Wandering the West
October 14, 2008
Park City teachers, and teachers statewide, have Thursday and Friday off for the UEA teacher convention, and that means anyone with kids in school has a four-day weekend. In our family, these were always treasured vacation times and there are lots of possibilities this time of year.
The classic UEA getaway is Disneyland. Every time we did that we bumped into other Park City families and just had to laugh. This may be the one weekend at the park where Utahns outnumber visitors from all other states. As a veteran driver to Southern California, I can about guarantee you the drive clocks in at 12 hours exactly. That’s either one hellacious day-long drive with little kids, or an easy two-day jaunt with the overnight in St. George, Mesquite, Las Vegas, or my favorite, Primm Valley on the California-Nevada border, where weeknight rooms at Whiskey Pete’s are dirt cheap. And where else can you ride a monorail over I-15 to the casino on the other side, where Bonnie and Clyde’s actual death car full of bullet holes awaits?
Closer to home the choices vary from crisp mountain outings to still warm desert hikes, all within six hours drive. To the north, try three or four days in Jackson. The crowds are gone, rooms are plentiful at off-season rates, and you can get into restaurants without waiting. Big-game animals are down low for wildlife viewing in Grand Teton and, although the nights are bone chilling now, a midday hike in the golden aspens is spectacular and crowd-free.
My favorite UEA getaways are all in southern Utah. Here the nights are plenty cold, but the days spectacular and warm. There are lots of options, both for campers and motel dwellers.
A three-day stay in Moab allows plenty of time to hit Arches National Park and take some hikes to distant arches, with another day in either the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park west of Moab, or the Needles District which lies southwest of town. On the way to the Needles you’ll pass Newspaper Rock, a state historic site named for the hundreds of ancient scribbles on a big rock wall. In the Island District, take a side tour over to Dead Horse Point State Park for views that go forever.
Southern Utah is full of largely unknown state parks with first-rate facilities, although some lack running water, especially this late in the season. Goblin Valley State Park between Green River and Hanksville is unlike any other valley in Utah with goofy rock formations shaped like gnomes and goblins. This is a fun place to take kids at night with flashlights for a game of hide and seek (just count heads before you leave).
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Kodachrome Basin near Cannonville, below Bryce Canyon National Park, has to be the only state park named for photographic film. National Geographic staffers named it for the vivid rock colors in the eroded sandstone formations. I just read that Kodak is going to discontinue making Kodachrome film, so the state may have to rename this place Digital Print Park to keep up with the photographic times.
Further south a few good bets include Snow Canyon State Park outside of St. George, and Coral Pink Sand Dunes near Kanab, with miles of shifting dunes. Coral Pink looks as if it’s out of Lawrence of Arabia, that is if Lawrence had come across hundreds of noisy dune buggies. There are sections reserved for non-motorized use if you want to go barefoot in the sunbaked pink sand.
If it’s too late to throw together a last-minute UEA trip, think of things close to home that you never get around to with your kids. Hogle Zoo and Liberty Park’s Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City are good bets, but how about looking at dead human bodies instead?
Body Worlds 3, the sensational exhibit of human cadavers peeled back to reveal the body’s interior structure, is at the Leonardo, the budding science center being developed in the old Salt Lake City Library across the plaza from the new library.
I went with my adult daughter last week and we were amazed by what we saw. It sounds gross, but all the body parts have been injected with plastic so they are permanent representations of the human body. There are dissected hurdlers and joggers, with their heads split into slices. There’s even an entire dissected and plasticized camel.
It’s worth the price of admission alone to show impressionable kids what a healthy lung looks like next to the coal-black lungs of a dead smoker. But it’s not for little kids or the squeamish.
You can truly come out of that exhibit and say, "Well, I’ve never seen that before!
Free-lance writer Larry Warren has been wandering the West covering news stories for television and magazines since he landed in Utah in the mid-1970s. In this column he writes about the favorite places he goes back to when he can.
Web sites: http://www.stateparks.utah.gov
Insider tip: Study the Body World Web site for appropriateness and for ticket availability. On busy days you need to buy a timed-entry ticket. You’ll find discount coupons in the Salt Lake papers and on the Web site.