This morning I hit the family ‘reset’ button in the parking lot of our hotel. If I am going to be honest, Quinn and I had our first (and only) fight of this road trip last night. I am not exactly sure what happened, perhaps it was the convergence of a perfect storm of emotions, but driving in to Salt Lake City (in the dark) served as a catalyst for this girl to have a mini-mom-meltdown of epic proportion.
After a good talk with my hubby, dinner and a night of sleep everyone woke up refreshed. I never try to ignore or not discuss these less than happy moments with our girls as it is a part of life! We talked, I apologized and we hugged in the parking lot and all agreed to ‘move on.’ Here is the picture we took outside our packed up vehicle as we committed to new energy – new day – and we were ready for adventure! This picture has become my 2nd favorite photo from our trip.
Salt Lake City is HUGE, clean and beautiful! We woke up early to drive downtown to listen to the Salt Lake City Tabernacle Choir at the historic Temple Square. The Temple Square is a 10 acre campus in the middle of downtown Salt Lake City owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This sacred square is said to attract between 3 to 5 million visitors a year! The Temple Square is the most popular tourist attraction in Utah – more popular than the Grand Canyon or even Yellowstone National Park!!
Although we planned well and arrived in time, we did not take in to account the large buildings and matrix of entrances to find the Tabernacle. We should have planned a little more cushion in to our itinerary to allow for getting a little lost on the Campus. However, we did arrive for the tail end of the service and was able to hear the Choir perform the Benediction which brought me tears…The Benediction has always been one of my favorite parts of a church service and the acoustics in this space were divine. The swirl of sound mixed with the beauty of the majestic space brought our family of five to a standstill and allowed for a feeling of the something sacred.
Every single person, young and old, that we met in Salt Lake City were kind, helpful and informative. The Mormon Square is a large area in Salt Lake City flanked with tall, cathedral style buildings. To walk through the square is reminiscent of being in a botanical garden – colorful, varied, beautifully placed gardens, baskets and statues at every glance. There are colossal water features that not only amaze, but seem to draw you in to sit and reflect on the finer points of life. One of my favorite features was a winding rock lined ‘river’ that meandered through the campus.
The Mormon Temple Square contains several libraries and museums. The Family History Library (closed while we were there because it was Sunday) is the WORLD’s largest genealogical library and is open to the general public for FREE. Our visit to the Square was brief and I have added Salt Lake City to my list of cities to return.
On our way to our vehicle, we stopped at a Starbucks to indulge in some drinks before our drive to Moab, Utah where we planned to hike Arches National Park. We all could not help but notice the cleanliness of the city and the numerous signs around town that instructed to not share money with panhandlers or homeless but to consider donating change or money to a number of organizations that help the poor.
I know I have said this before and it bears repeating again…when you road trip (especially with kids) it is important to embrace and remind everyone that the drive IS the vacation – especially out west where the topography is so unique and the spaces are so wide! The travel between Salt Lake City and Moab was almost 4 hours. We stopped along the way for a roadside picnic and I am happy to report our meal strategy continues to serve us well and allows for us to enjoy meals at a leisurely pace. You will see something in these pictures called “virga” – in the desert it is so dry, the rain ‘evaporates’ before it ever touches the ground!
Arches National Park! There are not enough adjectives in my limited vocabulary to describe Arches National Park. The best way for me may be through photographs – see below.
This hike to the Arches is NOT for everyone. Signs evoking the fear of death – heat exhaustion, dehydration. There are signs – large warning signs – that hikers drink at least 1 gallon of water a day while hiking, even in the winter. They warn that people have and will die not taking the necessary safety precautions. There are no walkways, benches…it is steep, rocky, with slick rock formations – it took us about an hour of traversing to reach The Arch. We arrived late afternoon and I can’t imagine what it would be like to hike this in mid day or mid summer. It was not an easy hike, but so worth it. The steep canyons and plethora of balancing acts of red stones and boulders are truly dumbfounding.
The best image I can use to describe this area is from Star Wars- Return of the Jedi..not only does Arches National Park have the feeling that the sand people are going to pop out at any moment or a pod racer is going to whiz by (I do believe Moab may have been used for one of the Star Wars movies!) but if you remember the scene when Hans, Leia and Chewie are in these space vehicles and jabba commands some of them into this large bowl shaped Venus flytrap looking compactor thing (my husband reminded me it is called the Sarlacc – google it – it is a perfect image of the hike to the to take our picture at the iconic Arch)…the famous Arch is on the opposite side of the hike where you have to carefully maneuver a slick cereal bowl rock formation to get to the other side. Hundreds of people line the rim with cameras to catch what I can only imagine is a breathtaking sunset. We did not stay for the sunset because I could not imagine hiking out with our family in the dark.
Like many things in life, the things that scare or push us the most end up being our biggest moments of growth and create the best memories. The walk out to the Arch for the view and photos, while frightening as a mother, were one of the highlights of our trip. I kept imagining one of my girls slipping off the steep back edge of the arch or into the Sarlacc’s tentacles and mouth at the front of the arch hungry and waiting…which never happened. At one point, I just had to look away…
After spending some time at the Arch, we hiked back out of the park and headed into the quaint town of Moab. Moab is a small desert town – I believe the population of this town is 5000. The economy of Moab is supported by tourists, outdoor activities (rock climbing, mountain biking) and mining – Potash (salt), uranium, oil, gas and manganese. As you drive through Moab you can witness first hand the ‘clean up’ and relocation of an old uranium mine. This project (expensive and funded by the government called the UMTRA Project began in 2009) has moved about 50% of the uranium tailings (radioactive waste from uranium mining) and due to budget cutbacks is not expected to be completed until 2032. Viewing the trains and railroads specifically designed to haul and transport this enormous radioactive material out of Moab to another location can make one take a pause and reflect on how this could serve as an example of how we sometimes do not think through the long term consequences of our short term decisions…what a mess that was left to be handled by people that had nothing to do with the decision to start that project.
We checked into our hotel we would be staying at for two nights and unfortunately, it was our least favorite – It was so-so — it felt run down and the beds did not offer that ‘ahhh’ when you went to sleep, it was more like ‘uh’. Moab is an expensive little town to stay. This hotel, which was not very ‘nice’ was $150.00 a night! After we checked in we all ate, took showers, watched Friends and did some laundry. We called it a night early as tomorrow we had an exciting day of adventure planned – a 4X4 tour of the Canyonlands and a white water rafting trip in the afternoon!