remnants of the fin to which Double Arch used to belong. The rock formation appears to be a herd of elephants, holding each others’ tails, traveling single file.

We drove by Balanced Rock which is probably the second most recognized feature in Arches National Park. The big rock balances on the tip of its base and can be seen from the main road. Weathering created this odd formation in which the rock above the base tip is the size of three buses.

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We drove out to the trailhead for Delicate Arch to climb the trail to the top. The climb was a bit strenuous for a three-mile trek. We made it to the top of the slickrock following the cairns (a small stack of rocks used as a trail marker) to reach the 480 ft. summit then scooted along a 200 yard ledge above a steep canyon to get to Delicate Arch posed centered above a large bowl canyon. A steep drop straddled each side of the arch. We were proud that we accomplished this daring and long trail which took us about 3 hours to complete.

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As we drove through the park we came upon a rock formation that reminded me of a hand with a pointed finger. On a previous trip through Nebraska we stopped at Chimney Rock where she posed with her index finger simulation the look. Since this rock look like a middle finger raised, I recreated the moment with my middle finger. From here we walked the trail to see Sand Dune Arch hidden behind a sandy beach of shrubs and trees tucked away in a niche of larger rocks. Our voices echoed within the large rocks and we kissed under the Sand Dune Arch. It was fun to hike through the sand and crawl between the narrow passages of the tall pillars.

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Our adventure continued as we made our way to Devil’s Canyon but could not find a place to park so we drove to a campground and walked behind the amphitheater to see Skyline Arch. It was nice to absorb the view without anyone else around. We took photos of the rock formations near the entrance of the park since we had little chance to see these in the dim light of the early morning. One standard for us is to take a photo of each National Park sign. Having missed this in the early morning, we stopped at the park entrance sign on the way out, but had to wait about 15 minutes to get a photo of the sign while a woman had her boyfriend do a photo shoot of her at the sign. It was very weird but, waiting we did, and eventually had our sign photo.

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The drive from Arches to Canyonlands was void of any options for lunch, so we ended up snacking on what was in the car. The Canyonlands visitor center is directly across from the Shafer Canyon overlook, with an amazing view of the vast canyon of red rock making us anxious to see the rest of the park.  We drove the roads along the rim of the Island in the Sky, a large mesa with overlooks of the canyon. The canyons in Canyonlands went on and on, providing views of up to 100 miles in any direction from the Island in the Sky.

Canyonlands is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon with its deep cuts through rock, being the largest national park in Utah. The Colorado River and the Green River meandered through the bottom of the canyon. The confluence of these two rivers was visible from our viewpoint and large mountains draped the background of the canyon providing a majestic vista.

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Our first significant hike at Canyonlands was to see Upheaval Dome. We hiked up a hill but got off the trail slightly ending up on a rocky perch to look down into Upheaval Dome that looked like a big crater, providing an excellent location for a snack as we gazed out over the dome. Geologists are unsure how the dome was formed, with various theories including a meteor slammed into the earth at this spot or the collapse of a salt dome. The inside of the dome had different layers of rock and colors of white and brown stone surrounded by sandstone. Returning to the trail to get to the main overlook provided a slightly different view.

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As we continued out the drive we came to the Buck Canyon viewpoint staring out miles into the canyon. The short trail leads to an overlook at the edge of these sheer, 1,000 feet high cliffs, illustrating the vastness of this staggeringly beautiful National Park. A huge landscape of cracked and fissured sandstone stretches all the way to the horizon. It’s one of those places where the scale of what you’re looking at is as impressive as its beauty. –

We moved on to the Green River Overlook and saw the Green River run through the canyon. This overlook view, from 6000 feet elevation, looks out across Soda Springs Basin towards the Green River. Here, the Green River is a tiny ribbon of water in one awe-inspiring canyon. An incomprehensible distance, the vista stretches out for a hundred miles to the horizon. A sandstone viewing area, sparsely decorated with juniper, marks the canyon rim and signals where a 2200 foot drop-off begins to the river far below. About halfway down into the canyons you can see the White Rim Trail which follows the river for miles.

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Later we went to Grand View Point where we could see nearly the whole canyon from that overlook. The canyon is so massive that roads and rivers looked like tiny lines from the overlook; it is repetitive but still it is hard to fathom its actual size but so it is spectacular.

Our final stop was a loop trail to see Mesa Arch. Mesa Arch is, undeniably, one of the spotlight attractions in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands, standing high above a canyon with a thin bridge at the top of the arch, providing an excellent backdrop for someone underneath the arch. The Canyonlands National Park web site describes the Mesa Arch Trail as a “mild walk,” a very accurate description of this very short loop. This loop travels across slickrock and dirt, but unlike other slickrock trails which are usually only marked by stone cairns, this trail has a fairly easy to spot path along it’s entire route. There are stairs carved into the stone, and the trail is is hemmed in by desert driftwood. The trail rises over a low hill and you’ll immediately begin to see some phenomenal views looking east toward the Colorado River.

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We left Canyonlands National Park and paid to enter Dead Horse Point, a state park, with another excellent visitor center with a great view. We drove to Dead Horse Point at the end of the park and saw the most wonderful view of Canyonlands from the opposite side of the canyon. From Dead Horse Point, we had a closer view of the rivers and mountains from a large pavilion and stone wall that stretched along the edge of the canyon.

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Since we were tired we moved on and drove thirty miles back to Moab. We got the car washed and then went to dinner at the Sunset Grill at the top of a hill. Our meals were fine but the service was poor. Krista, our waitress, never checked with us during our meal. We had to ask a busboy to get the waitress thinking she had forgotten about us. Krista added a 20% tip to our bill without any notification. We had no choice but to paid the bill but tried to phone the manager later only to get no response and disconnected. He phoned again and again the line was disconnected. Needless to say if you find yourself in Moab, Utah do not get sucked into the appeal of the restaurant high up on the hill, lousy service and an arrogant attitude makes for a poor experience. We decided to let it go since we were so tired from our busy adventure of the day.

Bryce National Park & Capital Reef – National Parks Road Trip – Day 13

We left Zion National Park early in the morning while it was still dark; so dark that as we entered the Zion-Mt Carmel it took a few seconds to realize we were in a tunnel. Emerging on the other side, and making our way on up the steep road, the drive became very picturesque as we saw mountains appear in a shadowy sky. As the sun rose, we saw more beautiful overlooks and a fog and haze over the Utah desert.

The 85 mile drive to Bryce Canyon National Park took us into the Long Valley, which follows the Virgin River throughout south central Utah. Immediately after turning east on Utah 12 we began to see interesting geological formations, including a small natural tunnel that the road went through. As we reached the park entrance booth there was a sign indicating visibility was poor, no refunds would be provided – but we had a pass so we went on it.

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As we drove the 18 miles to the end of the canyon at Rainbow Point. Rainbow Point is the highest point in the canyon and was completely encased in a cloud with a windy rain and a drop in temperature at 9,000 ft elevation. We worked our way back to the next overlook to get our first glimpse of the canyon at Black Birch viewpoint. Here we saw a wide canyon with spires and rock formations. As we drove to the next point at Ponderosa Canyon, it was still raining and cold. We continued along the rim of the canyon and stopped to see the natural stone bridge.

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Fortunately as we drove back to Bryce Point the sun cleared the sky and the temperature began to warm. As the sun moved across the canyon we saw beautiful colors and shadows on the rocks. Our brief hike lead us to the most spectacular view of Bryce Point with hundreds of spires and rock formations to Inspiration Point which was also a gorgeous vantage point of the hundreds of hoo doos throughout the canyon. We agreed that Bryce Park is the most amazing natural attraction we have ever seen, even more so than the Grand Canyon.

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After a nice buffet lunch we went to see Sunset Point. Again the view was so fabulous that we ranked Bryce Canyon National Park as the most beautiful national park of all.

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Leaving  Bryce we continued east on Utah 12, stopping at the Escalante Visitor’s Center where we learned that Escalante is not a single feature but a two million acre park. A 12 mile drive down a dirt road (complete with some washboards), we made our way to Devil’s Rocks. Here we got a close-up of hoo doos (rocks balanced on thin spires) and got to climb on the rocks. We had fun exploring and it was well worth the 24 mile detour.

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Continuing east on Utah 12 we crossed over Boulder Mountain, an 11,000 peak, with our pass topping out at 9600′. As Utah 12 makes it’s way down the northeast side of the mountain there are overlooks with views all the way to Capital Reef National Park. Utah 12 ended at Utah 24 in the small town of Torrey. I have driven many roads throughout North America and Europe and Utah 12 ranks up with the very best even though it is only 123 miles long.

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Eventually we made our way to Capital Reef to see massive sandstone formations, towering arches, ancient writings, and a valley of red rocks. The petroglyphs were easily seen and neatly done by the Fremont Culture dating back to 1300 C.E. After stopping at the Visitor Center we hiked a short way to get a better look at Chimney Rock, followed by a brief stop at the Goosenecks Trail to hike a few minutes to the overlook. We were able to see a great canyon and looking back we could also see Chimney Rock.

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The drive east/northeast on Utah 24 then I-70 continued to provide great geological views, seemingly ever changing. Eventually we reached Moab, Utah, tired, hungry and in need of gas for the car. The Broken Oar provided a great dinner, the local Comfort Inn some well needed sleep, and the next morning we were ready to head out again.

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Zion – National Parks Road Trip – Day 12

Zion National Park is 300 miles south of Salt Lake City, so despite our early start we didn’t arrive until mid-day. The drive down I-15 was punctuated by intermittent rain showers which did give us a number of excellent rainbows, as well as strange sights along the way like the Providence Lighthouse, in the middle of the Utah desert nowhere close to any water.

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There are two main visitor centers for Zion, the first as you come down from Salt Lake City is directly off off the interstate at the entrance to Kolob Canyon. After a brief stop here with the realization we weren’t quite there, we continued on through the small town of Touquerville and up the initial mountain until we arrived in Springdale, the main service town for the park, and location of our very overpriced hotel for the night

Because the canyon that makes up most of Zion is so small, and the park is so popular, personal cars are not permitted into the park unless you have reservations at the lodge. As we didn’t, we left the car at the main visitor center and took the shuttle bus. At first I was not in favor of this, but in the end it was very nice, as there is no traffic to speak of in the park, so car free we literally walked down the middle of the road for a couple of miles, moving over only for the occasion shuttle bus.

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We decided to take the shuttle to the end of the line of the six mile canyon. There were five stations for shuttles and each station had trails to explore the natural beauty of the canyon. Furthest up the canyon is the Temple of Sinawava, where we walked the riverside trail that was mostly paved until it reached the Zion Narrows Hike river trail. The Zion Narrows is the most narrow part of the canyon with steep cliffs lining the river that takes you trekking through the river as the trail. This trail is dangerous if it rains and can quickly change a calm stream into a raging wall of water. Sadly the day before 7 hikers had gone up the canyon before heavy thunderstorms arrived, and they didn’t make it out.

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The day we were there showed much evidence of the heavy rain and flooding that had occurred the day before. The aforementioned showery weather of the day continued on and off as light rain fell as we made it to the narrows.  The Narrows River Trail normally has pockets of chest deep water for hikers to maneuver as they wade through slippery rock along a challenging hike but this day the river was rambling fast so the narrows hike was closed to all hikers.

Coming back down the canyon we took the park shuttle to Big Bend, entry point to a short but steep trail to a very tall waterfall on the eastern wall. As noted, without traffic we could then walk down the road to the next shuttle station at Weeping Rock. This walk, essentially by ourselves in the middle of this canyon was spectacular, with canyon walls soaring 2000′ above us. One surprising feature of Zion is the vegetation was the amount of cacti present, reminding us that despite the rainy weather we were in the desert.

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After a brief lunch at the lodge we hiked the Emerald Pools Trail, which lead to a muddy trail that led behind an upper and lower stacked waterfall; hey we have panchos, what’s the worst that could happen? Getting us drenched, but well worth it, even though in hindsight it was likely a bit dangerous. It started to rain again so we took the shuttle back to the visitor center’s gift shop to buy some items. Hiking in the mud and rain was exhausting and we were still wet when we got back to our overpriced hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express.

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Dinner was at the Bit and Spur Restaurant. We had ribs and tilapia for dinner and Oreo ice cream pie for dessert. A good ending to a very tiring but great day.

Zion is highly recommended (which attests to the more than 3 million people a year that go). It is on my list to return some day in drier weather and hike the Narrows.

Northern Utah – National Parks Road Trip – Day 11 – Golden Spike National Historic Site & Salt Lake City

Monday morning had us going south from Jackson Hole, Wyoming before heading off to the west on a small state highway reaching a town called Freedom on the Wyoming/Idaho border. If ever there was a town that looked like a stereotypical redneck Idaho/Wyoming town it was Freedom. You had the feeling everyone was carrying a gun for ‘Freedom’. But we proceeded through without incident and made our way into the mountains past Tincup Mountain. As we were sailing down the canyon next to a creek we came around the corner to find a herd of sheep on the road, and some dogs attempting to control them onto the hillside, which eventually they did. Little did we know this was a precursor of things to come.

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A few miles further and we could see in the near distance a herd of cattle being driven down the road, lead by the farmer in his pickup truck. We had nowhere to go and asked a rancher what to do. He answered just drive slowly and the cows will go around us. The ranchers were on ATVs, in trucks, and on horseback moving a large herd. We inched forward and the cows worked their way around us but one brown cow stood stubbornly in our path and would not move. The stubborn animal stared at us only a few inches from the hood of our car. Then unexpectedly the stubborn cow started licking the front of the car. She seemed to enjoy licking the car swiping her tongue back and forth across the front of the car while the rest of the herd moved along the side of the car surrounding us from all sides.

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The cow licked the car hood and front grille working her tongue to eat the bugs stuck to the car while we laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. When she had enough bugs we inched ahead still laughing at the odd incident. The ladies at the end of the herd pulled up and asked if we were ok. Still laughing, we replied we were, just not something that happens to you in Ohio, or most anywhere else I have ever been. Later I had the opportunity to stop and inspect the car afterwards to find cow slime over the hood, taking a photo as evidence.

By mid morning we arrived in the small resort town of Lava Hot Springs, Idaho for a rest stop. Two buses of Korean tourists were finishing their baths in hot spring water pools which they believe to be therapeutic. The staff informed us they get many bus tours coming up from Los Angeles to Yellowstone from the Asian community and they all make a stop for a soak. It was a nice facility and the hot spring pools did not smell like rotten eggs like Thermopolis, however since we experienced hot springs before we moved on to Interstate 15 towards Utah.

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We took a detour from our itinerary to see the Golden Spike in Promontory, Utah. The spike represents the last spike to complete the first transcontinental railroad joining the Central Pacific Railroad from Omaha, Nebraska and the Union Pacific Railroad from Sacramento, California on May 10, 1869. Pressure from Congress forced the two companies to reach an agreement on a meeting place. After negotiations they finally decided to meet at the midway point at the end of track for each railroad company, which was at Promontory Summit.

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Promontory means the high point projecting into a body of water. Leland Stanford tapped four ceremonial spikes commemorating the event where the two railroads met. The actual golden spike is at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The Golden Spike site is part of the National Parks system displaying two working replicas of the train engines with tenders for the ceremony. The replicas #119 and Jupiter are nearly exact to the originals in style. The replicas are ornately painted and have brass bells and fixtures. The original locomotives were outmoded and sold for scrap long ago.

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We drove the auto tour that allowed us to trace the railroad noting important points of interest along the way at Promontory. Noted points such as the last climb, the parallel grading, cuts, and areas blasted to make this remarkable engineering project were marked on the trail. A memorial stood at one of the interest points honoring the Irish and Chinese laborers who worked on the rails. We drove the entire west and east stretch of rail line and saw a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake in the distance from the rail bed high point.

We got into Salt lake City about 3 pm to check into our hotel room at The Little American. The room had an excellent rating on Trip Adviser but when we entered the room it seemed as if we time warped to the 1950’s. The bath had very old fixtures and pink ceramic tile everywhere. The bed had a fluffy pink country flair to it and a very stained pink carpet. We left the hotel to explore the city wondering if we could get a beer in a city populated with Mormons who vow against alcohol. We found the Beerhive Pub and stopped for a beer, which we found amazing that a pub was about a block from Mormon Central. I had a Red Rock Honey wheat that was very good. Then we went to a Scottish store called The Edinburgh Castle looking for a mug for Beth. The store did not have a mug but did sell, tams, hats, kilts and other Scottish items.

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Then we came upon Temple Square, the location of the Mormon Tabernacle Church (temple as it is called here) which is only opened to Mormons.  A visitor center displaying a model of the temple showed the multiple levels of the temple that seemed to set a hierarchy for seating. Mormon women at the temple dressed in western 19th century clothing of bonnets and long skirted gowns assisted tourists and people who have made a pilgrimage to the temple. The display model also had cows at the lowest level in the temple facing outward in a circle. We learned that the twelve cows represent the twelve tribes of Israel. As we walked away from the temple, we noticed that many buildings were associated with the Mormon church and saw its influence throughout the city. Overall it was a surreal experience, sort of like a bad movie where everything looked like paradise before they took you hostage and brainwashed you – but perhaps I just watch too many movies, but best experiencing none the less after a stop at the Beerhive Pub.

We walked toward the Capitol building but it started to rain so we ran into an H& M store and shopped until it stopped. We found good traditional Utah fare for dinner, well perhaps not, but it was an excellent Italian restaurant, Michelangelo’s. The fettuccini dinner  and spicy pasta were excellent. As we ate, a movie was being made across the street. Actors were dressed in winter apparel and cotton batting lined the sidewalk as snow while Santa acted in the Hallmark movie.

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