Salt Lake City, Utah wasn’t on my wish list of cities to visit, in fact I knew very little about the city before I arrived. The only thing I had heard was that it was the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Mormon community, but other than that this would be a mystery tour.
My trip was because of a company I had been working with. Communication with them by email and phone had been challenging because of the 7 hours time difference so it seemed a trip to the US had become unavoidable.
We arrived in the evening and flew into the city just as the sun was setting, the view from the air was breathtaking, I hadn’t realised how big the mountains were or that there would still be snow. It was June and the weather was reporting over 80F, I hope I had packed the right clothes.
Salt Lake City was the home to the 2002 winter olympics and boasts some of the best winter sports and amazing powder snow conditions. Although the season was over I knew I would be visiting Park City to see the resorts.
The scenery was spectacular, the city nestles in a mountain valley with the Wasatch Mountains to the east and north. Although the mountains tower above us I was reminded that Salt Lake’s official elevation is 4,330 feet/1,320 meters above sea level. The city is situated on land once covered by the prehistoric Lake Bonneville. This ancient lake existed within portions of Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, with an elevation rising from 4,200 feet to 5,200 feet (1,280 meters to 1,585 meters) at some points. The eastern and northern portions of the city are located on a series of terraces, or former beaches, which are known locally as “the benches.”
Our guide for the next couple of days greeting us at the airport and drove us about 15 minutes to the centre of the city and to our hotel The Red Lion. It wasn’t quite the greeting we had hoped for as our hotel was under renovation and we were informed that there was no carpet in our corridor, too tired to complain we made our way to our room. As it happened the carpet appeared the following day and the hotel turned out to be in the perfect location for visiting the city sights.
The purpose of our trip was to visit a health supplement and food company as well as a farm and manufacturing facility for grass powders. Our guide Henrique explained the importance that the humidity of Utah plays in the creating of the supplements and because of these conditions Salt Lake City is now home to many of the world’s largest nutraceutical giants. The drive to the visit the alfalfa and grass farms was long and as Henrique described ‘quite uninspiring’. It was a long drive, just over two hours travelling across desert in temperatures reaching nearly 100F. You have to keep very hydrated in these temperatures and because we were now 5,000ft above sea level, the dry conditions and heat can cause headaches and nose bleeds!
How could anything possibly grow out here, but as we approached the farms the tractors were busy harvesting the grasses. The grasses were then juiced and turned into powder within a couple of hours of the harvest, the smell was a heady mixture of warm, sweet grass and the powders we tasted where amazing, very different to the usual dried grasses I had tried before. They where using a new technique enabling the powders to be classed as raw and one of the techniques we would be using for our own powders. The farms are irrigated using the melted snow from the mountains, giving them just enough water each month to grow the grasses.
Our work now over we set out on a drive to Park City, taking in the beautiful mountains and seeing the numerous ski resorts that would welcome ski enthusiasts from all over the world. We passed through Midway and a town of swiss style homes and chalets, it was hard to believe we were in the mountains of Utah. Even throughout the summer they have walking, cycling and horse back riding. Something I promised myself I would do the next time I come back to Utah.
Salt Lake City was quite a surprising little gem, it’s not a large city, in fact after a day and half we covered most of the city on foot. The city was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young, Isaac Morley, George Washington Bradley and several other Mormon followers, who extensively irrigated and cultivated the arid valley.
Although Salt Lake City is still home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), less than half the population of Salt Lake City are members of the LDS Church today. However the influence they have on the city is obvious as Temple Square stands proud with it’s amazing temple, tabernacle, offices and stunning conference centre which seats over 15,000 people and has a roof top garden of over 4 acres. The Salt Lake Temple, took 40 years to complete. Construction started in 1853, and the temple was dedicated on April 6, 1893 becoming an icon for the city and serves as its centerpiece. Over the four days we stayed at the city Temple Square was full of young brides and families who had travelled from all over the work to marry in the temple. It is estmated that some days can see up to 150 weddings taking place.
Our guide and his family were part of the Mormon congregation and it was inspirational to hear how they work together for their community. His youngest daughter was just about to return after being away for two years on her mission and his wife had just completed two years of her five year assignment in serving the Women’s Relief, helping women and young girls all over the world. The Mormon community appears to have had a peaceful influence on the city, young couples hold hands without any embarrassment (I can’t imaging the young teenagers of my home town openly looking this content and in love at such a young age), family units were large sometimes as many as 7 children in tow, but all were well behaved and smartly dressed. At a free open air concert in one of the many parks a couple of elderly friends started to waltz, families and children laughed as the fiddles and banjos played Irish gigs and country melodies. On our last Saturday afternoon we sat in an open air shopping centre and watched the children playing in the water fountains. As a street musician played on the keyboard a father and daughter put down their shopping bags and started to dance, then later a young couple not more than 17 or 18 started a waltz.. it was all a little bit surreal…
Salt Lake City was a friendly, clean, pleasant, safe and happy place to visit, there is huge choice of outdoor activities to try from hiking to cycling, horse riding to skiing.. if it wasn’t on your wish list of places to visit it might just be worth taking a look, I promise you will be pleasantly surprised.