Utah Adventure, Part 1

On July 24, 2011 · 3 Comments

The hunt for geo-oddities in northern Utah is well underway. The family will want to visit more recognizable sights so I’ll have to mix in a few "normal" tourist activities along the way. I have to maintain a careful balance: just enough to keep them entertained while giving me an opportunity to diverge to features a bit more obscure. As usual, I’ll use the Twelve Mile Circle to provide an overview and someday in the future I may elaborate on these topics on my permanent travel page.

Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian

Utah Salt Lake Meridian

This little stone may not mean much on a conscious level to the thousands of people who walk past it every day although it impacts them continuously in subtle ways. It is the exact spot where Brigham Young proclaimed, "Here we will build a temple to our God." and where Wilford Woodruff then drove a stake into the ground in 1847. Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka "Mormons") and the State of Utah are inextricably intertwined, the marker also serves an important secular function beyond its obvious LDS signifiance. A video from DeseretNews.com provides a nice overview.

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The site became the anchor for Temple Square, the headquarters of the LDS Church. It also evolved into the base line and principal meridian for public land surveys for all but a small corner of Utah.

Street addresses in Salt Lake City and many surrounding towns derive their origin from this point. It can be confusing to new visitors such as myself until one figures out the scheme. One can triangulate from an address to figure out both distance and direction to the spiritually significant spot.

For example, I wanted to find the Red Rock Brewing Company‘s restaurant in Salt Lake City earlier in the week. The street address is 254 South 200 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84101. The address looks really strange to an uninitiate such as myself. Then consider it’s a Cartesian system and they are providing citizens with X-Y coordinates: the restaurant is 2.5 blocks south and 2 blocks west of the marker at Temple Square. It reminds me of a Qiblah and Mecca thing albeit without the daily cycle of prayers.

The easiest way to decipher street addresses here is to consciously consider the two parts and then mentally place an AND between them, thus 254 South AND 200 West. It gets confusing again as one moves further away from Temple Square and the number begin to climb ever higher, and start dropping zeros so they don’t look like the old Zimbabwean Dollar. Thus 2000 east might be equivalent to 20th street east.

Timpanogos Cave National Monument

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We left Salt Lake City and headed into the Wasatch Range, to the American Fork Canyon on the northern flank of Mount Timpanogos. Our destination was Timpanogos Cave National Monument.

Timpanogos Cave National Monument

This was a great adventure. Tourists can’t just drive up to the Visitors Center and walk into the cave. Rather, it involves a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) hike with an elevation gain of 1,100 feet (335 m). The "trail" is paved asphalt so some may scoff at its technical difficulty, but try it on a hot summer day while convincing two children under the age of ten to continue onward. We were prepared however. We stopped often, rehydrated continuously and experienced no problems whatsoever, while completing the climb in about an hour. The chilly cave with awesome speleothems — a fancy word for cave formations that the ranger taught us — provided its own ample rewards. Even the boys agreed once they arrived.

Beer in Utah

Regular readers of the 12MC may be wondering how I’m faring with Utah’s rather interesting approach to alcohol regulations given my appreciation for the brewing arts. I’m doing quite well actually.

The LDS Church holds strict views that discourage the consumption of alcohol and Mormons comprise something like 60% of the population in Utah. However that percentage has declined in recent years. Utah has responded in kind by relaxing its liquor laws to a degree. The 2002 Winter Olympics helped with that as well, apparently.

It’s still pretty restrictive compared to many states. but I’m from Virginia so I’m used to that. Some of the more truly onerous features such as requirements for sham “private club memberships” for taverns and bars have even been eliminated entirely.

Utah, however, remains a 3.2 state for beer. The 3.2 relates to percentage of alcohol by weight, and defenders of the system note that this equates to about 4.0 percent by volume (the more usual standard of measurement) which is just a tick below the average light beer found elsewhere. Thus, they note, the limit isn’t that bad. It’s nearly mainstream. Plus, if someone wants anything stronger — which is generally the case with just about every craft beer in existence — one can always purchase them at state liquor stores. Which close early in the evenings, and on Sundays and on holidays.

Fortunately there are big, gaping loopholes. Many bars and restaurants are licensed to sell higher-strength craft beers. Also, any brewery or brewpub that bottles its own beer can get what is known as a Type 5 package license to sell it’s own (full-strength) product directly to consumers from its premise. It was simple for me to stock up at the Epic Brewing Company in Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Brew Pub in Park City. Epic, in particular, has built its entire business model around that brewery exception loophole.

The refrigerator is now abundantly stocked with a wide selection of beverages including Wasatch’s, Polygamy Porter. Their controversial advertising slogans include "bring some home to the wives" and "why have just one?" Darn right I got a T-shirt. And who says Utah has no sense of humor?

I’m having a great time and Utah is greatly exceeding my expectations. More geo-oddities to follow in subsequent parts.

Other Parts of the Utah Adventure

Part 2 – Spike, Rocket and Parade
Part 3 – Salt, Salt and More Salt
Part 4 – Not So Utah


On July 24, 2011 · 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Utah Adventure, Part 1”

  1. Peter says:

    My former home state of Connecticut has very restrictive alcoholic beverage laws despite the lack of any obvious religious motivation. These include: supermarkets and convenience stores can sell beer only; all alcohol sales (including beer) prohibited after 8pm and all day on Sundays;* very high taxes on alcohol, to the point that many people find it cost effective to drive 2+ hours each way to New Hampshire; a seemingly endless number of small, poorly stocked “package” stores (not long ago Connecticut had more liquor stores than Texas); and all drinks must be finished by closing time in bars and restaurants, in other words it doesn’t merely mean that no more can be served. There also are a few, mainly small, towns that prohibit all alcohol sales.

    * = not sure if it’s still in effect, but Connecticut used to ban all alcohol sales on Election Day, out of fears that political operatives would get people drunk and persuade them to vote for particular candidates.

  2. Bill Harris says:


    With regard to closing the bars on Election Day: These laws were passed not to prevent the liquoring up of the political operatives but to prevent the “selling” of votes for a round (or two) of alcohol.

  3. James Muir says:

    The most fantastic geo-oddity in Utah is The Apocalrock. It is a test. The entire point of the test is to prove that people will not believe it. No matter how plainly it is pointed out. Very strange, unless you happen to be….ah, em, a saint.

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