Tag Archives: national park

Four Corners

Four Corners is a really strange name for a geographical region. It comes from the point where the borders of four states (Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico) meet. Even in a country with such crazy, straight line, borders like the US it is a unique place. There is a monument (about which I write later) but it is not the only, or even the biggest, attraction of this region. And, as there is no strict definition of the region, I will allow myself to stretch it a bit.

I entered the San Luis Valley from the east, crossing the spectacular Sangre de Cristo Mountains at the 9413 feet high La Veta pass. My first destination was the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, the newest park in the whole National Park system. Established in 2004, it protects the tallest sand dunes in North America (rising up to 750 feet from the base). Driving north on Colorado Hwy 150, the dunes are clearly visible rising from the expansive and flat valley floor. The best view can be seen around sunset, when it’s easy to understand where the name of Sangre de Cristo Mountains (blood of Christ) came from. It is a fantastic view with the red mountains as a background to the dunes. Simply begging for you to take out your camera.

Pinyon Flats Campground has 88 sites, some with simply amazing views over the dune field. I highly recommend spending a night there but be ready for low temperatures. During my visit, sometime in the middle of May, it was freezing cold. Take something better than the flimsy, cheap tent I bought. Still, the view of the stars over the dunes was fantastic and well worth all of the chill.

The park itself is rather small, perfect for a short visit. Some trails offer possibility of hiking high into the mountains but the biggest draw are the dunes themselves. Following day, like most of the visitors, I decided to hike the High Dune. There are no official trails on the dunes so you can choose your way as you please. The task of getting on top looked fairly easy as it was just 650 feet climb from the parking lot. Boy, how wrong that perception was. In fact, it took me more than an hour of hard climbing to get to the top. Every three steps up were followed by sliding two steps down. Add strong chilly wind and elevation well over 8000 feet and you get the picture. The excellent view from the High Dune extend to all of San Louis Valley, as far as San Juan Mountains to the west and it definitely justifies the struggle to get there. Coming down took surprisingly little time, maybe as little as 15 minutes.

From the San Louis Valley I continued driving west on US Hwy 160 which crosses the San Juan Mountains at the 10857 feet (3309m) Wolf Creek Pass. All I can tell you is that I definitely wouldn’t like to drive it in winter. West of the pass it was long winding route before reaching my next major destination, the Mesa Verde National Park, which was established to protect one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the world. I arrived in the evening and the campground location at over 7800 feet meant another freezing night. Why do I always choose the coldest locations for camping? Never mind.

The Anasazi (or politicly more correctly called Ancestral Puebloans) inhabited the area anywhere between 550 to 1300 AD and left plenty of buildings, ruins and artefacts. There are various theories why they left (or why did they choose this region in the first place) but no one knows for sure. The biggest draw to the park are large cliff dwellings built under the overhands of the canyon walls. They are one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen. It is hard to imagine how these people managed to construct them in 12th century (when the most impressive structures were build).

The largest dwelling is quite appropriately called the Cliff Palace. It contains 150 rooms and 23 kivas which are round sunken rooms used for ceremonies. According to archaeologists the site was of high administrative and ceremonial importance. Looking at this amazing complex you don’t have to be a scientist to realize its importance. It can be visited during an one hour ranger led tour which is well worth of the hassle of booking at the visitor centre. The ranger who led my tour was absolutely fantastic. Knowledgeable, passionate, patient. The hour passed like it was 15 minutes or less. Getting into the palace involves descending some rocky steps but it’s nothing comparing with another dwelling I visited, the Balcony House.

With only 40 rooms it is smaller than the Cliff Palace and Spruce Tree House or some other less known structures, but it is nonetheless still well worth visiting, and getting there is part of the fun. You will navigate a narrow tunnel and over 30 foot tall wooden ladders built in accordance to an ancient designs. The ladders are flexible to support greater weight but that provide for some extra excitement when few people try climbing them at the same time.

To see a reconstructed ceremonial kiva (including roof) you have to visit yet another structure, the Spruce Tree House. Fortunately to visit this large complex it is not necessary to join any tour and it is just a short walk away from the park museum.

There are plenty of other sites in the canyons as well as on top of the mesa but I didn’t really have time for more exploration. I only stopped at the few sites along the Mesa Top Loop (including the Sun Temple) and left the park. After spending a night in the town of Cortez I was about to turn around and start heading back east when I changed my plans. While studying my map and eating doughnut at the same time I realized how close I was to one of the most iconic places in the US, the Monument Valley. At only 120 miles away, it was something I simply couldn’t resist, even if weather was far from perfect.

But before that there was one more point which, as a geographer, I simply couldn’t skip. The four corners itself. The monument marking it, run by the Navajo Nation, is rather kitschy concrete plaza surrounded by the flag poles and stands selling Native American gifts, magnets, T-shirts etc. The whole thing has a bit sorry look and feel, especially on a cloudy day. But the exact spot where the four states meet is marked by the official BLM marker and it is perfect photo opportunity for any map and geography geek. Before you ask, yes. I did take pictures. I even asked some Japanese tourist to take a picture of myself seating on top of the marker. Sometimes the small boy inside me clearly takes over.

From the four corners point I drove Utah Hwy 162 and then the US Hwy 163 towards the Monument Valley. Even on a cloudy, and at times rainy, day it was a truly spectacular drive. In fact the heavy, dark clouds contrasted in a fantastic way with the bright colourful rocks of Utah. Distant rains and sometimes fog added to the magical experience. I’m sure the landscape is equally stunning on a sunny day but I was loving every minute of these varying conditions.

Once on US Hwy 163 west of Mexican Hat, the Monument Valley comes fully into view. And what a view it is. Rocky buttes and mesas rise from bleak high desert plains. They are absolutely stunning geological formations. This stretch of road is probably one of the most photographed and most iconic corners of America. It features in countless movies, mostly westerns but also road movies like Easy Rider or Thelma & Louise. There is no way of denying that many people have seen the place before coming there, myself included. However, it doesn’t make it even a little bit less spectacular or interesting.

During my visit the weather changed dozen of times and I experienced rain, sand storm, sunshine, everything in the space of no more than 2-3 hours and no more than 50 miles. It was crazy but brilliant. Unfortunately at some point weather got really bad and I had to abandon plans for closer exploration of the monument. But it was still memorable experience and well worth every single extra mile to get there.

After small town of Keyenta I finally turned east. It was time to start going back toward Dallas. The whole region is very sparsely populated. For example for over 100 miles from Keyenta to town of Shiprock in New Mexico there is nothing really on the way. Apart from the amazing desert landscapes I mean. I love such lonely drives. Empty road, good music, desert until horizon, all that simply makes me smile. One of the most prominent points along the way is rocky outcrop called the Shiprock. It is visible from as far as Mesa Verde NP and it’s easy to understand why it was sacred place for the Navajo people. Unfortunately there is no paved road leading to the rock itself and after recent storms I didn’t want to risk driving there in my rental sedan. Well, maybe next time.

After passing suburban mess of Farmington and surroundings I drove another long and empty stretch of the road, the US Hwy 550 towards the Santa Fe. With sun setting behind me, country music blasting from the radio and empty wide tarmac ahead it was another good afternoon. As you are probably aware by now, I really love driving in America.

Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the USA. It was officially established as a capital of Nueavo Mexico, then province of New Spain, in 1610. The city is full of historic buildings. One of them, the Palace of the Governors, is in fact the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. For centuries it was seat of government and today it is home to a very good museum displaying the history of New Mexico. It is an absolutely fascinating place, well worth a few hours visit. What I found especially interesting, were the artefacts which original Spanish settlers brought with them from the old world. Imagine how long and hard journey it had to be for them in the 16th or 17th century. Seeing their limited possessions it makes you think how determined they had to be to undertake such long and ardours journey into the unknown. My visit in the palace was especially interesting as I joined a tour led by an absolutely passionate volunteer. I can’t remember her name but she was a local teacher. Our tour should take about an hour but over two hours later, when I had to leave, it was still going on. She was fantastic.

Another important historic building of Santa Fe is the San Miguel Chapel which, built around the same time as the Palace of the Governors, is the oldest church in the continental USA. The church has been repaired and rebuilt numerous times over the years but its original adobe walls are still largely intact. I didn’t get inside of it but instead I did visit the Loretto Chapel, known for its unusual, helix shaped, spiral wooden staircase. It’s difficult to believe how such elegant and delicate structure could ever be built. Even now, with the help of modern computer modelling, it would be a difficult task.

The heart of the city is the historic plaza, right in front of the Palace of the Governors. Surrounded by many historic buildings this leafy square is nowadays the place where most tourists start their visit. It is also prime destination for shopping and eating as many of the buildings surrounding it are home to art galleries, jewellery shops and restaurants. The Plaza is a nice place to hang around and enjoy a sunny day, even if for me it has a bit too much of the touristy feel.

Apart from visiting the historic monuments the best way of experiencing Santa Fa is walking aimlessly through its narrow streets, as every other corner offers great photo opportunity. This is largely due to legislation imposing a unified building style. From the beginning of 20th century local government started introducing rules requiring structures in the historic downtown to be constructed in the Spanish Pueblo Revival style. I have to say it worked fairly well. Sometimes it looks a bit Disney-ish (for example the drive through ATM in pueblo style) but overall it’s much nicer than the average US town of its size.

From Santa Fe I continued heading east, towards the Texas panhandle, leaving the four corners region (however stretched for the purpose of this story). I found the region to possess an immense, though sometimes harsh, beauty. Obviously there are some major and well known attractions, but for me one of the best aspect of this road trip was simply moving across the land of the colourful rocks and the big open sky (even if it was cloudy for most of my visit).


Wyoming is big. Very big. It is actually damn huge. And empty. I was going to visit only the north western corner of Wyoming which is of course the world famous Yellowstone National Park. But to get there from the Salt Lake City I was crossing all its length from the south to north. It is a long and lonely drive. Views on the way are less dramatic than in Utah as there are not so many impressive geological formation. It is rather gently rolling landscape and settlements (it is difficult to really call them towns) are few and far between. In a way, that’s how I always imagined a road trip in the USA. And probably because of that I absolutely loved Wyoming. It was like being in a movie set. Empty, wide road, good music, big sky. Perfection. The only problem was that it all made me drive a little bit to fast. Fortunately the local sheriff was a nice guy so I only got polite warning. Apparently I was the fourth European tourist he stopped that day. It is probably something in those wild landscapes and open spaces which gives us some sort of, hmm… freedom.? I know, it sounds pathetic but I think that what it is. A bit of extra kick.

Eventually after all day drive I arrived to Jackson. It is a very unusual town. An urban (however small) oasis in a generally rural and conservative state where mining and ranching are the main industries. Jackson felt more like a Californian town. In fact, quite a lot of its population are formed by ex-pats from either the west or east coast. And you can see and feel it. Nice coffee shops, galleries, outdoor shops, trendy boutiques and restaurants, all this make you feel like somewhere in the northern California or Oregon. But don’t be fooled. When you enter, for example, an outdoor shop, next to the sleeping bags you can find the gun section. And I mean some really big guns.

As interesting as it is, Jackson always will be mainly gateway to the two great national parks. Grand Teton and Yellowstone. I entered Grand Teton on a glorious sunny morning. The most impressive feature of it is the Grand Teton Range. The steep rugged mountains, raising 7000 feet straight from the flat valley floor, makes amazing and lasting impression. You can find pictures of them in virtually every guidebook, calendar or coffee table book about the USA. And, to be honest, I understand why. I even took the same shots you can find in all these publications. I just couldn’t resist, even if I knew it was a total lack of imagination.
The most popular attraction of the park is Jenny Lake. There is nice and easy circular trail around it, but I hiked just part of it and then climbed a bit higher to one of the side valleys and to Inspiration Point. From there you can admire great view of Jenny Lake and all the Jackson valley. It was very nice hike but at some point I had to go back. There was just to much snow to continue higher. If you are too lazy to hike around the lake you can take the miniature ferry (or rather boat) across it.

However spectacular, Grand Teton is just small brother of the real big attraction. The Yellowstone. Probably everyone knows something about it. Geysers, bisons, waterfalls, these are all images we see when we think of Yellowstone. It is all true, but what struck me first was how big and wild the park actually is. Grand Teton and Yellowstone border each other but driving between them involves a good two hours to get to some sort of facilities. In the meantime I crossed the continental divide twice, seen lake covered with ice (in June) and a lot of snow on the side of the road (some of the viewpoints were still closed due to the high snow banks blocking them).

There are plenty of accommodation options in the park. Campgrounds, lodges, hotels, you name it. Being on a budget I went for camping of course. Seeing all the snow at the higher elevations I opted for the Madison Junction Campground which is one of the lower ones in Yellowstone. It is also conveniently located not too far from the major attractions like Geyser Basin and Canyon Area. It is a huge campground, with over 350 sites, but all nicely dispersed in the forest (which protects from wind) and just yards from the Madison River. It didn’t feel crowded at all and you could even see wildlife right outside of your tent. No, I didn’t see any bears but one evening there was small herd of bison roaming between the tents. Just have to be careful when going to the loo. Unfortunately, nights were cold. Even using sleeping bag liner, which I bought after experiencing cold night at Bryce NP, didn’t help much. So I was up and running fairly early in the morning. On the up side, morning is the best time to see the wildlife. This is the time when you can experience “the bison jams”. Bison simply walk on the road and you just have to patiently drive behind them or very slowly and carefully overtake them. Possibly when they decide to eat some grass on the side of the road.

On my first full day in Yellowstone I went to see the biggest attraction of the whole park, the geysers. Two third of the world geysers are in Yellowstone and the biggest concentration of them is in the upper geyser basin where the famous Old Faithful is located. It is called Old Faithful because it erupts fairly regularly and the park service posts predicted eruption times at the visitor center. It is also real magnet for the crowds. Actually, crowd is probably even better indicator of the coming eruption than the park service notices. If you see the crowd growing, with all the benches occupied, it means the eruption is coming. Sometimes it looks more like Oxford Street on a sale day than national park. Fortunately there are plenty of geyser in a walking distance from the Old Faithful. For some of them park service also posts the predicted eruption times but they are not as reliable as the big daddy. Anyway, if you have all day to explore the area you will probably see some spectacular eruptions without the crowds. Apart from the geysers there are plenty of other geothermal wonders. Hot springs, multicoloured thermal pools, mud volcanoes, it all creates very interesting landscapes. They are especially concentrated in few areas inside the park which are called basins. Some of these basins look absolutely amazing, especially in the cold mornings when they are full of steam rising from the thermal features. You can feel like you are on some alien planet.

But geology is not the only attraction in Yellowstone. There is also plenty of wildlife. I mentioned bison walking down the road or roaming between the tents. But it is only tip of the iceberg (although very visible) There are also bears, elks, dear, wolves plus many species of birds and smaller mammals. The best place to watch wildlife in the park is the world famous Lamar Valley which is often called American Serengeti due to the abundance of the big mammals. One of the most famous residents of Yellowstone are wolves, reintroduced to the park few years ago. And the biggest concentration of them is in the valley. It is in the northernmost part of the national park next to the Montana border. Marshes on the flat valley floor offer great grazing grounds for elk, bison and dear, and they are the main prey for the wolves. Unfortunately to see them one have to get up about 3am and have good lenses or binoculars. Good knowledge of local terrain and a lot of good luck helps as well. I didn’t have any of the above so I haven’t seen wolves. But I’ve seen even more bison plus some elk and dear. Now I can imagine how American West looked like before the arrival of white settlers.

The last part of Yellowstone where I spent some time was the area around Canyon. It doesn’t offer geothermal attractions of the Old Faithful area and wildlife is far less common than in Lamar Valley but there is one spectacular site worth visiting: the Yellowstone River Canyon. It is a deep, narrow, steep, V-shaped valley which river cut through the soft volcanic rock. To add attractiveness there are two impressive waterfalls (the best in spring when snows are melting) and rocky canyon walls have spectacular bright colours (yellow, red, orange) which are created by minerals from the hot springs. It is definitely worth going down into the canyon using one of the short but steep trails which lead to the viewpoints just above or below the waterfalls.

Driving between different areas of the park involves crossing some very high mountain passes. Always check before visiting if all the roads you want to drive are open. Especially on the road from Lamar Valley to Canyon and from Grand Teton National Park to Old Faithful area, I have seen high snow banks on the side of the road even in the middle of June. The first of these roads is also very steep and curvy. Think twice when you drive the RV. And if you want to camp take warmer sleeping bag than you think you need. You will need it.

Wyoming in general, and Yellowstone region especially, are well worth visiting. They offer some typical American experiences: great outdoor, wild west, cowboys, wildlife, open space and the big sky. I could say it is my favourite US region. But I would be lying. There is still Pacific North West. That’s where I was heading next. But more about it the next time.


Utah is an amazing destination for people who like the outdoor fun. My trip there started actually in the urban jungle of the metropolitan Los Angeles. It is simple much cheaper to fly there than anywhere in Utah itself.

It was all great until I left the car rental company depot at the airport. The first moments of driving on the notorious LA freeway network can be intimidating, frightening but also exiting in the same time. It takes a moment or two to get used to drivers totally ignoring the road rules, indicators or speed limits. And all this on roads with 12 or more lanes of bumper to bumper traffic with cars going well over 80mph, overtaking on the inside and on the outside, changing lanes just inches in front of you and so on. The only way to survive, is to behave in the same way. Fortunately it comes easier than you might imagine. It was Friday before the long memorial weekend, when half of the Americans travel somewhere, so the situation was particularly bad. Fortunately my local friend, using highlighter pen and a road atlas of California, showed me a route which avoided the main highways and went through the local desert roads instead. Thanks to him, in just a few hours, I was able to move from the densely populated metropolis to the open desert landscapes. In one and half day I blasted through deserted parts of California, Nevada, some short stretch of Arizona and arrived to southern Utah.

And what a great state it is. I started exploring it from the Zion National Park. The main attraction there is a canyon which the river Virgin carved through the multicoloured sandstone formations. I won’t be describing all the geological details here. First because it is boring for most of the people, and second because I forgot the details of my geology classes a long time ago. But even if you can’t say the difference between the sandstone and the granite you will still be stunned by all the wonders of Zion. There are plenty of good hikes for everyone. For the lazy or not very healthy ones I recommend the Riverside Walk which is no more demanding than a stroll in the London’s famous Hyde Park but offers close contact with the narrow section of the canyon. Unfortunately it also offers close contact with the hordes of tourists. Fortunately, there are some short but steep hikes leading away from the crowd, like for example Weeping Rock Trail.

If you are fit and don’t have agoraphobia I strongly recommend the Angels Landing Trail. It is a steep and strenuous walk where you gain 1500 feet of elevation in the distance of 2.5 miles. First you fight the many switchbacks which you think will never end and then you arrive to the best part of the trail. The last few hundred feet of it are formed by chains, steps cut into the rocks, and ridges as narrow as three feet. I love this sort of trails offering extra adrenalin. Views from the top are well worth all the efforts, but remember to take plenty of water (not available anywhere on the trail), sunscreen and start early. Zion NP is quite low and can get unbearably hot during the midday.

The cheapest form of accommodation around is camping, which also allows you the closest contact with nature. Try to get your spot early. Park campgrounds fill up quickly and you might end up like me, camping somewhere on the public lands out of the park, which is OK, except for the fact there are no facilities.

Zion NP is one of the most popular parks in the National Parks system and because it is also one of the smaller ones, it can get very crowded. Fortunately it is also the only park in the US which bans individual cars (at least in the summer season) and offers public transport instead. Anyway try to avoid weekends.

The next great national park of my trip was the Bryce Canyon. It is just a short (about two hours) drive from Zion NP but the landscape there is completely different. Bryce lies at 8000-9000 feet above the sea level, which places it over 3000 feet higher than Zion, and makes it a much cooler park covered in large parts by the pine forests. Like in Zion, the main attractions of the Bryce Canyon NP are the geological formations. These are called Hoodoos, a kind of rock pinnacles formed by specific erosion processes. Again, lets skip the detailed geology classes (as you know my memory by now). They form landscapes which looks like from the fairy tales. It is all the most impressive around sunrise or sunset, when the long shades and warm sunlight form a magical atmosphere. I recommend to hike down to the formations early in the morning using the combined Navajo and Queen’s Garden loops. It brings you close to hoodoos, slot canyons (some of them just few feet wide but over 100 feet deep) and other less known wonders. Beware that even if the trail is not difficult (combined ascent and descent of just 800 feet) due to the high elevation you will get tired much quicker than you might think and hope. Morning light is the best for taking pictures. In the afternoon you can drive the rim drive, stopping at the various viewpoints to admire the whole park. Unfortunately camping in Bryce means freezing cold at night. It was one of the reasons I got up early enough to see the sunrise. It was simply too cold to sleep. Again, this is all due to the high elevation. Even if the days are warm a and sunny the nights will get very cold very quickly.

West of Bryce Canyon is located one of the best drives I have ever done, the Utah Hwy12. Designated a one of the US Scenic Byways, the road turns and twists through the amazing landscape for well over 100 miles . It is a geology wonder, continuously unfolding in front of your car. I wanted to stop every few hundred yards to take yet another picture but eventually the batteries in my camera ran flat which let me just simply to enjoy the drive. In my opinion this road is as good as the famous Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, California. But getting to my next destination also involved driving some pretty boring, flat and straight roads while staring at desolated landscapes. Sometimes for hours. Thank God for the satellite radio. It was getting dark and I really wanted to get to Green River to find some cheap motel (after few days of camping, including freezing night at Bryce, I really felt I deserved a normal bed). Fortunately I could easily drive 90-100mph as the road looked like a 40 miles long runaway, completely straight, wide and empty. Did I mention I love driving?

Green River would be absolutely not worth writing about. Just another cluster of gas stations, motels and fast food restaurants with population scattered around. Community which survives thanks to the interstate highway. Somehow I like this sort of places (for a short time of course), where everyone and everything is on the way to somewhere else. It is something you can’t find in Europe, it is part of the American road culture.

But lets move on. The following day I arrived to Arches. It is another small and compact national park but also another one full of geological wonders. Main attractions there are the rock arches formed by complicated erosion processes in the Navajo sandstone. What might strike you first is how red everything is. Rocks are red, sand is red, a bit of soil you can find there is red. Even the tarmac on the park road is red. It contrasts with the few green patches of vegetation. This is a real desert park. Once I got out of the air-conditioned car I felt even my eyeballs drying, so don’t forget to carry plenty of water. The most popular hike in the Arches NP is the one to the famous and picturesque Delicate Arch. It is only 1.5 mile long with less than 500 feet elevation gain but don’t underestimate it. Most of it goes on slippery slick rock, there is no shade on the way, no water, and it gets incredibly hot, even hotter than in Zion. The arch itself is amazing. Many people seen it on pictures or on TV screen but nothing compares to the real thing. I got there about an hour or so before the sunset and many people were already waiting with anticipation, like before some important sport event. Clouds obscured the sunset itself but the changing light made the time I spent there a really magical experience. There are of course other walks in the park, a few good ones are around the Devils Garden area. It let people explore features other than the arches (rock spines, ribs, enormous boulders, in other words: the rocky labyrinth).

There is just one small campground in the park itself but there are plenty of camping opportunities on the BLM lands alongside the Utah Hwy 128 which follows the Colorado river just outside the park boundaries. Most of these sites don’t have showers but they do have the pit toilets. If someone prefers luxuries of the standard bed, town of Moab (also just a few miles outside the park) offers plenty of options. It is a small, attractive, friendly, and a bit funky community dominated by young people in a search of outdoor fun (mostly mountain biking). Not a typical small Utah town and it is a stark contrast with the Green River.

Close to Arches NP and Moab lays Canyonlands NP. This is an absolutely enormous park, made of three districts separated by canyons at the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. To move from one district to the another you have to drive hundreds of miles. I visited just a small section of the park but even that involved long driving and great vistas. There are a few short trails, but this is really a destination for serious explorers, who have much more time than I had. Anyway, it is still worth visiting just to peep into the enormous labyrinth of canyons from the few viewpoints alongside the park roads. It is also much, much emptier than any of the parks I visited before.

From reading this you might think Utah is all about deserts. Nothing more wrong. Most Europeans don’t realise how big and diverse most of the states are. At the end, Utah is larger than Britain. I realised it when after few days of exploring southern Utah geological paradise I decided to go north and visit Salt Lake City (it was on the way to Wyoming anyway). It was another long but spectacular drive. Gradually the landscape got less desert-like and more alpine scenery started dominating. Just before the Salt Lake City road navigates the mountain passes, almost like in the Switzerland. One thing stays constant: the low density of population. It means that arriving to SLC feels like coming to a great metropolis, which is of course wrong. It is a mid size US city with pleasant downtown and great location at the foothills of the Wasatch Range. It is nice placde indeed (especially after a week camping in the deserts) but you can’t really call it a metropolis.

I skipped the greatest attraction in the city, the Temple Square, heart of the Mormon religion, and went to visit the state capitol instead. It is free and quite interesting. Some of the paintings and sculptures inside somehow are similar to the socrealistic art of the former eastern block. Look at some of the titles: “Immigration & Settlement” or “Science & Technology”, not exactly how Van Gogh or Monet would call their works. Fits more into the Kremlin collection doesn’t it? And how about marble and granite toilets? How cool is that? You can visit the building pretty much on your own, no one even checks your bags, or join tour led by nice retired volunteers. You can also buy a Utah fridge magnet from the capitol store. Only in America.

But it was time for me to move on. Wyoming, another state larger than life, was waiting. I’ll write about it next time.