Part Two of My Road trip: Jackson Hole to Salt Lake City
As I type, I am in St. George, UT. We decided to use Airbnb to find a place to shower and sleep after our epic day at Zion National Park. I will most definitely write about how awesome this national park is, but for now I will catch you up with my trip!
Well, in my last post, I told you about my couchsurfing experience in Nevada and my day trip to Yellowstone. After watching Old Faithful erupt, my brother and I headed south through the Grand Teton National Forest. When we exited Yellowstone, we wove through serpentine roads until reaching a valley that offered breathtaking views of the Grand Tetons. We did our best to keep our eyes on the road, but it very difficult to look away from the mountains.
We followed signs towards Jackson, WY and arrived by early evening. We exited the car and explored the little resort town. Near the town center, there was a public theater show catered for tourists. It was full of guns, old west style shoot outs, and ladies in pretty dresses. I’d never witnessed something like that before. It was obvious to me then that I was in cowboy country. After that, we ate dinner at Snake River Brewery and decided to get sunset shots of the Tetons. After that, we dropped off our bags at the Antler Motel and passed out after our fun-filled day.
Jamie and I split for the morning. Jamie went to the park and sketched, while I relaxed in Cowboy Coffee Cafe and had my first good cup of coffee in a long while. It was nice to have some Molly time. Also, during this time, my father called and told me he was in Yellowstone and on his was to Jackson. It was a complete surprise to me! We made plans to have drinks and dinner that evening.
After, I used my RootsRated app to figure out what hiking trails were nearby and saw that Bridger-Teton National Forest/Cache Creek was our closest trail. Also, since I work at RootsRated as a quasi photo editor, I thought I could take some action shots of hikers, bikers, and trail runners! It was a nice and easy hike. It had a boardwalk along the creek, a wide multi-use trail, and beautiful views of the treelined ridge line. The best part is that it’s at the border of town, so it’s super quick walk, ride, or drive to the trailhead.
The rest of our stay in Jackson went very well. We had beers with our father at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which is famous for having saddle style bar seats, and then ate an amazing meal at Local Restaurant & Bar. It was nice to be spoiled for a night.
The following morning, Jamie and I fueled up with diner-style food, hugged our dad goodbye, and then started our drive to Salt Lake City (SLC). So, why did I decide to come to SLC? Well, for the last 6-8 months, I’ve been photo chasing for RootsRated and one of the cities I worked on extensively was Salt Lake City. From scouring the internet for Creative Commons images via Flickr and google, I learned that SLC is surrounded by mountains, which host dozens of hiking trails just outside (and even inside) the city. This was why I wanted to stop by (and I wanted to see the Mormon temple).
We rolled into town by late afternoon. While staying in cities, I normally use couchsurfing or crash with a friend, but I didn’t know anyone and I tried contacting CSers to no avail. So, that morning, I made an Airbnb account and contacted a host named Dennis. Within minutes of contacting him, he replied and accepted our request. It was relieving to know we had a place to crash, especially a house! We arrived and met Dennis, he gave us a quick rundown of the house, told us some good places to eat nearby, and then gave us the keys. It was easy and painless, not bad for my first Airbnb experience.
It was when Jamie and I were eating dinner that I heard back from a CSer named Austin. He asked if we still needed a place to stay. I said no, but told him that I wanted to go hiking. He said he’d be down, so we made plans to hike the following evening.
The Great Salt Lake
The next day, after catching up on emails and work, Jamie and I hit the town. First we drove to the Great Salt Lake. As we got closer to the lake, I was surprised that it reminded me of the ocean. The air was saturated with the smell of salt and there were gulls and sandpipers grazing the beaches. If I didn’t know better, I could’ve been at the Atlantic Ocean, but I guess it shouldn’t of come as a surprise, it is a very salt lake after all. I enjoyed walking along its shores, breathing in the air, and crunching the salty, crystalline sand beneath my feet.
After the lake, we drove to the city center, parked the car, and walked around. First we visited the Mormon temple. It was pure white and very extravagant. I’d never seen anything like it. While exploring the grounds, I soon recognized that Mormons take their buildings, gardens, and pedestrian pathways very seriously. There were at least a dozen workers cutting tree branches, plucking weeds, and watering flowers. No wonder the temple is so white, I’m sure they keep it very clean, just like the temple grounds.
The rest of the city was like any other city, there were Starbucks, bank buildings, and skyscrapers. Though, there were two major difference that stuck out to me. One was how clean the city center was, the second thing was how wide the roads were. Most of the city streets had at least 3 lanes and sometimes 4 lanes for one-way of traffic. This resulted in long city blocks and little traffic (comparative to other cities I’ve visited). I was told by my CS friend that the roads were built for the Mormon wagon riders who founded this city, since wagons had large turn radii, but that’s just something from word of mouth. Who knows!
After an afternoon in the city, I was done being flanked by buildings. I wanted to go up into the mountains and see those buildings from high up above. This is when Austin and I met up. I learned Austin had just moved to SLC from Colorado, which meant that he hadn’t explored much of the area too. So, I opened my RootsRated app and found the nearest hike, which was called Neff’s Canyon. Austin, his puppy, and I jumped into his car. This is what I like about couchsurfing, I like how you get the opportunity to meet awesome people that you’d never have the chance to meet otherwise. Also, generally, these people are kind, open-minded, and up for a spontaneous adventure, such as an impromptu hiking trip.
Austin on the Neff Canyon Trail, about 15-20 minutes in.
We arrived to Neff’s Canyon pretty late in the evening, I’d say 30 minutes before sunset. I knew we wouldn’t make it to the top of the canyon, but I at least wanted to get a nice view of SLC. I knew my Minnesotan lungs wouldn’t allow me to climb as fast as Austin (Mr. Colorado mountain man), but I didn’t let that deter me. We kept a steady pace as we maneuvered through forested dirt paths and scrambled up rock faces. The start of Neff’s Canyon wasn’t anything special, but after the first bit, the trail get’s rather rugged. I’d even say climbing it while it is wet is probably not the best idea. I was pretty winded when we were nearing the top, but with a few words of encouragement, I pushed myself to finish the last 50-foot incline. I was happy for it too because we got a wonderful view of the SLC skyline at twilight.
Leatherby’s Family Creamery menu
After our hike, we decided ice cream was a necessity, so we found Leatherby’s Family Creamery. The ice cream was good, but the best part was that I finally experienced some Mormon culture. The creamery is run by a mormon family and was packed with nicely dressed couples and large families. The serving staff was really friendly, definitely some of the best costumer service I’d ever had in my entire life. If you have a car while visiting SLC, I’d recommend stopping by.
Thanks for reading! My next post will be about Moab, UT and our experiences exploring Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
I’m going to miss Jackson Hole’s beautiful scenery…