Sunday, July 04, 2010

Road Trip

WARNING: This post contains some comments critical of Mormons. If you think you will be offended, eschew reading this. I do whole-heartedly believe that in the United States there is and should be religious freedom. I also believe that there is freedom of speech.

While we were in Utah, we went on several road trips. Herewith the story of two trips. I have one other road trip story--our trip to Antelope Island, that will wait for another blog.

ROAD TRIP I was to Big Mountain, and eventually into Salt Lake City. We got directions from the concierge at our hotel--she said we could go directly to Salt Lake City, OR (always take the "or"--it's much more fun) we could turn off the interstate highway to Emigration Canyon. Then, instead of following that road, which would require us to turn left toward Salt Lake City, we should turn right. And go up Big Mountain. OK.

Once we reached the top of Big Mountain, we saw why the alternative route was so much better. Wonderful views all around. It was from the peak of this mountain in 1847 that Brigham Young, and his party of Mormons he was leading to escape persecution, viewed the valley below. Young is reputed to have looked down into the valley and announced: this is the place. I'm a sceptic--I have a suspicion the travelers with him were getting tired of the long road trip they were on. Maybe Young sensed a potential insurrection, and quickly announced they had reached their destination.

The route they were traveling--now called the Mormon Pioneer Trail--was not a new westward trail. In fact, as the historical marker pointed out, the ill-fated
Donner party had passed that way the year before. They took too long blazing a trail down the mountain, which delayed their departure to get across the Sierra Nevada mountains before winter set in. (I note that the adjective "ill-fated" seems to be permanently attached to the Donner party...or, conversely, the Donner party is forever destined to be described as "ill-fated.")

I asked our son and daughter-in-law to show a little affection...and, of course, dubbed the photo "Big Love." (Tee-hee)

Yes, the winding road you see is the one we traveled.

Our eventual destination--Salt Lake City. Here are the gardens--quite lovely. What you don't see are the two-by-two sets of missionaries, young people everywhere. They constantly approached us as we walked around, asking if we had any questions about Mormons.

Uh, no--no questions.

The Temple--which non-Mormons are not allowed in. So, we took photos from the outside only. The statue atop the Temple is of the angel Moroni.

We also toured the
Beehive House, nearby Temple Square. Here we had the strangest of encounters. I have read a fair bit about Mormons; I am always interested in learning history. But, I am not persuaded by their religious philosophy. Actually, I find aspects of their history quite puzzling. One of the signature beliefs of Mormons that most non-Mormons would know is that at the outset of establishing their religion, Mormons practiced polygamy. In fact, it was this practice that frequently made them the object of scorn, and resulted in their being persecuted and driven from various communities in which they had settled. Polygamy was adopted as a practice because Joseph Smith, the original founder of the religion, had received a direct revelation from God that he should take a new (younger) wife...and then another, etc. Around the time that Utah wanted to join the United States, the revelation to practice polygamy was withdrawn. OK.

So, anyway, I was curious to see the Beehive House, which was for a time the official residence of Brigham Young. The house is actually several connected houses. Understandably, with multiple wives (he was believed to have had 55 wives), Young would have needed a house with quite a few bedrooms. The three young women who showed us around the house immediately made it a point to underscore that they were "missionaries, not historians" so they couldn't really answer any questions we might have. It was clear their primary goal was to proselytize, right down to distributing postcards for us to fill out for "more information." When our daughter-in-law declined, the one young woman said--oh, a non-believer.

I had taken some photos in the house--then at one point asked something about the furnishings of a particular room, only to have the young woman say--oh, these furnishings are from the time period. In other words, not authentic original furnishings. So, I stopped taking photos. I smelled a distinct odor of historical hypocrisy.

Road Trip II was a simple little jaunt to follow Route 224 out of Park City. And on the map, the road was clearly "there." Admittedly, the map notation did say "closed in winter." Hmmm.

Yup, that is a road.

To get to this point, we had already climbed a mountain road with hairpin turns, drop-offs and no guard rails. I wasn't quite at the toe-curling stage, but I was getting close.

The car you see is the little tiny Toyota Yaris that the car rental company had allotted to us.

We were now at a juncture, and had pulled off into a parking area. I saw a man there playing with his dog, and inquired whether he could tell us anything about the road ahead. His answer--well, yes, he knew the road continued on up and down another mountain, but he had never driven it. His parents lived "over there" somewhere and his brother drove the road, but not him. YIKES. And we were going to forge on? By now, my husband was thoroughly enjoying our road trip, and my palms were sweating.

I just had to show you the GPS indication of the up-coming hairpin. This was one of MANY such turns. In fact, part of the time, the GPS showed our car driving in the middle of NOTHING. No road, just blank space, and the icon representing our car.

But as we reached the final mountain peak, and started down the last hill, this gorgeous valley lay before us.

Once on the other side of the mountain, we continued on to Sundance--where Robert Redford lives. His home--not that we saw it, but we had an inkling where it was--is up a similar mountain road, but it was paved. Pffffttt!!! If you want real adventure, you drive the unpaved road.

I am not sure I ever really understood the closing lines of Robert Frost's marvelous poem "
The Road Not Taken" before.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Oh, yes--it DID make all the difference to take the road less traveled.


Jayne said...

Really beautiful scenery, but like you, I'd have been a wee bit nervous with not knowing exactly what was ahead. Did you see Bill Maher's documentary, Religulous? They did a segment on Mormonism... really interesting.

Molly said...

I loved the photos and documentary! My favorite --- the GPS of absolutely nothing. That is priceless.

Anvilcloud said...

Oh yes, taking the backroads can be delightful, if nervewracking for the more directionally challenged amongst us.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

The backroads are always more interesting that the expressways.
This is spectacularly scenic countryside.

possumlady said...

I was in Park City in 2000 for a summer board meeting and fell in love with the area. Due to the lack of humidity, my hair never looked so good! We stayed at the Deer Park Resort and I also took a ski lift up the mountain and hiked back down (or maybe it was the other way around). Would NEVER do that again. I was sitting with our Chief Financial officer and I talked to him the entire lift trip with my eyes closed.

Park City is pretty diverse but the evening news was a little strange with a lot of "Elder so and so commented on ....."

Great photos! Brings back good memories.

NCmountainwoman said...

Beautiful country. I became extremely curious about LDS and the right-wing sects when I read "Under the Banner of Heaven." I am still fascinated with their history and founding principles.

BTW: I just read a novel recommended by independent booksellers. "The Lonely Polygamist" (by Brady Udall) is an interesting read with good character development. I liked it much more than I thought I would.

Anonymous said...

Photos are beautiful. . . very special!

Any religion that considers women second class citizens--and WAAAAY too many of them do, including this one-- is suspect in my book.

Ginnie said...

More photos of that amazing part of our country !! It's whetting my appetite for travel...thanks.

Mauigirl said...

Beautiful scenery! I agree, the less traveled roads are always the best. Whenever I have the opportunity to get off the interstate anywhere, I take it!

Ruth said...

The scenery is spectacular. I would have enjoyed that road too as long as I had a GPS unit. There is a large Mormon Temple in Brampton ON called the Toronto Ontario Temple with that same angel on top. I know very little about this religion.