Sunday, September 8, 2013

Salt Lake City, Utah and Western Colorado

We spent Labor Day exploring Antelope Island which is in the southern end of the Great Salt Lake.  The Great Salt Lake is huge and 25% saltier than the ocean which is quite amazing.  They say that the high level of salt makes it extremely easy to float.  Because of its salinity, it is a unique environment for millions of native birds, brine shrimp, shorebirds, and waterfowl.  The island also has a population of about 500 buffalo and lots of antelope, hence the name of the island.  It was a wonderful way to spend the day.





I spent the next day exploring downtown Salt Lake City.  I started with a tour of the Capitol Building which was really informative.  The building is beautiful and filled with marble and paintings.  It was fashioned after the White House and it sits on a hilltop, further enhancing its grandeur.



After the Capitol tour, I explored Temple Square in the city which is where the first Mormon Temple was built.  They no longer offer tours of the temple itself, but there several city blocks containing many Latter Day Saints buildings.  I started at the Latter Day Saints Staff Building which has an observation deck on the 26th floor which is the perfect way to see how the square is laid out. Anyone wanting a birds-eye view of the square is kindly escorted with a personal guide.  I decided to visit the temple museum which was a great place to learn about the building of the temple with lots of photos and a huge diagram of the temple.  I then did a tour of the Latter Day Saints Conference Center which is a very unique facility able to accommodate 22,000 people with a rooftop landscape.  One half of the landscape is all desert-like native plants that you would find in the desert areas around Salt Lake.  The other half of the rooftop is planted with aspen trees and evergreens which would be native in the mountainous areas around the city. 




We left Salt Lake City and moved on to Grand Junction, Colorado which is in western Colorado and a new area for us.  We were only there for a few days, but this is an area that would be well worth allowing more time.

I started with Colorado's National Monument by driving the 23 mile Rim Rock Road through miles and miles of canyons and rock formations.  This whole area was stunning with sheer cliffs and red canyons and all kinds of breathtaking overlooks.  I also happened to catch some bighorn sheep in the canyon.  The first picture below is Coke Oven Overlook, followed by Independence Monument and finally bighorn sheep.




Grand Junction sits in a valley between the National Monument on one side and the Book Cliffs mountains and The Grand Mesa.  I spent the next day exploring the Grand Mesa which is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world.  It was a very scenic drive up to the mesa which had a totally different feel with quite a few lakes and lots of trees and greenery.  The only wildlife I caught on the mesa was a chipmunk enjoying sunflower seeds.  The drive down from the mesa was a 12-mile gravel road with narrow lanes and hair-pin turns.  It was a blast to slowly wind down the 11,000 foot high elevation with unending vistas.




I loved exploring the areas around Grand Junction and I know we will plan on another stop sometime in the future, as I'm sure there is so much more to learn about the area.

We are now in Breckenridge and enjoying cooler temperatures as we continue our gradual trek home.

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