Friday, March 28, 2008

Holy Week Part 1 Palm Sunday

Holy Week began with a moving service at Mt Tabor Lutheran Church celebrating both Palm Sunday, with waving palms, shouts of Hosanna, and a parade into the sanctuary, and Passion Sunday with a very moving reading of the Passion according to St Matthew. The readers were all adults with the exception of Jesus who was acted by a HS student, a last minute substitute. "Jesus" stood at the alter while the other readers were at the lectern and pulpit. It is gut-wrenching to watch the mood of the crowd change from excitement and shouts of Hosanna to shouts of Crucify Him. I, along with the rest of the congregation read the part of the crowd. The young man playing Jesus read well, and we were left with a feeling of what did we do?

Monday night we attended the performance by Garrison Keillor and were told the stories of what was happening in Lake Wobegone MN during Holy Week. It made us laugh and feel a little homesick.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Skiing at Alta Ski Resort

Because Wayne has been observing tests at night, on Wednesday March 19th he decided to take the day off. He spent the morning and early afternoon skiing at Alta Ski Resort , about 45 minutes from home, before heading into work at 4 PM.

He wanted me to come along, and I was ready to go a little after nine, after eating a big breakfast. Before you get too excited for me, (for getting back on the chairlifts) I need to tell you that I did not ski. In my defence, my back was still aching from my biking/Depot day and I did not want to aggravate it.

We had a lovely drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon. Wayne rented gear, bought a lift card, and was on the slopes by 10:30 AM. It was a gorgeous day! In Salt Lake City the temperature got to 65 and even up on the mountain it felt wonderfully warm, maybe 50? The sun was shining and there was little wind, so I pulled out my book and plopped down on one of the Adirondack chairs outside the lodge and facing the runs.

I had only been outside about 30 minutes when I felt like my face was burning. Wayne had taken our tube of sunscreen with him, so I grabbed my back pack and moved inside. I found a small table for 3 along a window wall of the canteen, and settled down to read and watch the skiers.

Wayne found me about noon. He didn't want to stop skiing to eat, as we needed to leave about 2:30 PM, so he just sat for a few minutes and showed me on the trail map all the runs he had tried so far.

Alta is a beautiful resort set only about a mile from Snowbird Resort and with about 5 runs that connect the two resorts. You can buy a pass for just Alta or a combination pass to ski on both. Alta has 7 lifts(the highest goes to 10,500 ft. and unfortunately all are chairlifts!) and 116 runs. Eight are green for beginners, not including the ski school slopes at the bottom, thirty are blue intermediate runs, and the rest are black diamond for the most experienced skiers.

Wayne stayed mostly on the green and blue runs and had a wonderful time; but even skipping lunch he was unable to go on all of them. Meanwhile I greased myself up with sunscreen and headed back out to the chairs. I finished one book and started on another. The day was so lovely that even though I had money to buy myself a tall chai and a treat to stay warm, I stayed in my chair and just drank cold water from my bottle, soaking up the sun, and enjoying the day.

Besides reading, I was also able to enjoy the gorgeous view of the resort, and listen in on the excitement of the families who sat down around me. The children were eager to tell of all the runs they had conquered. The Moms reminded them to ski safely and keep an eye on siblings. The Dads pointed out new runs they should try, and how even the greens can give them a challenge if they keep up speed and try to jump the hills just in front of us! Tourists new to the area shared with each other their opinions of nearby ski resorts, and places to see on "rest days" if they want to take a day off from skiing. I learned about a canyon a few hours North of us that sounded like a "must see" place. Everyone was friendly, happy, and enjoying the beautiful day. An older gentleman next to me made a phone call and said that the day was awful, windy, sleety and that his daughter was bitchy. His friend was lucky he hadn't made the trip. After hanging up, with all of us looking at him in surprise, he explained. His friend had recently injured himself and had to cancel his trip. He didn't want his friend to feel bad. He introduced us to his daughter when she skied up and told us how wonderful she was and winked!

So you see, even though I didn't get to swoosh down the slopes, or take in the views from the tops of the mountains, I did have a wonderful time at Alta!

Wayne got back just after 2:30 and was bushed. He decided next time he would be sure to eat lunch, even if it did take a little time, so he could get more nourishment and give his legs a break. I drove back down Little Cottonwood Canyon and we had the road almost to ourselves. The Prius got at least 100 mpg(the highest it shows) for the first 30 minutes of the ride home, making a nice ending to a perfect day in the mountains.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Celebrating St Patrick's Day

The Gateway, the complex where our condo is located, holds celebration events free of charge for the community. On Saturday March 15, they hosted the local St. Patrick's Day Parade. Unfortunately, Wayne needed to be at work, but at about 10:15 AM I left my condo and went out on the roof courtyard of our building (on the 5th floor which is one floor below our condo). With my camera in hand I found a good location against the courtyard wall and looked down on Rio Grande Dr. lined with people bundled up in blankets while sitting on chairs or the curb. The watchers were dressed in all sorts of crazy green attire and were cheerfully waiting the start of the parade even though the temperature hovered near 30 degrees (cold for SLC) and there was a bit of a wind from the NW.

We didn't have to wait long before police on motorcycles opened the parade at 10:30. Unfortunately that's when my camera flashed that my memory card was full so no more pictures for me. I thought about running back upstairs, down-loading the pictures, and then deleting, but I knew Wayne liked to back them up somewhere else and that I didn't know how to do. Besides that would mean I would miss the parade! So I stayed where I was and enjoyed every moment of the 2 hour long parade.

There were the usual things you expect in a parade: local high school marching bands, politicians running for office, Police and firemen in their vehicles, floats made by local businesses and organizations, cars holding important people and a few horse-drawn carriages. (One horse left a mess right below me and I was entertained the rest of the parade watching marchers try to avoid stepping in it.) There were stilt-walkers, Shriner's in little cars, Scouting groups and lots and lots of candy thrown by everybody passing by.

There were a few things unique to St.Paddy's Day parades: family clans marching behind banners, Irish dog breeders walking their dogs, representatives from every local Roman Catholic school marching with their banners, bagpipers and Scottish clubs (I guess they don't get their own parade.)

And then there were things new to me in parades: a Civil War re-enactment group with foot soldiers from both sides marching and carrying their respective flags, followed by their women in period costumes, and finally their officers on horseback; what looked like a mini-car driving in circles that was actually a bright green coffin with a giant shamrock on the cover, followed by a 1950' s hearse and then a modern hearse with signs saying they were sponsored by a local mortuary; and a stuck float (the very first float tried to fit under a pedestrian bridge over the road and got stuck. It had tried to go under the tallest part of the bridge which luckily was way to the west side, and there it sat for the rest of the parade with the riders waving at other floats who squeezed past. Some of the floats were pulled by Semi-truck cabs and they really had to slow and squeeze over to fit in the space left free by the float.) I was going to go down after the parade finished to see the stuck float up close, but they backed it out before I had a chance just as the parade finished.

Because Wayne had missed all the excitement of the parade, we decided to go out for an Irish supper to celebrate. The day had rapidly deteriorated after the parade and it was sleeting pretty hard when we left to go to Murphy's Bar and Grill. So instead of walking we hopped on the TRAX and only had to walk a few blocks through the sleet and hail.

We had to buy a 3 week membership in order to enter the pub, but didn't have to wait to be seated. Another thing about private clubs; they all seem to be smokey. We were seated where we could watch a TV that had on basketball. They didn't have a regular menu, just a card sitting on the table with 3 choices of Irish fare. Wayne had Corn Beef and Cabbage with an Irish Stout and I had Irish Stew in a bread bowl with a Killian's. The place was crowded with 20-30 year olds, most of whom were smoking so we didn't stick around after our food and beers were gone.

The sleet had changed to giant snowflakes but we still took the TRAX home where we watched the movie, My Dog Skip, and then an episode of the Irish RM before heading to bed.

Wayne had a test on the night of the 17th, but was able to leave early, after the intro, as I had bought tickets to see Garrison Keiller at Abravanel Hall and the show started at 7:30 PM. Wayne picked up Mexican take-out on his way home, which wasn't exactly Irish but we could eat it fast and still get to the Hall on time. The Hall was designed by the same architect who designed Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis so when we entered the performance hall it felt like coming home. We had good seats on the main floor and enjoyed one and a half hours of his humorous stories, poems and songs. He was dressed as he does for his radio show, in black suit with red tie, red socks and red high-top tennis shoes. The stage held only a stool and microphone and the only action was watching as he changed from standing to sitting to standing again. We enjoyed it very much but noted that although he had many references to Holy Week, he never mentioned that it was St. Patrick's Day! This seemed odd to me as most of the audience were dressed in green.

After the performance we walked home in a round-about way so we could go by Lumpy's, another club that was having live music, special Irish drinks and karaoke. We peeked in but decided it wasn't what we were interested in tonight, and instead headed home where we made mint tea and added Bailey's Mint Irish Creme to warm us up while we did a crossword puzzle. It was a very nice ending for our celebration of St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Depot after biking City Canyon

There is a nightclub just across the street from our condo called the Depot. It has a few bands performing there each week. Wayne and I noticed that the Young Dubliners were performing the week before St. Patricks Day and after listening to a few of their songs on Rhapsody we decided to go.

It was Saturday, March 8, a day threatening rain but not too cold, so after biking to the barber and missing a little misty rainfall while inside, we got on our bikes and headed N up the mountain neighborhood known as The Avenues.

A few times I had to get off my bike and push as the road was just too steep, but eventually we got up to 11th Ave and B Street where we got onto N Bonneville Dr., a scenic downhill ride into City Canyon. We switched to the City Canyon Rd/trail (all uphill) and managed to get to rest stop #17 before I just couldn't go uphill anymore. But what a beautiful place to rest!

We finally got back on our bikes and braked and coasted downhill all the way back to our condo. The sun was setting and my hands were frozen by the time we were back home. I took a shower to clean up and warm up while Wayne did some computer work, and then we dressed in nice casual clothes and headed out to check out the Depot.

We stopped in at a restaurant that shares the space on the north end of the old Union Pacific Depot but decided it was too fancy for our dress. We noticed a line forming outside the nightclub so we decided to get tickets before eating. We bought tickets from a young man who couldn't make the show, and after hearing that the Depot served food, decided to stand in line until 8 so we could get in and get a seat.

About 15 minutes to 8 people started going in. Apparently they knew the band or had a special pass, as the rest of us just waited. Bouncers came down the line and had one member of each party sign a form to "join the club", and after checking IDs, stamped our hands. (One of the interesting things about SLC, which is slowly being phased out, is that alcohol can only be served in private clubs where one must first pay a membership fee. Now, many restaurants may also serve alcohol as long as one buys food.)

We finally began to go in and after giving our tickets and showing our stamps we headed up the stairs to the 2nd floor. There were tables on platforms around the edge of the large dance floor but they all seemed to be reserved. Tall stools around the outside edge of these platforms were already taken by the early arrivals so we headed up to the third floor which was a U shaped balcony looking down on the stage and main floor. Again the tables on the edge of the balcony were all reserved, and the first row of tall stools were also claimed, but Wayne and I found 2 stools on the East wall. The Depot had 2 giant screens mounted on our level near the stage area and we had a clear view of them, but couldn't really see the stage.

We noticed only one other couple near our age, most of the audience seemed to be in their 20s & 30s. Wayne got us beers and we settled onto our stools and were entertained by watching our neighbors, the end of the Jazz game (which was broadcast on the large screens), and the bouncers who were keeping people out of the reserved table area (you needed a wrist band to prove you were part of the party that reserved the tables). I think some money may have passed hands too, as I saw a Bouncer get chairs from a back area and place them along the front rail behind the tables for a few patrons.

At 9 PM the warm-up band began and they were a local Irish music band. We enjoyed their music but had to stand on tip-toes to see anything other than what was on the big screens. Nobody was running the cameras for this band as sometimes the soloist wasn't even on the screen! I had to use the restroom and it was a pleasant surprise. I left early enough, expecting a long wait in line, but found a new spacious facility with more stalls than the Metrodome, and no waiting! On the way back to our stools I stopped on the steps where I had a great view of the stage, until the bouncers moved me along.

The early band had warmed the crowd up and the Young Dubliners began a little after 10:30PM. Wayne had gone down one level to the main bar and brought back a giant pretzel and more beer which was our supper. The crowd was very rowdy, singing along and dancing and jumping to the music. Sometimes it was hard to even see the screens! Instead I listened to the music and watched all the commotion going on around me.

One table particularly interested me. It was center front of the balcony, and remained empty until just before the main act. A waitress who had been waiting on all the reserved tables, brought to this empty table 4 brandy snifter sized wine glasses and a large bottle of red wine. This intrigued me as everyone else in the place was drinking out of kegger-style plastic cups (a good decision by management with all the jumping around!) About 15 minutes before the main act, the waitress came back to the table and opened the bottle to breathe. Then, with about 10 minutes to spare, the party arrived led by a woman close to my age with short, neon-pink hair. She was well known to the staff and received hugs from a few. She had with her a few hunky looking young men and another older woman. I didn't recognise her but assumed she was someone famous. Watching their table was great entertainment for me when I couldn't see the stage or even much of the screens as our neighbors jumped and danced to the music.

The Young Dubliners played more Irish Rock than traditional music and my ears were ringing by midnight. It was a fun experience but I was feeling old and tired before they were done. We stayed through their encore and it was only when the lights all came up and I slid off my high stool for the last time, that I realized how stiff and sore I felt.

I blame my pulled lower back muscle on pushing my bike up the Avenues and later the City Canyon trail, but probably sitting on a tall stool for 4 hours and craning to see the stage, or at least the big screens, did not help. Ten days later I still have twinges in my back, especially when I have to sit too long. Maybe I am too old to be going to nightclubs to enjoy rock bands! I know if we plan to go to the Depot to see a band again, I will find out how to reserve one of the tables with normal chairs and a view of the stage!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Brighton Ski Resort

It is said that Utah Resorts are blessed with dry, light and plentiful snow, maybe the most skiable snow in all the world. It is true that annually they get over 500 inches of dry fluffy snow. So when one moves to Salt Lake City, even only temporarily, it seems mandatory to experience skiing as only the montains of Utah can offer. At least that's what Wayne thought.

I had had a bad skiing experience almost 40 years before, when I had the unbelievable good luck to ride up a "mountain" in Northern MN with the best-looking boy in my grade. He had just explained how he had saved all his money to purchase his new skiis and this was his first chance to try them out. When the chairlift reached the top he stepped off and I suddenly realized I hadn't. What could a 16 year-old girl do, who was trying to impress this young man, but jump? I was only about a foot above the ramp but jumping made me lose all control and I found myself sliding right for him, and horror of horrors sliding right over the top of his new skis, leaving 2 long scratches. Needless to say, I avoided him the rest of the ski trip, and have tried to stay away from chair lifts ever since!

I have skiied since; I went with the girls on Family Day at Hyland Hills, (back when they were in grade school and learning to ski on a field trip with gym class), and we took the family to Keystone in Colorado 2 springs ago, but I stayed away from chairlifts whenever possible.

Now here we are in Utah on a beautiful Saturday in March, heading up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton Ski Resort. Wayne decided on Brighton for our first attempt as a co-worker had said it was where her children learned to ski and she highly recommended it.

We decided to rent everything there and take lessons as they had a great deal; equipment lessons, and lift tickets for a reasonable price. We got tickets, were fitted with equipment and had a 1/2 hour before lesson time; enough time to grab a quick lunch-a sandwich and milk. Then I reported to the absolute beginners and Wayne to a group working on turning.

My class had 13 students and 2 instructors. Wayne's class had 2 students and 1 instructor. My class began at the very beginning, only putting on 1 ski until we had mastered moving on it. It didn't take long for the class to naturally divide into 2 groups- those who could stop and those who couldn't! I am proud to say I was in the advanced group and we soon moved off the bunny slope with the magic carpet and all the toddler classes. That's when I found myself in line for the chair lift.

I rode up for the first time with Billy, a 20 something who was eager to learn. We had a nice visit as the lift went up and up. Then it ended; Billy stood up and slid down the ramp, while I pushed myself off the chair, slipped back and landed on my behind (at least I didn't scrape Billy's skis!). My instructer, Kevin was in the chair behind me and he hauled me up and out of the way. He took us to the side of the lift and talked to us about getting down; use the snowplow, widen the back when you find yourself going too fast, turn to the side with skis parallel on the slope to rest.

I took off near the back of our group and made it down without falling or resting but my hips were killing me (Have you ever tried to snowplow straight down a mountain without stopping or turning?)

One of the benefits of being in a class is that you get to enter the lift line from the lesson queue so we had minimal waits. My second ride up was with Naomi, a young women from North Carolina who was on her third class; she just couldn't understand how to turn. She was in Utah with her fiance who loved skiing and really wanted her to enjoy it too. She had a great attitude. In too little time we were once again at the top. Naomi slipped off the seat and glided down the ramp. I did not and found myself on the ground again, once more picked up by Kevin.

This time Kevin had us follow him a short distance making frequent turns. He then sent us down the mountain at our own speed. This time I could slow down just by turning and I really enjoyed my trip down. Our group waited at the bottom trying to spot Kevin. Finally we saw him about half way down with Naomi, who still hadn't got the hang of turning without falling. My group decided to go back up rather than wait for Kevin and Naomi, but I waited hoping to get some help with the lift.

After about 15 minutes they joined me. Kevin had seen the others on the lift. He told me I didn't have to wait. I explained about the lift and so this time the 3 of us rode up together (it was a 3 person lift). Kevin told me I would do it this time and I did but I think he had my elbow! He told me I needed to stand up straighter as I got off, leaning forward like a ski-jumper. I lean forward bending at the middle so my weight in back makes me fall. :)
Our lesson had been going for over 2 hours so we were on our own once we got to the bottom. Instead of heading down to the lift I took a side path near the bottom and skiied to where our lessons started just as my phone rang.

It was Wayne sitting on the canteen's deck wondering where I was. He had started on green trails but quickly his teacher moved them to blue runs where they worked on parallel turns and faster speeds. He wanted to do another run but I was bushed so I told him to go ahead and I'd meet him on the deck when he was done.

It was then that I realized I couldn't get out of my skis! I knew there was a release somewhere but couldn't remember where. I tried poking things in front of my boots like my CC skis but nothing happened. Then I saw Kevin standing with other instructors writing on clipboards about 50 feet away. I poled myself over and admitted I couldn't remember how to get out. He said that was an important thing and that he should have remembered to remind me, and he showed me the release (behind my boot!). I took off my skis and climbed up steps to the deck. I found a spot to store my skis and sat at a picnic table. Around me many people were packing up for the day. Brighton has night skiing and the day passes were just about up. I wished I had brought my own money as I was suddenly cold and hungry.

Then Wayne slid up and said he wanted one more run; would I come? I told him no but I would take his money! He took off and I struggled inside (I didn't quite have the knack of walking in ski boots!) and bought myself a cup of hot cocoa and a giant cookie. It tasted so good but I decided to save 1/2 for Wayne. When I thought he should be back down, I stuffed the end of the cookie in my pocket, and balancing skis, poles and a 1/2 cup of cocoa I struggled down the slope to the entrance of the rental building.

I was never so glad to get out of those ski boots and back into my own hiking boots. We got our rentals back with minutes to spare, and headed out to catch a van back to our car. (We had arrived too late to park in the main lot and had to park at a secondary lot a mile down the road.) But we just missed the van so we walked back, enjoying the beautiful scenery. We had left our camera in the car, so we drove back to the main lot and took the picures posted here.

The drive back down Little Cottonwood Canyon was very slow with lots of skiiers leaving at once, from both Brighton and Solitude, another resort we had passed on the way up. But we had a nice visit with Emily on my cell phone until we lost cell coverage.
Then we saw a moose standing in the creek, as well as gorgeous views of the snow covered mountains with the setting sun making them sparkle.

All in all it was a wonderful day and now I can say I skiied in the mountains of Utah!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Broadway Across America-Utah

Salt Lake City has some very nice theaters which offer various cultural events throughout the year. An organization called Broadway Across America-Utah brings touring Broadway shows to Salt Lake City and Wayne and I have been able to see 2 of their productions since our arrival.

The first, on Friday the 22 of February, was Menopause the Musical. We saw it at the Jeanne Wagner Theater, a modern theater in downtown SLC. The musical is listed as "the Hilarious Celebration of Women and the Change". It is the story of 4 women who keep running into each other while shopping a sale at Bloomingdales in NYC. The songs are parodies of familiar pop tunes from the 60's and 70's. The 4 actresses did a good job of sharing some of the symptoms commonly associated with menopause in a light-hearted manner. Our audience was 95% women ( as I think most audiences for this musical probably are). The playbills we received had inserts by local clinics with medical information on variouse menopause symptoms.

We were entertained by a large group of women, cancer survivors, who had attended a dinner in the banquet hall before the show and came into the theater dressed in feathery boas of bright pink or purple. These women came into the theater primed to have a great time and led the crowd in laughter for each new number. Their laughter was contagious and they made the event a fun place to be.

I couldn't help but feel that the musical could have said so much more. Many great musicals have mixed comedy in with a serious message for the audience to take away. I didn't feel anything for the actresses when the show was over other than being entertained. I didn't feel their loss, as an important part of their life was ending. I wish there had been more!

The second musical was The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It was performed at Kingsbury Hall, an older theater on the campus of the University of Utah. On Saturday, March 1st, Wayne and I took the TRAX to the University and walked through the campus in a light snowfall to the theater. Not knowing how long it would take to get there we arrived more than 1/2 hour early. This turned out to be exciting as we were asked to audition to be participants of the spelling bee (each production includes 4 members of the audience). I declined, not being proud of my spelling, but Wayne filled out a form, was interviewed by a member of the production, and was chosen to be one of the 4!

He joined me in our seats 5 rows from the stage just before the musical started, having received his instructions. He was to go onstage when called, just be himself, and spell to the best of his ability after first asking for the definition of the word and to hear it used in a sentence.

He was able to spell 2 words; jihad which he spelled correctly, and kannikanik which he missed. He was onstage for the first 20 minutes of the show and got to participate in 2 of the musical numbers as well as watch a few others from his spot on the risers with the other contestants. One of the actors, who was doing "community service", gave Wayne a big hug and a juice box and escorted him off the stage when he missed his word.

This musical took a look at the lives of the 6 young people who were contestants as well as the adults who were at the bee. It made us think about the pressures we put on young people, the attitudes and behaviors that make good parenting, what happens to people when pressured to win at all cost, and choices we have. There was lots of comedy mixed in with the songs, but also some tradgedy and this time we left the theater with a lot to think and talk about.

I know that musical theater isn't for everyone, but it is one of the things I enjoy most in my life and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't tried it!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Antelope Island

Utah is an amazing place to sight-see.
Situated on the western side of the Rocky Mountains it has unbelievable landscapes that have been preserved in
5 National Parks, 6 National Monuments, 2 National Historic Sights, 9 National Forests, and 42 State Parks.

We spent our second Saturday in Utah visiting Antelope Island State Park; the largest island in the Great Salt Lake and just minutes from Salt Lake City.

Antelope Island has artifacts showing that people lived there as long as 6000 years ago. It also has the oldest permanent residence in Utah still standing-the Fielding Garr ranch home built in 1848.

The island is now the home to free-roaming herds of bison(remnants of a herd once ranched), bighorn sheep, mule deer, and proghorn antelope. It is also home to bobcats, coyotes, reptiles, shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors and chukars.

The Island is 15 miles long and 4.5 miles wide. The highest point is Frary Peak at 6,595 feet above sea level. Antelope Island is connected to the shore by a causeway found about halfway between Salt Lake City and Ogden UT. (20 minutes from our home)

We arrived in late afternoon after taking care of some weekly chores so we only had a few hours to explore the island before the causeway closed for dark.(winter hours)

We went first to the visitor center where we learned all the above information and a lot about the geology and about the Great Salt Lake itself. The lake is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi-75 miles long and 28 miles wide. But it is only 33 feet deep at it's lowest and this varies with the seasons. It is fed by 4 rivers that carry tons of minerals into the lake each year and there is no natural outlet so water leaves by evaporation. This makes the lake very salty; between 4 and 28% in different parts of the lake (compare this to the ocean which is 3% salinity)

The lake was low on the day we visited as the snowmelt in the surrounding mountains had not yet begun.

From the Visitors Center on the North end of the island we drove to Buffalo Point, a peak of 4785 ft on the northern half of the island. We parked our car at the concession stand and followed the trail to the top of the peak, where we saw great views of the island and the Great Salt Lake.

On the drive up and the drive back we passed bison on the side of the road, which is probably why it is called Buffalo point

Walking along the top of Buffalo Point we were amazed to find hoofprints from the buffalo as well as buffalo pies indicating that the large animals wandered way up to the point and even wound their way among the many rock formations scattered all over the top of the point.

We stayed soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the views despite a brisk wind blowing off the snowy peaks and across the partially frozen lake.

From Buffalo Point we tried to drive the rest of the scenic roads around the island but the slow speed limit and the setting sun combined to force us to turn around before we had made it to the southern tip of the island and the historic ranch house.

We kept our eyes open but only saw bison grazing and a few birds.

Approaching dusk found us heading back out the causeway and saying good-bye to Antelope Island. Then off to our right we spotted coyotes moving across the frozen bay of the Great Salt Lake right next to our car. We were thrilled to get several pictures. A very nice way to end our visit to Antelope Island.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cinderella, the perfect Valentine

We had been in SLC one week and had settled into routines when Valentine's Day arrived; our first holiday in Utah. Both Wayne and I had shopped earlier in the week and we were able to have our presents on the table at breakfast.

I spent the day thinking about the ballet. When I was a little girl my dream was to be a ballerina. It never happened, but I did get to meet a few when Emily took ballet. Three years in a row she was chosen to play a mouse in Continental Ballet Company's production of "The Nutcracker". I was thrilled to be a backstage chaperone and even got to help with some quick costume changes in the wings for the principle performers.

Wayne has never been a big fan of ballet so we had only gone to productions that included Emily.

Then 2 years ago Emily and I went to see a production of "The Nutcracker" at Northrup. It was wonderful and I thought to myself I should go to the ballet more often.

When we arrived in SLC and I saw that Cinderella was opening on Valentine's Day, I asked Wayne if he'd like to go and he said sure.

So on Valentine's evening, after a wonderful dinner at McGrath's Fish House, I found myself in the 5th row watching Ballet West's production of "Cinderella" on opening night. The production reminded me of the one by our Children's Theater, for the 2 ugly step-sisters were played by men! One of these men played Prince Charming on other nights. Almost all of the roles were shared by 3 different dancers so you could go to the show on 3 different nights and see totally different people in the roles. During the intermission I imagined how different our Ugly Stepsister would look as Prince Charming!
I enjoyed every moment, totally engrossed in the story, the music and the dance. The settings and costumes were wonderful. The dancers leaped and twirled and lifted, making my heart soar with them! It was truly a magical evening. The audience included many young girls out with their Dads, and I wished that I could have shared it with my girls.

Wayne enjoyed the staging, which was wonderful, and appreciated the talent of the dancers and the music by a chamber-size orchestra in the pit. He said we can go to the ballet again if I would like, so maybe I will write about the ballet again.

There were no photographs allowed at the performance, and we didn't bring our camera anyway, but we took a picture when we got home.

Happy Valentine's Day

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sunday Worship

We have spent 4 sundays in Salt Lake City. Our very first Sunday we found a small church that we can walk to (about a mile and 1/2) from home. It is called Mt Tabor Lutheran Church and it is celebrating it's 100th anniversary!

It is a very small church averaging between 60 and 75 attendees on the 3 Sundays we visited. The service is traditional and we found it very welcoming. It lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
I think the services last that long for two reasons. The people of Utah seem to read at a noticably slower pace than we do in MN so the lessons and prayers take a longer time. Also at the time of the peace it seems that every person shakes the hand of every other person, adults and children in the whole congregation!
They have an educational time before the service and a fellowship time after. Wayne has had several members approach him about joining the choir! They currently have about 10 members.

We had an interesting experience our second week. Another visitor was quite outspoken during the service, shouting out comments all through the service until he left during the peace. The members welcomed this stranger despite his unusual dress and behavior. A member followed him out of the sanctuary and offered him a cup of coffee, encouraging him to stay. I was struck by how this small congregation truly was welcoming to all, even to one whose actions made me uncomfortable. It was a good lesson in how to really follow Jesus!

Last Sunday instead of attending Mt. Tabor, we went to the service of music and the spoken word at the Tabernacle in Temple Square. It was our first stop in Temple Square although we have walked through the square several times. Once again we were warmly welcomed. We arrived about 15 minutes before the broadcast began. The main floor was quite full so we climbed up and sat on the side in the balcony. The taping lasted for 1/2 hour. The choir sang 6 hymns and were accompanied by a full orchestra. The organ played one song solo and the narrator Lloyd Newell also gave a short thought for the day. It was amazing to listen to such wonderful music in a building with world renowned acoustics. We enjoyed it very much!
Although we have missed worshipping at Woodlake and seeing our church family each Sunday, we have been warmly welcomed and have had an inspirational experience with fellow Christians in Salt Lake City.

Hiking in the Wasatch Mountains

Our first weekend in Utah we took a drive up Mill Creek Canyon Road It is a small road about 7 miles long that winds up into the Wasatch mountains just east of SLC. What once was mining claims has been given to the boy scouts for camps. There are many trails through the Nat'l. forest for hiking, biking, and cc skiing.

We drove the road until it was closed for winter. We stopped and turned around and then stopped at the first trail head that had room for our car to park. We started up a trail called church fork trail which seemed appropriate as it was a lovely Sunday afternoon. The snow on the ground seemed to be about 3 feet deep but the trail itself was hard-packed by snowshoers so we were able to climb for about 1 1/2 hours before giving up and heading back to our car as the sun sank behind the mountains. We spent the entire hike traveling beside a small creek that tumbled down our canyon. We never got to the magnificent summit with supposedly gorgeous views of the SLC valley. Oh well, maybe when we are better acclimated to the altitude, or there is less snow, or we start earlier, we will make it to the top! And we will bring a camera!

Closer to home we have hiked 2 trails that we can walk to the trailhead from our condo.

The first was the Jordan River Trail that follows the river from Provo almost all the way to the Great Salt Lake. We walked west from our condo, across the railroad tracks and under I-15 to the Jordan River. It has paved trails that we walked one evening before sundown.
This trail we usually visit on our bikes, as it is flat and we can go for many miles. It connects many neighborhood parks and some special ones like this Japanese garden we found.

The second neighborhood trail is one of our favorites. It is called the City Creek Canyon Trail and it can be accessed in a number of ways. We have started at City Creek park just east of Temple Square and also from the Capital building at the top of State Street. Either way it has been a beautiful walk.

We usually go about 10 miles including the city streets we follow to get to the canyon. From our home at the Gateway, we climb over 500 feet along this trail. (Wayne has verified this with his e-trex).

It is amazing to be walking city streets one minute and suddenly you find yourself in a wilderness area with warning signs for bear, moose, mountain lions and snakes. It reminds me of slipping into the river valley trails back home (although without the elevation!)

When Wayne gets home early on a weekday or when he doesn't need to go in to work on a weekend, we try to explore one of these close trails. When the weather warms we hope to head south to the National Parks where we will have more hiking news to share!

The Library

I had only been In Salt Lake city 2 days when I made my first visit to The City Library.

Our condo had a TV but no reception. I had my laptop but had no internet service. We were supposed to have both, so during the week I waited to have these services installed, I visited the library often.

The Main library is about a mile from our condo. Somedays I would walk all the way there and back and some days I would take the TRAX.
This light rail system was built for the 2002 Olympics and runs through downtown SLC. I would hop on at the arena and ride free in the downtown free-zone, hopping off just a few blocks from the library.

The Main Library is a beautiful new building that won library of the year in 2006. The librarian was happy to give me a provisional card until I brought in mail with my name and address (not hand-written). I gratefully checked out books, cds and DVDs.

But my favorite part of visiting the library was to climb the spiral stairs up to the fifth floor, then cross the catwalk to the windowed-wall of desks set up for computer use. (These desks were on floors 2-5 but I liked best the view from the 5th floor, where I could gaze out the window across the downtown and had great views of the mountains as well.

Here I would hook up my laptop to power (the first time I forgot my power cord and could hardly read the words in the bright sunlight) and connect to their wireless network and before I knew it I was reading e-mails, blogs, and articles of home.
There is something wonderful about a downtown library. I would be surrounded by business people, college students, families and the homeless. The warm, bright space attracted many different people, all enjoying the comfortable leather chairs, views of the city, fireplaces, wi-fi, and of course the books; thousands of books.
As my church bookclub was reading a children's book for Feb., I went down to the lower level and explored the children's section. Besides all the books, there were wonderful play areas and displays sure to inspire a child's imagination.
Is there anywhere in the world as wonderful as a library on a blustery winter day?
I must visit the new downtown Minneapolis library when I get back to MN