The Great Salt Lake is the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere and it is huge. It is actually the biggest lake outside of the Great Lakes region in the USA. Depending on weather conditions its size ranges from 950 square miles all the way up to 3,300 square miles. When we were there last summer the drought affecting the western United States had reduced its size considerably and vast swaths of salt lay crystalizing in the hot desert sun. All that gleaming white salt made it almost impossible to look at without hurting your eyes making the entire area appear like one colossal mirage.
While you would think little wildlife could inhabit this area many birds live in the salt water and fresh water marshlands. The Bald Eagle, gulls, pelicans and swans either live in the area or migrate through it. If you are in the area Antelope Island State park offers unprecedented views of the lake, wildlife viewing and hiking/biking trails.
When visiting the GSL I found it very interesting that we had to wash off our shoes due to the high salinity of the salt just resting on the ground. The kids were amazed by this great salt body and I was too. A very interesting site if you are headed to Salt Lake City…in fact, you really can’t miss it!
One of the loveliest places I have been is actor/activist Robert Redford’s Sundance. Redford bought the place and has since turned it into a premier resort which doesn’t have a resort feeling at all. The only word I can use to describe it is…serene.
The last time we were there we took in lunch at the Foundry Grill. It is a place that is designed to look like a high-end rustic cabin complete with chinking. The atmosphere is slick but elegant and the menu was superb.
We then took the Scenic Lift to the top of Ray’s Summit where we spent several hours hiking through this pristine mountain trail. The vistas are incredible and the fresh air refreshes as you hike through the pines. Mountain biking,fly fishing, skiing, zip lining and spa services are also available. But what I really loved was the Art Studio where I watched the in-residence glass blowers. To be able to take that original blob and bend and shape it into something spectacular just amazes me. Guests can also take workshops in painting, pottery and making jewelry.
While I have never stayed in the rooms or cabins that are available for rent; it is my understanding that they are immaculate and decorated in a style to fit this mountain resort. Be forewarned they are pricey.
Everything about Sundance is what you would expect of something Robert Redford would develop from beautiful architecture, to babbling brooks and impressive artwork. And every time I come back I am amazed at the changes. The first time I visited was around 1980 when it was just a fairly quiet patch of beautiful ground. Now it is a destination that seeks to preserve the quiet essence of this beautiful area with a dignity not often found in a place that is rated one of the top resorts in the USA.
We first fell in love with Cedar Breaks National Monument and the surrounding area in 1993. Just four hours away from Las Vegas this was the place we went to for rest and relaxation when we wanted to escape “Sin City.”
The scenery is breathtaking here with natural red rock ampitheaters and meadows that are wide with bubbling brooks and colored a thousand different of shades of green. But it is not that time of year that I want to examine. It is now, in the dead of winter, during which this land truly sparkles.
Cold. Yes it is cold. It is also the time (usually mid-November until May) when Highway 148 closes due to heavy snowfall. Then the magic begins when this road becomes a groomed trail within the monument in which to snowshoe, ski and snowmobile. And after January on Saturdays you will find the Ranger Station open at the North Alpine Trailhead where you can often find a cup of hot chocolate waiting. While there is a lot of fun to be had remember in winter you are essentially on your own. Snowstorms descend quickly and drifts 10-20 ft high can be unexpected and dangerous.
There is another reason Cedar Breaks is such a unique and special place especially in winter. It has one of the darkest and clearest night skies in the entire country. Bring along a telescope or two to see nebulae, planets and fantastic galaxies in a place thats daytime beauty is memorable while its nighttime is downright spectacular! The parks system also hosts Star Parties in the evenings during the summer. In the winter Star Parties are hosted at the Navajo Lodge in Brian Head a nearby ski resort. Telescopes are provided. Click here for more information. http://www.nps.gov/cebr/upload/2016WinterStarParties.pdf
To get to the trailhead take Highway 143 through the town on Brian Head to the junction of highway 148. There you will find a plowed parking lot at which to begin your outdoor winter adventure.