Sunday, August 26, 2012

Salt Lake City

Look at this logo representing Utah, our 45th state. What does it tell you? Yes, Utah has mountains and is known for snow skiing. In fact, the 2002 Winter Olympics took place in Utah in and around its capital, Salt Lake City. Utah has almost 3,000,000 residents and 80% of them live in the Salt Lake City area along the Wasatch Front. But Utah and Salt Lake City are known for much more than sports and recreation. Nicknamed the Beehive State, the people of Utah admire industriousness. And because of their hard work, Salt Lake City grew and thrived.

The photograph below shows Salt Lake City and the surrounding mountains. The city was named for the Great Salt Lake, the largest lake west of the Mississippi River. It is easy to find on a map of the United States.

What does transcontinental mean? Trans means across, so transcontinental means stretching from coast to coast across this great country of ours. Our nation's first transcontinental highway, the Lincoln Highway cut through Salt Lake City giving it the nickname Crossroad of the West. Mining booms--the largest copper mine in the world is located right outside Salt Lake City--and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad helped Salt Lake City grow. Today it is the industrial banking center of the United States.

Prior to the arrival of American settlers, native tribes lived in the Salt Lake area for thousands of years. Then, in 1847 a group of Americans seeking religious freedom made the trek across the country to establish and settle in Salt Lake City. Some were so desperate to come that they put all of their belongings in handcarts and pulled them across the country. The statue above commemorates these rugged individuals who walked hundreds of miles to reach their new home. As I traveled to Salt Lake City in an air-conditioned car across miles and miles of desert land, I found it a bit tiring. Then, I tried to imagine what it would be like to walk the entire way in the hot sun while pulling all of my belongings in a handcart. I do not believe I would have the stamina. Would you?

The first place I visited was Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. I was struck by the profusion of flowers; they were everywhere. 

The two buildings above comprise part of Temple Square. The one on the left with the shiny domed roof is the Mormon Tabernacle, a type of church. Perhaps you have heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing. Their beautiful voices blend together perfectly. The large granite structure on the right is the Temple, built in the 1800s over a forty-year period. Also in Temple Square is Assembly Hall built from leftover granite after the Temple was finished. You can see Assembly Hall below. It was completed in 1880, and originally the tall spires did not have the white caps because they were chimneys.

In the mid 1800s, before Utah became a state, it was a U. S. Territory. During this time Brigham Young served as governor and lived in the Beehive House. In addition to living quarters, his home had a room called the Clerk's Office. It was used to house government records. Also, the telegraph--the main form of long distance communication at that time--and the post office were part of the Clerk's Office.

Beehive House
Imagine writing letters  or doing your schoolwork on this old typewriter. It sat on the desk that had served as the Clerk's Office.

Bathrooms are a modern convenience, and the Beehive house had none. Prior to homes having running water, people used large  water pitchers to fill basins to wash themselves. And, because there were no toilets, people used chamberpots like the ones you see here on the floor. Each day the chamberpots had to be emptied. Would you like to have that chore?

After I left Temple Square, I made my way across town to visit two interesting sites: Red Butte Gardens and the Utah Natural History Museum. Both are situated on the University of Utah campus. As I walked to the garden I saw a sign reminding me to watch out for rattlesnakes, and while in the garden I saw a couple of rattlesnakes, but these weren't live. 

This sign was not a joke. Rattlesnakes love the terrain in and around Salt Lake City.

I saw a few rattlesnake fountains like this one. Can you see the stream of water shooting from the snake's mouth?

See if you can find the snake in this shady rest area. Where are the fangs? The snake's tongue?

As a gardener, I loved my visit to Red Butte Garden. I couldn't help but wonder why my own flower beds don't look as beautiful considering how much work I put into them. When I left the garden, I walked across the street to the Utah Natural History Museum where I viewed a variety of interesting exhibits.

An entire floor of the museum was devoted to the native cultures who lived here prior to the arrival of American settlers.

There are 523 kinds of minerals found in Utah; at least that is how many have been identified so far. The diversity of minerals is amazing, and some of them are found nowhere else in the world. Here is a specimen of aragonite, a carbonite mineral.

This big boy was a distant relative of the alligator that lived 73-80 million years ago. He was so huge that he was about as long as a school bus. Imagine running into something like that! His scientific name is deinosuchus hatcheri.

If you like dinosaurs you might like this beast. He, too was about as long as a school bus and weighed 4,400 pounds. Those teeth are many inches long. Chomp.

Like many modern science museums, this one has a Paleontology Preparation Lab where workers carefully extract fossils from matrix materials. The work is tedious and time consuming.

As I was leaving, this exhibit caught my eye.
I was shocked by what I learned, and I hope you are, too. All of us must take proactive steps to remedy this problem. Here are some amazing statistics I learned from the exhibit above: 
  • In 2010 we used 28,000,000,000 pounds of plastic packaging. 
  • Every second in the USA 1,500 plastic water bottles are tossed out. 
  • Those pesky plastic bags we get at the grocery store (if we don’t take our own reusable bags or request paper) are a huge problem. 
  • We send 1,000,000,000,000 plastic bags per year to landfills or other dumpsites. 
  • Of course, the earth cannot “digest” plastic, as it does not biodegrade. One plastic bag will last up to 1,000 years. 
  • Trash is filling our oceans, so much so that in the Northern Pacific, there is a mass of trash that is larger than the state of Texas! 
  • Every year 1,000,000 sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die when entangled in plastic pollution or when they ingest it. 
Please think about this the next time you go to the store or reach for a bottle of water. I cannot imagine what Earth will be like if we continue this unabated. What steps will you take to do your part to save our earth?

No comments: