With the hubbub about Delta Airlines considering flying planes in 2008 between Arcata and Salt Lake City, perhaps it would be nice to become more acquainted with our potential new "sky neighbors" in Utah.
Fry sauce. Liquor laws. Powder snow. Utah, despite being only a daylong drive or two-hour flight from Humboldt County, seems like a different culture. And with scraggily mountains and desert mesas, it seems like a different planet. But should you sample the culture and nature, you may conclude, as other travelers have, that it's worth the trip.
Descending into Salt Lake International Airport, you might notice a giant lake, the largest west of the Mississippi, which resembles a profile of Bart Simpson wearing a Smurf hat over his eyes. Despite the salt, the lake teems with shrimp, birds and islands. From time to time, island visitors have seen splashing about a large creature — the so-called North Shore Monster, a watery version of our Bigfoot.
The architectural as well as spiritual nexus of Salt Lake City is Temple Square, headquarters of the Church of Latter Day Saints and a complex of visitor centers, museums and the impressive Salt Lake Temple. In the square, pairs of attractive, young and often international LDS missionaries greet visitors to share the faith of the Mormons. Only church members can enter the temple itself, but others can watch, often free of charge, the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform in nearby venues on a regular basis.
From the square, all roads radiate east, west, north and south in a grid system, similar to the Cartesian one in junior high algebra class, which is so simple and so logical that outsiders find it perplexing for months. For example, the corner of 200 South and 400 East might be referred to as either "second south and fourth east" or "two hundred south and four hundred east."
That intersection, incidentally, houses the first Crown Burger, one of many fast-food eateries opened by Greeks in Utah. Crown Burger. Olympus Burger. Apollo Burger. Atlas Burgers. The Greek chains serve a culinary curiosity that has proven popular, delicious and possibly deadly, a sandwich featuring a thick slab of hamburger meat with an even thicker slab of pastrami.
Another regional hamburger chain founded in Salt Lake, not by Greeks, is Arctic Circle, which has a store in Eureka. Arctic Circle popularized another celebrated gastronomic export from Utah: fry sauce, a tasty if low-brow combo of ketchup and mayo. Arctic Circles in Salt Lake are worth a visit for another reason: discount ski coupons. Forget Shasta. Forget Tahoe. Utah license plates boast of the Greatest Snow on Earth. Utahans don't lie.
When moist Pacific air reaches land, after delivering fog and rain to the California coast and rain and snow to the Sierras, it rises to the jet stream, shoots over to Utah and bumps into the dry, hot desert air. Wringing out one last bit of precipitation, each winter the sky drops on the Wasatch Mountains 500 inches of snowflakes that are very, very light, and very, very dry.
Skiing is not cheap. A day pass can cost $70 or more. Throw in equipment rental and meals and the bill mounts. But many of the resorts have specials, often for skiing on the weekdays or at night. Brighton, for example, offers $10 off if you bring two Salted Nut Roll wrappers. Or better, on Wednesday nights: 2-for-1 skiing with an Arctic Circle coupon, which means each cheapskate skis for $15.
Unfortunately, our world has become warmer. Snow no longer piles onto the mountaintops along Hwy 299. To experience the thrill of skiing, powder junkies have had to push farther east to the edge of California.
Now with the help of Delta we may easily go farther east to Utah. The flight would be well worth it.