Thursday, September 29, 2011

Salt Lake City and Antelope Island: Not Our Favorite Stop

Thursday, September 29

George Bailey would love the Salt Lake City KOA. Last night was filled with jet noise, train whistles, and traffic -- all night long! The only thing missing were ship anchor chains. Needless to say, we didn't get a great night's sleep. It's too bad they put us in the front near the road; the back of the park is probably quieter. Oh well, we're off tomorrow.

We got up early this morning to go to the 8:00 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine which is absolutely beautiful, although I knew the Church had been renovated the minute we walked in because it had a large baptismal hot tub in the back.
We picked up a brochure which talked about the changes "mandated by Vatican II." That was an eye-roller, but the church is still impressive with fine paintings of Mary Magdalene in scenes with Christ and a very impressive painting in the sanctuary dome. In the middle is the Blessed Trinity with Jesus on the cross, God the Father over Him, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove at the top. To
the viewer's right a group of Old Testament figures stand in worship including Moses holding the tablet of the commandments, a crowned King David with his harp, and Deborah with a sword in one hand and the head of Holofernes in the other. On the left side New Testament figures stand. I recognized St. Alphonsus and Joan of Arc in her armor. A young girl in front held a leash attached to a lamb. I'm sure she was one of the Roman virgin martyrs, perhaps St. Agatha. It was interesting trying to figure out who everyone was. A brochure in the back of the Church said a book was available in the rectory to explain the decorations, but no one answered the door when we rang even though the office was supposed to be open. Too bad.

We went from there to the Mormon Temple and the opposite was true there. People kept offering to help us, give us a tour, and take our contact information so some Mormons could visit us back home. We were even asked to be interviewed for a video about Temple Square which we declined. Two young girls on an 18-month mission at the Temple showed us around. All the attention was a little overwhelming actually. I certainly admire their zeal, though. I was trying to think whether we have anything comparable to it and decided the Legion of Mary is the closest. Sadly, Catholics are lacking in evangelical activism although we are called to it. So sad. We have the fullness of the faith and often are too timid or embarrassed to offer it to others.

The temple is only open to the Mormons but there is a tabernacle where concerts take place and two information centers, one filled with displays depicting the pioneer journey of Joseph Smith and his vision of founding Salt Lake City and building the temple; and the other with many beautiful paintings of the life of Christ and a model of Jerusalem. The gardens are also very beautiful with flowers everywhere. One of the guides told us they will all be ripped out next week so they can plant the tulip bulbs for next spring. What a shame. The weather here is like late summer so I'm sure they would continue to thrive for weeks. We also passed through the geneological area where people can look up information about their family history. We were on a balcony looking down and a number of people were being assisted. Their service is free. I was a little sorry I'm not into geneology.

There is also a beautiful historical hotel built by the Mormons as a sort of welcome center for visitors and a place to lodge guests attending conferences. It's on the historical register and has lodged many famous guests including presidents like John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan and loads of celebrities: Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, Katherine Hepburn, Elvis Presley, Charlie Chaplain, and George Harrison are just a few who have stayed there. The hotel has incredible crystal chandeliers, faux marble columns, wrought iron balcony railings, and other beautiful appointments. Lovely! We had breakfast in the cafe after Mass and were amused that they don't sell coffee but have caffeinated Coke and Diet Coke.

After lunch we drove to Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake. It's about thirty miles north of the city and is reached by a six mile causeway. There's an old ranch on the island that was begun by the Mormons for taking care of their herds. We took the self-guided tour and I was charmed by some of the artifacts including a lovely doll and some china that reminded me of Larry's parents "good china" when he was growing up. I have a few pieces (the only ones not broken) hanging on the wall in plate racks. Antelope Island is now a state park with a buffalo herd, big-horned sheep, bison (lots of bison: bison in the road, bison in the flowers, bison on the beach, etc.) and other wildlife. Despite the high salt content in the lake, it contains brine shrimp (really tiny) and has these little black flies both of which attract migratory birds. We pulled out the spotting scope at one point and watched some waders along the shore. I'm not sure what they were. I'll check them out in my bird book when I get home.

Larry and I decided we had to test the water so we went down to the north beach and walked out to the lake. Oh yuck! There were piles of decomposing brine shrimp and millions of the tiny black flies. We waded anyway, but it was not the highlight of our trip. The one good thing...there were lots of flat stones and so easy to skip. I was getting four or five jumps which I can never do at home. Between the nice, flat rocks and the denser water I felt like a rock-skipping champ.

We're off to Bryce Canyon tomorrow. We aren't even tempted to stay another day in Salt Lake City.

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