Sunday, November 12, 2006

Trip to Utah to visit Alex - May 22-29, 2004

My Trip To Utah

How I drank in private clubs
Hiked up and down dusty trails
Played with kittens
Learned to tell the difference between an Audi, Jetta, and/or Psatt

Alexandria Sage, my roomie for several exciting months in 1995-96 on 14th Street in NYC recently got assigned by the Associated Press to Salt Lake City, Utah. Many people received Alexandria’s email plea to come visit. I checked my frequent flier miles, found that Continental flies direct to Salt Lake, and booked my flight from Saturday, May 22 to Saturday May 29. Alex gleefully began planning trips to Utah’s great National Parks, enthusing about hiking and physical activities. Um, yeah.

So, I have to buy hiking boots. Me, in hiking boots. I am a woman who has spent her life trying not to make her feet look big. Oh well. I also check out the smaller back packs which cost $40.00, and end up with a child’s backpack called The Tadpole, in slimming black for only $20.00. I’m ready.

My flight to Utah was packed. Small plane, but every single seat taken. Yes, we have a Mormon missionary on the plane, Elder Jones. He appears to be 19 and was traveling with his Dad and his sisters (I’m guessing). And though he has his bible open on the tray table in front of him, he has fallen asleep listening to his walkman. I’m feeling really devilish, so I keep ordering wine and caffeine drinks in the hopes that I’m scandalizing folks. No one cares. The couple in the seats next to me were flying to Utah for their granddaughter’s baptism. The mother, their youngest of their four daughters, had died in childbirth this past February. I got all the details. It was very sad, but also very uplifting. It seems their daughter had really lived a great life, traveling the world and making a great many friends. It was a very positive if heartbreaking conversation.

Once in Salt Lake City I really do feel I am in the whitest place on earth. And granted, I do fit right in. Still, I decide to start counting ethnic minorities. Or, as we call them in NYC, the people we live next to and work with. I am not counting the one Asian and the two African Americans who were on the plane with me.

I’ll tell you my count of minorities, total, including the national parks, right now. I counted 7 African-Americans, 1 person whose background appeared to be Indian or Pakastani, and no Asians who weren’t tourists actually from Asia. Utah has some Native Tribes, and I did see one park ranger who looked at least a quarter.

Alex greeted me at the baggage claim, and once I had collected my red suitcase from the sea of black suitcases, I ran out to her Jeep Cherokee to begin my western adventure. Yee-ha!

And now, here’s my take on Salt Lake City, or as I like to call it, Not Actually on the Salt Lake Large Suburb. You can get from the airport to Alex’s apartment in, oh, about 20 minutes. There’s not much traffic. There’s not much of anything. We see Temple Square and the Church of Latter Day Saints Convention Center. This convention center is a bit creepy as from the front it looks like something out of the Mussolini/Hitler school mixed with Washington, DC federal style architecture. From the side it has a sort of Frank Lloyd Wright look. And if that’s not enough of a mess, on top it has a sort of quasi-religious tower that I believe is supposed to compliment the Mormon Temple across the way. As an architectural statement, it’s a big stinky mish-mash. You don’t go to see the boat show at the Church of Latter Day Saints Convention Center. And if Book Expo America is ever held in Not Actually on the Salt Lake Large Suburb, it won’t be held here. Instead they have Church oriented conventions there.

The Temple is the center of Salt Lake Suburb. Literally. The streets radiate out from it. 100 S. Temple Street is 1 block from the Temple. 400 W. Temple Street is 4 blocks from the Temple. And 7800 North Temple Street is an exit off the highway, and is 78 blocks from the Temple. Why they don’t call 7800 North Temple, 78 Temple Street, I don’t know. And why are they all called streets? Why not make the North and South roads Avenues? When Alex tells me she works in the Deseret Building at 30 100 South Temple my head reels. Alex says it takes about a week, then you start thinking in a big square.

Amazingly enough, Alex lives across from the Catholic Church in a converted convent. The Catholic Church is quite impressive (guess they feel kind of pressured to be grand), and so is Alex’s apartment. There’s a tiny kitchen, and a bathroom designed so that you can’t shut the door unless you move the toilet. It also has a well proportioned bedroom, dining room, and living room. I am reunited with Alex’s cats, Boris and Phoebe. I am also introduced to the mommy cat and four identical kittens that Alex is sheltering until they are old enough to be fixed and adopted. The kittens do not understand the concept of “suitcase” and do not get out of the way. So, I scoop up kittens as I roll into the living room (where I’ll be sleeping on the futon). Alex shows me how to operate the TV, enjoy the fabulous “alternate classical” radio station, assures me there is no way whatsoever to shut the bathroom door, and takes off to finish her shift at AP. I soon crash with four kittens, mommy cat, and Phoebe piled on top of me. Boris is off sulking in the corner.

Next morning Alex and I go our for breakfast, then drive downtown to Temple Square. It takes two minutes to get there and three minutes to find a parking space. We walk around Temple Square and of course, everything is closed because it’s Sunday. We do get to go to the Mormon Museum. It’s called something else, but it’s all about the history of the Mormons. The gift shop was closed so I didn’t get a t-shirt.

Now, I remember a couple of years ago reading that Brigham Young University, which does not allow their male students to have any facial hair, began doctoring all the pictures of Brigham Young so he appeared clean shaven. Consequently, I noticed that the museum had sort of taken the same track. All the modern illustrations show Brigham Young and Joseph Smith and every other Mormon man with no facial hair. All the old pictures (that might be worth something), photographs, and statues (which are hard to melt or re-chisel) show them with facial hair. The coolest thing I saw in the museum was “the watch.”

Let me explain. Before I came to Utah, Alex insisted I read John Krakauer’s UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN. The main story centers on two brothers who killed their sister-in-law and niece because God told them to. These two brothers had left the mainstream Mormon Church and become wacko fundamentalists who believed in taking multiple wives and ignoring the laws of men.

He also tells the history of the Mormon Church. Including Joseph Smith’s assassination by an angry mob. When the mob came in shooting, one of Smith’s companions got shot in the pocket watch. I believe it saved his life. It also marked the exact time of Smith’s assassination, a time that it is recognized every year by Mormons.

So, when I saw the watch, I said, “Wow, the watch!” And two kids who I am assuming are Mormons were like, really? THE WATCH? Cool. Then I noticed that in the drawing of the assassination no one had a beard.

Then we went to Borders and I got some coffee. Then we walked around the mall and I got some socks. Alex got some leg warmers to wear on her arms (it’s involved, I won’t go into it). Then we went to Old Navy to get Alex some shorts. I discovered that Salt Lake Suburb has a nice little transit system, which they installed for the Olympics. We drove up to the University of Utah, and drove by Elizabeth Smart’s house. We just drove by. We did not pull into the street and stop and take pictures. In her capacity as a reporter for AP, Alex interviewed Mr. Smart on the second anniversary of Elizabeth’s abduction. He wanted to talk about the foundation that the family had set up to help families who are going through, or went through, the same thing their family did. Alex had gotten a tip that Elizabeth had a part time job playing the harp in town, and Mr. Smart said that was true but please keep it vague. So she did. And so do I. I’m not totally tacky.

That night Alex cooked for me and it was yummy. We watched Prime Suspect, played with the cats and went to bed.

The next morning the toilet overflowed and Alex went to work. I walked down-suburb encountering a few homeless folks. Not normally something that would freak me out, but I keep thinking of Elizabeth Smart. I give the homeless wide berth. I found a Starbucks by following the Starbucks cups that walked by. I got a NY Times, a croissant, and a coffee. And I sat there. For two hours!

Off to the Salt Lake Suburb headquarters of AP. It’s in the Deseret building. Deseret is what the Mormons wanted to name the state. Congress chose Utah. I’m with Congress on this one as Utah is a neat-o name for a state, and the only “U” state in the 50 and “D” is already claimed by Deleware. The Deseret is the Mormon newspaper. The Salt Lake Tribune is the non-denominational newspaper. And AP is AP.

At AP folks are working on the big story of the day – a cafeteria lady at a local school was shot dead by her husband who then turned the gun on himself. I meet everyone and entertain myself by reading their bulletin board of weird stories. My favorite is that geologists say Utah is due for a big earthquake. The capital building is being made earthquake safe. However, the library at the University of Utah is a death trap waiting to happen.

Alex and I got pretty good Chinese food and hit a terrific thrift store. I managed not to buy anything, but Alex got a furry skirt. The weather was turning, so we passed on going to a big mine outside of town, which is supposed to be pretty amazing to see. Instead, I made Alex drive me out to see the Great Salt Lake. I had the same reaction to the Great Salt Lake as I did to the Dead Sea. See my travel log on Israel. For those of you who don’t have the Israel Log saved away on your hard drive, I’ll recap my reaction to the Dead Sea. “That’s it?” Oh, and it smells. Which explains why Salt Lake Suburb is not actually on the Salt Lake.

Alex and I run errands. Then we get ready to go out to a private club for drinks and $0.77 oysters.

Sidebar: Utah’s incomprehensible alcohol laws made semi-comprehensible.
In some restaurants you can buy wine and beer. However, no hard liquor can be consumed outside of the privacy of your home, a private function, or a private club. So, everyone in Salt Lake Suburb who drinks belongs to a private club. Or as they are known in the rest of the world, a bar or restaurant. When Alex’s sister lived in Utah (she taught at Brigham Young) you had to be sponsored by a member of the club. So you’d walk in, ask to join, and the hostess would yell to one of the guys at the bar, “Hey Bill, you want to sponsor this chick?” Or some such. And Bill would say, “Sure!”

These days you can just join. You can get a pass for the night (know to the rest of the world as a cover charge), the week, the month, the summer, a year, or a lifetime. Lifetime memberships usually cost $20.00. As a member you can bring in a billion guests. There are no tennis courts. And when I asked Alex to introduce me around to all her fellow club members, she laughed as if I had said something funny.

Now, all these club fees go to pay the salaries of the Utah Alcohol Board (not what they are actually called, but you get the idea). None of these guys drink. So while you can only get one ounce of alcohol in your drink (small martinis), you can order and extra shot. And I’m guessing you can pour that extra shot into your glass. Also, flavorings don’t count as alcohol. Triple sec, Kahlua, and Bailey’s Irish Crème are defined as flavorings.

We ran into Alex’s neighbor Carl, and his girlfriend Sierra. The club was really busy that night, so we went to the club’s sister club down in the basement to have some calamari, oysters, and one ounce drinks. Alex would have had to pay a couple of dollars to expand her membership to the basement half of the club, but luckily Carl already had that membership. After two rounds (or two ounces vodka for me), we were told that our table upstairs was ready and we left the basement, walked ten feet on the sidewalk, and entered the club for another one-ounce round and a dozen oysters.

Home and to bed! Tomorrow, we become pioneer women.


Alex’s family has a tradition of playing On the Road Again by Willie Nelson. Unfortunately, Alex’s family only has one tape and her father has it right now. So, we sing it – what we know of it.

Alex’s favorite road trip tape includes Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, George Jones and Hank Williams. I had never really listened to Merle Haggard, but boy did I start listening now. It seems Merle’s songs are about either getting drunk or love-it-or-leave-it-American-Patriotism with segues into the Hobo Jungles. I wonder how Merle feels about the current war? I certainly know what he thinks about Vietnam.

My favorite Merle Haggard song is called Daddy Frank. I will now give you a sample of the lyrics.

Daddy Frank played the guitar and the French harp
Sister played the ringing tambourine
Mamma couldn't hear the pretty music
She read our lips and helped the family sing

That little band was all a part of living
And our only means of living at the time
And it wasn't like no normal family combo
Cause Daddy Frank the guitar man was blind

I theorized that sister had no legs and only one arm, so she had to bang the tambourine on her head. I also theorized that there was a brother no one talked about who sewed the costumes, arranged the lights, and never married. Alex told me that I had ruined Daddy Frank for her, forever. I do not feel particularly bad about that.

We’re taking the scenic route, and we’re passing through little towns that border the either side of the road. I can always find the Temple, as the streets will read, 300 N., 200 N., 100 N., 100 S., 200 S., end of town.

I keep seeing signs for Cheyenne, and thinking that some people name their children Cheyenne. I decide to name my children Cheyenne, Montana and Utah.

Eventually, we tore the tape out of the player, and put in ABBA. We zipped into Bryce Canyon National Park – where’s there’s always a sign, if you know where to look for it. It’s just around the bend, behind the bush, covered in dust, or placed off to the side where you are sure to miss it. We couldn’t check in until 4:00, so we parked the car at the entrance to the Navajo Trail and began our descent.

Bryce is all about going down into the canyon, then when you’re nice and tired, climbing out. You start out looking down at the hoodoos, and finish staring up at them. What’s a hoodoo? Well, imagine a big tall mesa. Then imagine the mesa wearing away leaving hundreds of huge pillars of red rock wearing hats of white rocks. That’s a hoodoo. They look like people, ducks, tall turrets of a ruined city, and in one case, Queen Victoria. The Native Americans in the area stayed clear of the area believing it was filled with people who had been cursed and turned into stone. I can see that. Of course, it wasn’t a Native American who told us that, so it could all be bunk.

So, once down in the canyon floor, we detoured onto the Queen’s Garden Trail, took in the Queen Victoria rock, and climbed out. This hiking is easy, I’m doing fine.

While checking in I hear a woman address her toddler as, “Aryan.” No, I did not mishear. I wonder if the other two kids with her are named Fascist and Hitler. Alex and I sign up for a horse ride down into the canyon along Peekaboo trail for the next morning. Alex cannot wear her cowboy hat, and this makes her sad as it really completes her outfit. But it might blow off and scare the horses, so she takes comfort in the fact she can still wear her funky, fringed cowboy jacket with faux leopard skin panel.

Then we checked into our cabin. The guidebooks make these cabins out to be phenomenal. They say the lodge is all that. It really isn’t. I mean, it’s fine, and the cabins are ok, and it’s convenient to stay in the park. But they are nothing to write home about.

Our dinner reservations are for 7:30 so we take an easy hike along the top of the canyon, from Inspiration Point to another Swamp Canyon Overlook. We look down into the vast scenic wonders of the park. Once again, I’m impressed by hiking ability along this pretty flat trail.

Then it was off to dinner. The guidebooks rave about the Bryce Lodge dining room. They praise the huge American flag (it’s large), the two giant fireplaces (blocked by the salad bar) and the views from the huge picture windows (the building and the parking lot, or the building depending what direction you are facing). We had 7:30 reservations and didn’t get seated until after 8:00. It’s a nice restaurant, but it’s really your only choice. If you just want a sandwich you got to leave the lodge. You can get wine and beer, but no alcohol because Bryce doesn’t have a private club.

The guidebooks also raved about the gift shop and I must say it was impressive. First time I saw a dream catcher that didn’t look like a piece of crap. But after waiting around for my food (which was fine) I was too tired to shop.

So back to the cabin. Alex smartly brought along vodka, but I need a mixer. So I went to bed without. Then, when I was in a semi-wake part of my sleep cycle I heard it. THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE CABIN AND IT’S SCURRYING ABOUT. I finally turned on the lights, woke up Alex, and determined that whatever it was, it was nowhere need the bags of food. So I shut off the light, AND WE BOTH HEARD IT! I think it must have been in the walls, whatever it was. Did. Not. Sleep. Well.

Next morning we get up, load the car (we will miss check-out time on our horseback ride), and head off dressed in layers to take a horseback ride down into Bryce Canyon along the Peek-a-boo Trail. After I described my experience as merry-go-round, I get assigned a mule named Kikaboo. Alex gets a horsey named Ubi (pronounced You-Be). Alex has ridden a few times, but more importantly, she has a cool leather jacket with fringe.

Our cowboy guides are Shawn (who we are told twice is married to the boss’s daughter), Stetson (which I think is a nickname, until I find out that Shawn’s son is also named Stetson) and J.B. (who I’m going to assume is named for the Scotch). I am sad, because here in Utah, my children Cheyenne, Montana, and Utah won’t even raise an eyebrow.

The horses and mules have been trained to walk along the edge of the trail. Yikes! I am thrilled that we are on beasts of burden. This is a major descent, and we will go up some major ascents as well. Our tour includes the “Wall of Windows” (there are two windows so the whole wall of windows is a bit exaggerated) and some cowboy jokes. My favorite is, “We call this switchback the widow maker. Hard on the men, but easy on the women.”

We stop for a bathroom break and for the first time in my life, I walk bowlegged. Then it’s back up! And up and up and up (I did mention accents, didn’t I?). I am thrilled to get back to corral. Since I didn’t bring any money with me, I buy my picture (that’s me on a mule!) back at the lodge, and we drop off a $10.00 tip for the cowboys. Oh, and I’m in pain.

Alex and I go to the restaurant and order a quesadilla to split. Another thing to know about the only restaurant in Bryce, the portions are huge.

So, we stop at the Visitors Center to find out where we should go for our last hike. He suggested Tower Bridge. It’s a sight to see and the wildflowers along the path are fabulous. We hiked about a mile, saw three types of flowers, and decided that we didn’t need to keep going.

Back into the Cherokee and off to the Mossy Cave trail, which you actually have to leave Bryce to access. Of course, sinage being what it is, we pass by the Mossy Cave trail. After awhile, we think that maybe, just maybe, that turn off where the cars were parked way back there is the starting point of the Mossy Cave Trail. Sure enough, once we pull into the turn off, we see a sign clearly hidden behind the parked cars telling us this is the Mossy Cave Trail.

I liked the Mossy Cave Trail. It was short and easy. I liked the Mossy Cave. It was pretty. And I liked the little river that I stuck my feet in.

Back in the Cherokee, we stop off at the bed and breakfast called, Buffalo Sage and I take Alex’s picture in front of the sign (her last name is Sage). Buffalo and I stick in the Merle Haggard tape, and head off for Zion.

Before I left for Utah I complained about the name of the National Parks I would be visiting. Shouldn’t the parks retain the Native American names? What’s with Zion? Larry Shapiro, an editor at Book-of-the-Month Club told me I would understand the name Zion when I saw it.

Now, logically I do. I guess, if you were really religious you would say, “Wow, this place is a real Zion!” But even then, I think it would be incorrect. defines Zion as Israel the land, Israel the people, a religious community sacredly devoted to God, or an idealized, harmonious community – a utopia. Zion National Park is really impressive and cool. But it is not Israel, nor does it have a population. Ah but wait! At one time, there were farmers, toiling away at the rich earth of a vast, now dry, lake bed. I’m guessing they named the town that is no longer there, Zion. And golly gee, had I been a settler planting crops on the lush soil of that ancient lake bed, getting my water from the merrily rolling Virgin River, and surrounded by huge mountains and amazing natural scenery, I might have thought myself in Zion too.

I preferred Zion to Bryce and here’s the reason. Zion has the Virgin River running through it, and I like water. It makes me happy.

Bryce is a big canyon. So you start up high and work your way down. Zion is … not really a valley … more like a passage through huge, massive rocks that’s broad enough to farm but still narrow. No hoodoos. In Zion you start down low and work your way up.

Alex and I zoomed into Zion, and immediately got caught behind a large RV being towed by a large truck. It crawled along, swinging out in a lard-like way as it made the hairpin turns. Alex was furious. Most of Zion is off-limits to private vehicles. You can get as far as the visitor center, and then you either park or leave. The camping sight is right next to the visitor center so we were stuck behind this guy the whole way. The scenery was amazing.

Once at the Visitor Center we got all the information from not that well-informed folks. They shut the Center at 5:00, which is just plain silly.

Back to the guidebooks. They sing the praises of the lodge at Zion and the cabins in Zion and how you really want to stay in Zion. God forbid you stay in Springdale, the little town outside of Zion National Park. You might stay in a perfectly nice hotel, that’s cheaper than the Zion lodge, take a swim in the pool, relax in the hot tub, have a choice of restaurants, and be able to take the terrific little shuttle that zips back and forth between Zion National Park Visitors Center and Springdale. Oh, and we had a stunning view from our room. And we were next to an elk farm. Hence we saw lots of elk, buffalo, and a longhorn cow. Honestly, the only problem was that the room came without a blow dryer, and my hair was flat, flat, flat the whole time.

We went to Oscars where I had a murder burger (“so good it will kill you”) and Alex became involved in trying to save a bird that had fallen out of its nest. This involved the manager of Oscars climbing a ladder, with Alex on his shoulders. The attempts did not work, but everyone at the restaurant was thoroughly entertained. I named the cute little bird Sparky. (We checked back the next night and the birds were fine.) We also had some Polygamy Porter. The slogan is, “Why have just one?”
Next morning we get up and OUCH! It hurts. But we must move, so we get a sandwich for our hike. Then we’re off to The Narrows Outfitters to get the special hiking boots made from a wetsuit material and a stick. To hike the Narrows you have to walk up the Virgin River. Literally. You can wear your hiking boots, but they won’t keep your feet warm, and your boots will be wet. So, sandwich in Tadpole backpack, sticks in hand, we catch the Springdale Shuttle to Zion. Once in Zion, we get off the shuttle, walk through the admission booth, and get on the Zion shuttle. Oh, the humanity! If only we had stayed in the park!!!!
So, we’re on the shuttle and our shuttle driver points out the sights. The Great White Throne, The Court of the Patriarchs (named Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), The Rock of Moroni (or something like that with Moroni’s name that partially blocks Jacob). We’re going to the last shuttle stop, The Temple of Sinawava. I’m guessing that Sinawava is someone from the Book of Mormon. I ask our guide as we’re getting off the shuttle, and he gives a sort of contained exasperated look. I guess he gets that question all the time. Sinawava is one of the Native American coyote gods.
So the first part of this hike is wheelchair accessible and easy. It takes a mile of easy gamboling to get to the steps that lead down to the entrance to the Narrows. Once you go down the steps, your feet are in the water. You start wading upstream for as long as you can. On either side of you are rock walls going up oh, about 1000 feet. Sometimes more. Waterfalls and water-trickles come down into the river. At times you are on a sandbar, but most of the time you are tripping over rocks, rocks, rocks. That’s why you need a stick. Don’t try to do the Narrows without a stick. Or in bare feet. Or in sandals. Or in a dress with matching purse and hat (she didn’t get far). Many people stop at Orderville Pass, where the rocks are about 15 feet apart. Alex and I soldiered on. We were regular Amazons. Then we heard that around the bend the water got up past our waists. So we stopped and ate our sandwich and snacks. Then we stood up. YIKES!
We headed back.
That easy one-mile gambol over the wheelchair accessible part of the path is a lot longer after wading through water for about 3.5 hours.
Back on the shuttle. We get off at the Zion Lodge where we are not staying, and take the path to the three Emerald Pools. Honestly, the highest pool is not so impressive. The middle pool is better. But the waterfall that pours off the middle pool, and falls and falls and falls into the first pool is the best part. Note, the first pool is wheelchair accessible and an easy climb.
We walk back to the lodge, and Alex takes a moment to stop by Zion’s horse paddock to pet the ponies. I find a nice bench and sit down. The special aqua hiking booties are good for keeping your feet warm in the waters, and they’re fine for the easy hikes we are doing this afternoon, but gosh, they are starting to get hot and squishy.
Off to the lodge. Alex gets a soft ice cream and I get an iced tea. For some reason, there are dozens of exchange students working at the National Parks. Their nametags give their names, of course, but also what country they are from. Most seem to be from Asia, though I did spot a Brazil. Alex asked a guy from Thailand if this was part of an exchange program and he answered it was either the National Parks or Walmart. This, of course, did not answer her question.
Back on the shuttle, and off to The Weeping Rock. It’s an easy hike of less than .5 mile, and paved like a sidewalk. However, don’t try it with a wheelchair unless you have a really good engine. It’s pretty straight up. Weeping Rock is really cool, and it’s one rock that is having a really, really bad day. The water is just pouring down this thing. There is no spring up top feeding the waterworks. And underwater source hits rock that it cannot seep into, and so it begins emerging from the rock. The water that is falling on your head first fell to earth 4000 years ago.
Back to the shuttle. Back to the visitor’s center. Walk through the gateway and hop the Springdale shuttle. Gosh, this is so hard!!!! If only we were staying at the Zion Lodge!
So, Alex and I return our boots and sticks, then dive into our pool and hot-tub. We meet an elderly couple who are “dating” and traveling around seeing National Parks, their various children, and ending up in Boulder for their square dancing thingy. Alex and I go out for pasta, buy some candy bars for the next day, then go home and pass out.
Up early the next morning. CRIPES! Alex and I compare pain. We load up the Cherokee, check out, and drive to the park. We park at the visitor’s center and hop the shuttle to take on Angel’s Landing. In the words of one guide-map, “the fact that the National Parks even built this trail is amazing.” First, you go up the easy set of switchbacks to the Refrigerator Canyon. That was my favorite part as it was very cool and relatively flat. Then you get to Walter’s Wiggles – 21 switchbacks that k-i-l-l-e-d me. Never, ever, ever again. Ok, got up to the top, wheezed and drank water and ate a candy bar. Alex is bopping around saying, look at the view, look at the view. Convinced that the view will stay right where it is, I continue sitting. And yes, the view is amazing. Ok, on to the next part.
Now, on the West Rim Trail, we scramble and climb up rocks with a chain pounded into the rock for you to hang on. If you slip, you probably won’t die, but you will slide down, down, down and hurt yourself badly. But I do ok. I get to the top and boy, am I proud. Scrambling isn’t hard! There are no switchbacks, and I am a true pioneer woman (in my hiking boots and Pittsburgh Jr. League t-shirt)! Wow, look at that view! Then Alex points to the next rock up ahead and says, “that’s Angel’s Landing.” And I reply, “You go ahead. I’ll wait for you right here.”
So, I sit with the other folks who felt no need to challenge themselves to climb up the narrow, narrow, scrambling path with a big iron security chain. And the folks who come back basically say, it’s the same view, only higher up. So, you don’t climb for the view. You climb to say, “I climbed that and I didn’t die.” Alex says there is a big flat rock up on Angel’s Landing, perfect for the messenger of God, or a helicopter.
Going down, down, down Alex and I experienced new areas of pain. We compare pain.
Back on the shuttle and back to the Visitors Center. I change my shirt and brush my hair. We both change our shoes. Then it’s back in the Cherokee and out of Zion. Goodbye national parks, we love you so.
Alex wanted to show me Best Friends a phenomenal animals sanctuary (she’s been there before), but we’d have to take the tour, and it’s not starting for another hour, and that’s just too much time. So, back in the car. Now, we have to cut west across to the highway, so why not dip quickly into Arizona and take a detour through Colorado City, AZ, which borders on Hilldale, UT – two warring fundamentalist Mormon sects. Yep, that’s right! polygamists!

Ok, I’m going to stress that the Mormon fundamentalists are not part of the mainstream Mormon Church. Indeed, they have been excommunicated. And, since God speaks to a lot of these guys personally, they polygamists are constantly excommunicating each other and splintering off. So, these are not typical Mormons. But honestly, one doesn’t really grasp that. One makes snarky comments over glasses of Polygamy Porter. Then one actually sees the polygamy enclaves of Colorado City and Hilldale and one understands. The Mormon Church and these nuts are not in the same universe.

Colorado City/Hilldale is a sty. No beehive state industry here. Just squalor. The nicest thing I can say about the place is that pigs were not running in the unpaved streets.

As you drive in you see these huge, huge houses (necessary when you have a couple of wives and dozens of children) that look like a typical McMansion. Then you notice there’s something odd about them. They’re not finished. They’re old, and people are living in them, but the houses have no siding. Just the particle board that one puts up to hold the insulation in place. The yards are piles of dirt. No lawns, no trees, no flowers. Walking along are little girls in high-necked, long-sleeved, down to the ankles dresses with hair in braids. They are tending the children. Or they could be their children as marrying a girl off at 14 is typical. We saw William Jeff’s compound (he’s the leader of the Hilldale sect). There’s something about a high wall and solid metal gate across the driveway that gives it that drug-dealer style.

Then there’s the dump. Right in the middle of town.

Then there’s the cheese shop. It seems they make great cheese here. But they were closed. So Alex and I got the hell out of there.

We were later told that the houses are kept unfinished so that the owners don’t have to pay taxes on them. Fine. Be a tax cheat (and a welfare cheat – most of them are on welfare) but for crying out loud, straighten things up!

Once on the highway zooming back to the Salt Lake Suburb, coffee in hand, Alex’s cell phone comes on. She has two job offers. Marci and I were robbed. Yep, on Thursday afternoon someone came up the fire escape, smashed our living room window with a hammer, and stole Marci’s computer, which was sitting on the coffee table. Turns out the guy used our super’s hammer – so that means he had actually been in our building. I call Marci on the cell phone and we talk security gates. She assures me that the glass has already been replaced.

Back to SLS. We made great time. Alex made us dinner. Then we went out to a private club where I failed to impress Alex’s friends as I practically fell asleep at the table. Oh, and there was so much cigarette smoke! Cough, cough. What can I say? I’m used to pristine NYC.

Next morning Alex and I head off for the airport. It’s a quick flight (I sleep most of the way) back to NYC. I’m home in the late afternoon. The glass in the window is indeed fixed.

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