I was lucky enough to be accepted into an USA exchange program during my college years. This was what I always wanted, I wanted to travel America, I wanted to live there, and this was my time, my opportunity.
I was accepted into my third choice, being the University of Utah. I really didn’t know much about Utah, isn’t it the home of the Mormons? I was really annoyed that Boston and Chicago were already full, thats what we were told anyhow…
What I didn’t realise was that, this exchange program was going to change my life and Utah would provide me with a thousand Wandering Memories.
I was based in Salt Lake City for 8 months, and was lucky enough to travel a great deal of the magnificent state.
Firstly let me address my original concern that was being surrounded by a religion I didn’t understand. Well actually I have to say all the Mormons I met, were actually lovely, friendly, caring and very family orientated people. One girl we met called Emilee was one of the sweetest, most caring people I had ever met, and continues to this day to be a great friend.
All the Mormon’s we met, had different stories, and slightly different beliefs, and although their perceptions of the world and their faith was drastically different to mine, it didn’t matter. My whole time there, I never felt pressured, or undervalued because I wasn’t Mormon, which shows actually how accepting they are.
Anyhow enough of the culture, let’s get back to the beauty, and wow Utah is beautiful. Salt Lake itself is built in front of a dramatic mountain range, and the skyline although not a dramatic as New York or Chicago, is beautiful. In the winter months the mountains glimmer with snow and storms rage through the valleys. The snowsports rival that of Colorado with Alta and Snowbird a short drive away from the city.
Through the mountain range is the phenomenal Park City, a gorgeous town set in the mountain range, and home to some of Americas most wealthy. It’s a lot like Aspen in the fact that it’s surrounded by the same beautiful rolling mountains – ideal for both hiking in the summer and of course winter sports such as skiing and boarding. The drive alone from Salt Lake to Park City is worth its weight in photographic gold.
The Lake itself is not great, and smells quite bad… but sitting in the middle is that of Antelope Island, that is a touch of pure wilderness unmissable during a visit.
South of the city, Utah really opens up into a rugged wilderness. The views are the stereotypical images of desert western America, you know the ones out of the cowboy movies, mesmorising! The south really comes to life with locations such as Zion and Moab, providing iconic photographic opportunities and true adventure.
One of my favourite’s is that of Moab, a quaint rustic little American town in the middle of the desert. This town provides the gateway to the Arches National Park and further afield Monument Valley. It’s also a great stop over on the way to Las Vegas or Denver. Both locations are phenomenal, Arches especially it an example of true American Wilderness. I have been twice, once with the boys where we were running up Canyons, and scrambling down the valley walls. I wouldn’t recommend what we did that time, as entering a blindingly hot desert without a map is just verging on insanity.
I returned 10 years later with Megan, and to my joy, we visited the numerous arches littered all over the park – it was wondrous. Some of the arches I didn’t even know existed, hidden between layers and layers of rock formations. Delicate Arch is by far the most incredible; I would even verge on awe-inspiring. I’ll let the imagery speak for itself.
As you can probably gather Utah is one of the most incredible wilderness states I have ever visited. Full of beautiful contrasting landscapes and a place to make real memories. Living there for 9 months really did open my eyes up to how vast America was, and the difference states all showcase something special.
If you get the chance to visit America, do something different, avoid the cliché New York’s, Florida’s and California’s and visit somewhere different – Utah is a great differential especially if you like the outdoors full of true Wandering Memories.
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