Rocky Mountains & Western Frontiers Land Tour
8/30/17 to 9/12/17

Due to the length of the review, it is in 5 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.

Page 1 - Denver, CO to Cheyenne, WY to Rapid City, SD
Page 2 - Rapid City, SD to Billings, MT to Cody, WY
Page 3 - Cody, WY to Yellowstone Nat. Park to Jackson Hole, WY

Page 4 - Jackson Hole, WY to Salt Lake City, UT
Page 5 - Salt Lake City, UT to Vernal, UT to Steamboat Springs, CO to Denver, CO


Day 9 - Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Salt Lake City, Utah

We would be visiting three states on our way to Salt Lake City, since we had to drive through a corner of Idaho.  The scenery along the way was really pretty; but the smoke was pretty thick in places too.  During the drive, we would see a video about Brigham Young and the Mormon Church; which helped us out quite a bit to know what we would be seeing when we arrived in Salt Lake City.




We stopped in a small town for a quick coffee and restroom break, Afton, Wyoming.  As we drove through, we passed under the world’s largest Elkhorn arch, with 3,300 antlers.  It might have been bigger than the ones in Jackson Hole; but Jackson Hole’s were prettier.


We stopped at the Star Valley Chocolate Factory to use their restrooms and satisfy everyone’s chocolate needs.  As we stepped off the bus, we were given chocolate samples to get us in the mood to purchase some. 

As we were driving through the small town of Paris, Idaho, Scott told us to watch out the left side to see the Paris Tabernacle.  It was built by one of Brigham Young’s sons in 1888.  It was a beautiful building; but I wish we could have stopped to see the interior.  While writing this review, I found some photos of the lovely interior.  It would have been worth stopping to see.            

After entering Utah, we had a photo stop at the Bear Lake Valley welcome center.  Scott had told us that on some days, the lake was a beautiful aquamarine color; but he doubted that it would be that way while we were there due to the smoky conditions.  He was right.  Below is a photo of the view to the lake.  We couldn’t even see that there was a lake out there.  Better luck next time, I guess.  I really can’t complain, since we were having great weather and seeing a beautiful area of the country.  We were most fortunate to be able to see what we had seen.

We were enjoying the mountainous terrain in northern Utah.  We had previously been to southern Utah on a trip where we visited Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, so we knew it was a beautiful state.


We also saw a Mormon temple while driving through a town in the mountains.

We arrived at our hotel, the Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites Midvalley (, just after 4:00 PM.  Since we were taking the optional Temple Square and Tabernacle Choir Rehearsal with Dinner tour that evening, we had a quick turnaround and would be getting back on the bus in an hour and a half.


With us spending two nights at the hotel, we were glad that it was a very nice modern hotel.  The room was well appointed with very comfortable beds.  It seemed even nicer after staying at the older Antler Hotel the previous night.




The Crystal Inn provided a free light dinner between 5:00 and 7:00 PM each evening.  Those folks who weren’t taking the optional tour could take advantage of this benefit.  We would be able to the next evening. 

When we arrived at Temple Square (, we were introduced to our two missionary guides who would show us around and tell us about the Mormon religion.  They provide these free tours to make guests aware of the Mormon religion, and of course for recruiting purposes.  As Scott had told us, they don’t use hard pressure tactics.  They are just very sweet and helpful people.  I would run into several missionaries over the two days we were at the square.  They were all very pleasant warm people, and not pushy at all.  Maybe because they figured it was too late for this old guy to change his mind on his religious preferences.

The square was a very pretty place with lots of flowers.  The Assembly Hall was quite an attractive building.  We would visit the interior later during the tour.



We stopped near the Assembly Hall and the guides told us about the statues and monuments nearby.



We saw the Tabernacle building across the way, where we would be attending the rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

We then went inside the Assembly Hall, where we could sit while the guides told us about the building and other information.



After leaving the hall, we went to an area close to the Salt Lake Temple.  This building has a most impressive and beautiful exterior.  A centerpiece is a gold statue of the Angel Moroni, who was supposed to have visited the churches founder, Joseph Smith, on numerous occasions.


The guides then lead us to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which was the former Hotel Utah, where every President from Taft to Reagan spent the night, when visiting Salt Lake City.  This was where we were to have dinner.  The lobby area is just gorgeous and the ceiling magnificent.



The detail work was just exquisite.  I had to stand there in awe appreciating the beauty of this building that had been enjoyed as a hotel by former US Presidents and dignitaries.



It was just an awesome room.  At one end of it was a statue of Joseph Smith.

We next loaded onto elevators to go to the top floor of the building to be seated in the Garden Restaurant.  It was a very nice room, with a glass ceiling where we could look up to see an obstructed view of a flag pole on a beehive.  Scott had told us about Utah and beehives on the bus; and we would learn more about them the next day.


Caesar salads were already on the tables when we sat down.  After finishing our salad, I walked around to see the view from the windows around the room.  It was a great view of Temple Square, especially the temple itself.  From above, I could appreciate the building’s ornamentation. Plus I could get a much better photo of the Angel Moroni


I was also able to get a better view of the Tabernacle building.  With it being so large and surrounded by trees, it was difficult to get a decent photo of it at ground level.

We were offered three main courses for dinner, chicken Alfredo, salmon or meat loaf.  Carol took the chicken Alfredo and I chose the meat loaf.  We were surprised at the large portion size; and pleased that both entrees were quite delicious. For dessert we had ice cream and a delicious cookie type treat.


With the sun setting, I would get up from my seat regularly to see the illuminated temple and the status of the sunset.  The view was improving every minute.  I was really enjoying this dinner.


Scott let everyone know that we would be leaving soon to walk over to the Tabernacle for the rehearsal.  With the rehearsal running from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, we knew we would miss some of it, because our meal didn't end until after 7:30 PM; but we also knew that we wouldn’t stay for the full thing.  Everyone met back in the beautiful lobby and we walked over to the Tabernacle.  It wasn’t yet totally dark outside; but the illuminated buildings were looking even prettier.


We entered the Tabernacle quietly, since the rehearsal was in progress. 


The room wasn’t as large as I was expecting it to be, based on the exterior appearance.  It is 250 feet long by 150 feet wide and seats 3,500 people.  When it was constructed in 1864, people were concerned that the nine-foot-thick roof would collapse.  Since it has held up over 150 years, I guess there was nothing to worry about. The building was designed for the acoustics, which are outstanding.  The next day, we had a demonstration of how we could hear different sounds from the podium without any sound equipment.  This included ripping paper and dropping coins.  Quite impressive.  The massive pipe organ has 11,623 pipes, making it one of the largest pipe organs in the world.


Since this was a rehearsal, it was interesting to watch the conductor start and stop the music repeatedly at the same place, until he was satisfied with their performance.  He seemed to be a very pleasant fellow who would work with the singers without getting upset at them if it wasn’t perfect.  He also made the choir laugh periodically.  When he was happy with what they had done, they would perform the full song.  I did record one almost full piece that you can listen to below in the YouTube video.

After we left the rehearsal, it had gotten dark outside and we could finally see the full effect of the building’s illumination.  I could even get an unobstructed view of the top of the Joseph Smith Memorial building where we had dinner.


We were looking forward to seeing more of Salt Lake City the next day.


Day 10 - Salt Lake City, Utah

The hotel’s included buffet breakfast was the best we had eaten on the whole trip.  Everything tasted good. Even the eggs were real eggs, not a blended concoction, like some of the hotels had.  We were going to have a shorter touring day, with a 9:15 AM start and a return to the hotel by 4:00 PM. 

On the way to Temple Square, we passed by the large Salt Palace Convention Center.  I thought that the display at the entrance was rather unusual.


As we drove past Temple Square, we saw the LDS Conference Center.  It is a large building, with a garden covering almost the entire roof.   We couldn’t see the garden from ground level; but could see some of the trees around the outside of it.

Our first destination for the day was the Utah State Capitol building.  We had seen it in the distance up on a hill as we came into Salt Lake City the previous day.  It was much prettier closer up.  We exited the bus and headed to the front entrance to go through security. 


Scott had told us to go to the upper floors after checking out what was on the first, since there was more to see up there and it was prettier. He also told us that there was a replica of the Liberty Bell on the first floor.   The Hall of Governors on the first floor mainly had pictures of former governors along the walls; which made the Utah State Seal in the middle of it really stand out.


At the other end of the floor was the Liberty Bell replica.

What was most interesting to me was the display discussing the beehive’s significance to Utah.  The explanation is in the below photo.


As we had been told, the second floor was a much prettier floor.  This was a gorgeous building, which was enhanced by the use of white marble throughout.




The rotunda is the largest room in the building, and quite lovely.  The cyclorama around the base of the dome depicts 19th century Utah life; as do the paintings between the rotunda arches.  I could have used a wider-angle lens to capture the complete dome; but the below photos capture a lot of it.





I went up the stairs to the third floor to see the House Chamber.  It is the largest room on the floor and beautifully decorated.



Carol had asked me earlier if I had seen the statue that seemed to be staring down at her in a different part of the building.  She wanted me to take a photo of it when I saw it.  From the third floor, I could see the statue looking down from the fourth floor.   The statue was of Utah native, Philo Farnsworth.  He was an inventor that is credited with developing the first completely electric television.

I next walked over to the Senate Chamber.  This was another gorgeous room.  I really liked the paintings throughout the building.


The most ornate room in the Capitol was the State Reception Room.  After I took my first photo of the room, a docent told me that it was the only room where photography was not allowed.  Since there were no signs stating that, I came back later and took some more photos.  Since I don’t use flash, there wouldn’t be any harm in taking them.


We could have spent a lot more time in this building, since I didn’t get to go up to the fourth-floor gallery.  I am sure it would have been worth visiting; but I needed to go outside to take some more photos of the statuary around the building’s exterior.  I took some close ups of the Corinthian columns and large lions at the front of the building.


I really liked the statue of Indian Chief Massassoit.  It was sculptured by a famous Utah sculptor.

Before getting on the bus, I walked over to the Mormon Battalion Monument.  I wasn’t sure what it was at the time; but I have since found out that the photo is of the backside.  The front is the more impressive side with a bronze statue of a soldier. 

After leaving the Capitol building, we were going to do a drive by for each side of the bus to see the Olympic Stadium used in the 2002 Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies.  We passed by some beautiful buildings on the way there.


Since the stadium is now used by the University of Utah, it looks pretty much like any stadium, other than that the Olympic cauldron has been moved from the inside to the exterior of the stadium. 


We headed back toward Temple Square for those that hadn’t gone on the previous evening’s optional tour to be able to see it; as well as to go to lunch in the area.  If we wanted to, we could also attend an organ recital in the Tabernacle, which we were looking forward to. 

Scott had said that there was a model of the temple showing what the interior looked like in the visitor center.  Since non-Mormons aren’t allowed to enter the temple, I was most curious to see what it looked like.  We had a half hour to kill before the recital started, so we headed that way.  The center had some displays about early Mormon life in Utah and other memorabilia.  When we came to the model, it was difficult to take a photo of it, since light was reflected on the plastic protection around it.  We were still able to get an idea.  It was a most interesting looking place.


The temple baptistry is quite different from any I have seen before.

I still had over twenty minutes to explore the square.  Carol told me to take the TravelScoot, since she was going to sit with the other folks until the recital started.  That way I could cover ground faster and walk less.  It worked for me.   The grounds are really pretty and I had not been able to see or get photos of the front of the temple.


When I finally found the way to get to the front of the temple, I was disappointed that there didn’t appear to be a way to get further back from the building to get a wider shot.   I thought I was fenced in, so I took a bunch of photos from where I was, which was an interesting angle; but not what I had hoped for.          


It was time for me to join Carol to go to the recital.  I then realized that there was an exit gate not far away where I could get the view I had been hoping for outside the fence; but I would have to hustle to not be late.  When I got there it was just perfect, I took several shots and raced back to meet Carol.   


Since we had been in the Tabernacle the previous evening, we knew where the handicap entrance was, where Carol would be able to just drive her scooter on to the main floor.  It looked different, since no one was on stage.  A woman came out and gave the display of the fine acoustic qualities of the Tabernacle that I mentioned earlier.  She then told everyone what she was going to play.  We listened to a few of selections; but didn’t stay too long.  We were disappointed that she wasn’t playing music that would display the full ability of the organ.  Perhaps she would later in her performance; but since we did not have enough time to hear the full program and eat lunch, we left early.  We had heard enough and were glad we came.

For lunch, we couldn’t decide where to go, so we went to the mall across the street to find the food court.  We didn’t realize that the mall covered two long blocks and the food court was at the other end.  After lunch, Carol headed back to the bus; but I wanted to go out and see some of the things we had seen on the ride in to the square.  The palatial home we seen was actually a jewelry store now.

The first attraction was the Eagle Gate.  This was erected in 1859 to commemorate the entrance to Brigham Young’s property.  It originally had a wooden eagle on it; but was replaced with the 4,000-pound eagle with a 20-foot wingspan.  The entire gate was widened when the street was widened.


Beside the gate is one of Brigham Young’s homes, the Beehive House.  It got its name from the beehive sculpture that sits on top of the house.  Since he was a polygamist, he needed large houses to accommodate his 55 wives and many children.


Right next door is the Lion House, which was completed two years after the Beehive House.  It was his official residence as governor of the Utah territory.  It got its name from the lion statue sitting above the front door.  The front yard was loaded with flowers.


On the way back to the bus, I passed by some lovely flowered open areas, which were part of Temple Square.  I was also able to see the front of the Joseph Smith Memorial building.  It must have been some hotel in its days.


There was also a monument and large bronze statue of Brigham Young along the sidewalk.


Our last destination for the day was to the Great Salt Lake.  To get there we would be taking different routes than we had been taking, and seeing more of the city.  Salt Lake City certainly appears to be a nice town and probably a great place to live, other than the very cold winters.  I liked the town a lot.

As we got closer to the lake viewing area, Scott told us to watch for the large smoke stack. He said that it is 1,215 feet tall, just 35 feet shorter than the Empire State Building.  The antenna on top of the Empire State building does add an additional 204 feet; but the concrete structure is what is just 35 feet taller than the smokestack.  That is still one very tall smokestack.  It didn’t take long to see it in the distance.  When we stopped at the welcome center everyone took photos of it.  The smokestack was built in 1974 in anticipation of clean air requirements for the copper smelter.  It has turned out to be much higher than it needed to be with advances in pollution control.  With the mountains behind it being 9,000 feet in elevation or 4,000 feet above the Salt Lake Valley, the stack doesn’t appear as tall as it really is.

We went into the small welcome center and then out to look at the lake itself.  We could only see a very small part of the lake and much of it was taken up by Antelope Island.


Some people walked down to the lake.  When they returned they were talking about how dirty the water looked. 

There really wasn’t much to see or do at the lake; but when in Salt Lake City, one has to visit Salt Lake.  We were able to check it off and head back to the hotel. It is such a pleasure to see large mountains surrounding a city.  it makes Salt Lake City quite a beautiful place.

The light dinner for that night was spaghetti, garlic bread and a nice salad.  Like breakfast the food was really good.  Everyone raved about how nice the hotel was.         

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