Go West, Young Man… Brent Travels Western America

Brent Here! A few new parts of America were unveiled last week as I traveled on another training trip for Scenic Tours. This time I knocked off 5 more states: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota and Colorado. When I landed in Salt Lake City, it was familiar at first… I recall connecting through that airport many times and I’d seen the skyline in the distance with the mountain backdrop before, but this would mark as my first trek into the downtown core.

I read somewhere that around half of the population of Salt Lake City are members of the LDS Church. The city was founded by Mormon followers and there is evidence of that everywhere you go. Regardless of your own beliefs its hard not to appreciate Temple Square and the beautiful architecture that surrounds you here. I heard a bit of the Bell Orchestra practicing in the famous Salt Lake Tabernacle – this domed roof building is a prized architectural masterpiece. The acoustics are so good that, apparently on a guided tour, this is demonstrated by dropping a pin from the pulpit – the sound can be heard throughout the building. Here’s some of the Tabernacle Bell Orchestra, and the beautiful Salt Lake Temple (you have to be Mormon to enter).

The next day we hit the road. It was breakfast in Utah, lunch in Idaho and dinner in Wyoming! (as a friend on Facebook commented: “Mormons, Potatoes and Cowboys!”) Our destination took us higher into the mountains (over 6000 feet) to the town of Jackson, Wyoming. Literally within minutes of driving through town, the group of us were peering out the Van windows at the quaint streets of this resort town had the same reaction: This town rocks!! Jackson is the gateway to Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. It also has a bunch of great ski resorts surrounding it. Therefore, It’s the kind of place you can picture spending the daylight hours in nature – and then finding a cozy restaurant for dinner. Or why not the “Million Dollar Cowboy Bar” where the wall of bar stools are each equipped with Horse Saddles…. no joke.

Another very cool thing about Jackson is that in 1912 the National Elk Refuge was set up here to protect one of the largest herds on earth! Unfortunately when I return with my tour group in May, the roughly 8000 Elk that congregate here every winter will have moved on, but I feel so fortunate to have seen it. Yellowstone was still closed for the season, but we got to see a bit of Grand Teton National Park: Yes, if you speak french you’re correct! Its named after the ‘l’es trois tétons’ The 3 Teats or breasts – referring to the Mountains… obviously. As you can see there is still tons of snow up there, so we only got to drive through portion of the park, but what I saw was magnificent.

We left the parks and went from Critters to Sculptures when we got to Rapid City, South Dakota. On my tour we will stay here for 3 nights, simply because there is tons to see in the vicinity. Starting with Mount Rushmore which is one of those iconic American Symbols. I have to say, even after seeing countless photos of this National Memorial, it was still very impressive! The 60 foot granite Sculptures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln (left to right) represent 130 years of history.

Carving mountains seems to be thing to do in these parts! Next up we checked out “Crazy Horse Memorial” This complex is currently under construction with no completion date in site! It was started by a polish american sculptor named Korczak Ziolkowski. If completed it could be the the largest sculpture in the world. They are literally blasting away at a mountain, carving a Lakota Warrior called ‘Crazy Horse’. He’s pointing in the distance on the back of his horse. Its SO hard to see the perspective of how massive this project is. Even when I was standing there….its HUGE. The cool part is that the project is a private non profit organization. The plan is for this to be a Memorial to the American Indians. The sculpture will be the centre of a new Campus, and Medical training centre as well as the Indian Museum of North America. Check out the photo of the proposed completed model sculpture with the current mountain in progress behind it. I’m not sure if I will get to see the finished product in my lifetime, but you can check in on their website to see a live webcam for a progress update :)

Next we got to see something that was sculpted by nature in Badlands National Park. Erosion caused the Buttes Pinnacles and Spires that you see here. It was like driving around on another planet.

Ahhhh what a CRAZY week…. Actually a crazy 5 weeks!! Eastern USA, the Soul Train Cruise, Vegas and now this… I finished things up in Denver Colorado before flying home and I got a chance to hop on a bike – my favorite way to explore a city. Denver has a bike share program with stations all over the city. I saw most of the big parks, and I must say Denver is a lot like Vancouver. It’s similar in size and population. The people seem to have that same Green and Environmentally Conscious attitudes, and given the setting so close in proximity to the Rockies, there was a recreational vibe here that I love too. Just wish there was more time!

Its back to Vancouver where I will be doing a little media stuff for Vancouver Fashion Week 2014.

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