UTAH - PART III
04/02/2011 65 °F
When I wrote about hiking on Antelope Island, I mentioned several times how beautiful the mountains looked off in the distance. It is now time to go into those mountains and up to Park City.
Megan originally got me interested in Park City because of an article written in National Geographic Traveler. This edition focused on places to visit during the winter, and the article focusing on Park City described it as a top ski destination. The article also mentioned the art scene, the shopping, and the lively nightlife. When doing my own research, I found something the article missed when talking about Park City that certainly would have piqued my interest. Park City was also the location for filming the Aspen scenes in Dumb & Dumber.
Driving into Park City, it is obvious that the area is big on skiing. When Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics, it only made the skiing more popular. Who wouldn't want to ski on the same slopes as Olympic athletes? As you get closer, apartments built for the Olympics begin to line the side of the road. Three different skiing areas are right next to one another, one set of slopes ending directly in town.
Just like Salt Lake City was surrounded by mountains, Park City is surrounded by ski slopes. The picture above doesn't do a great job illustrating the view, but look at the slope furthest to the left. See the big jumps?
I did a double take when I first saw the giant mounds, thinking that some type of optical illusion was taking place. I wasn't even close to the slopes and I thought the jumps were humongous. I squinted to try and see if anyone was actually stupid enough to go off those jumps, but it looked like there was no activity on any of the slopes. Everything looked closed, I guess it was just late enough in the season for conditions on the slopes to be unfavorable.
We continued into town and found a place to park just off Main St. The main strip is full of colorful looking shops and people walking everywhere. The largest independent film festival in the country, the Sundance Film Festival, is held here every year. Every building becomes a theater and other temporary theaters are built in any open space. Most stores had pictures of the street during the festival, and it looked like people were standing shoulder to shoulder up and down the street. It was still crowded when we were there, despite the ski slopes being closed and there being no film festival.
It was already getting late in the afternoon, so we wanted to check out some of the art galleries and the Park City Museum before they closed. The museum was at the top of the hill, so we started making our way up Main St. Megan made a big deal of me getting her cowboy boots in the picture, so make sure you notice them.
We did some window shopping on the way up Main St. Clothing stores lined both sides of the road, while a hot sauce shop that gave free samples and a cheese shop added some variety to the scene. People were standing outside the bars and restaurants. Then Megan saw it, the store named with her own personal catch phrase, "Livin' Life" (spend a day around Megan, you'll hear her say it).
The museum looked like another store front from the outside, but the National Geographic Traveler article spoke highly of it. We only had an hour before the museum closed, and the lady at the front desk spent 10 minutes telling us all the stuff that we had to see while we were there. We moved away slowly from the front desk (the lady was still yammering on about the Pony Express exhibit and how 30 elementary school kids contributed blah blah blah) and began going through the exhibits. The first exhibit was a train that you entered to hear an intro about Park City and watch various scenery go by (I guess it was supposed to be like riding the train into the city). I only lasted 5 minutes into the video, I was feeling the time crunch too much to sit through a somewhat interesting video.
The museum was much larger than it looked from the outside, and was actually 3 separate floors. The main floor talked about the history of Park City itself. Its migration from mining town, to ski resort, to hosting an international film festival and Olympic games. We stepped off the train and entered a recreation of an old grocery store. There was a display of people wearing ski equipment from the past 100 years (originally just strapping a piece of wood to your boot). There was a video showing the city during the Sundance Music Festival which described how people camped out just to get a ticket to any showing.
Park City is surrounded by mines. Rich veins of silver run through the mountains, and mine after mine was commissioned to extract it. The museum had a two story model of how a mine looked, and it was incredibly detailed. We followed the model to the floor below. Here were the real hands-on exhibits. You can actually climb into an old mine cart and see how people descended thousands of feet below ground. Megan sat in an old subway car that used to carry mine workers, and was later converted into an underground ski lift.
They explained how the mining process worked and how the silver was extracted from the ore. They had a huge cart full of unprocessed silver ore so we could see it in its raw form.
The best part of the mining section was the drill and TNT simulators. Watch the videos below of me mining for ore using the drill and Megan blowing up the mountain with TNT.
The museum was also built on top of the old jail, so there was a whole section dedicated to the prisoners (who were typically union strikers). It certainly would have been a miserable place to be locked up.
We finished looking through the rest of the exhibits, and started to head out of the museum. Just as the lady at the front desk began to open her mouth to talk more about the exhibits, we dashed out the front door.
Megan had been excited to check out some of the bars and restaurants in the area. There is a whiskey distillery in Park City that has a restaurant, so we headed there to try the local spirits. The restaurant was so packed that we couldn't even get in the waiting area. We went over to the bar, and after waiting 15 minutes without so much as even getting noticed by a bartender, we left. We then tried to go to a bar that made their own beer and served bison burgers next. There was hardly any room to walk inside, much less a place to sit down. We walked next door to another bar that was almost entirely empty (which is never a good sign). We ordered two local beers, and upon realizing that they were $7 a piece, we decided to leave. Park City was nice, but it was also a ski resort town and therefore twice as expensive as it needed to be.
Deciding that the crowds and prices weren't worth hanging around for, Megan and I headed back towards Salt Lake City. A heavy rain started to fall, and it was nearly impossible to see driving down the mountain. While the rain didn't help with visibility, the main issue was the lack of street lights and reflectors on the road. I guess roads that get plowed frequently don't have reflectors, and it would have been a pain to put street lights through the mountains.
When thinking of a place to eat dinner, we decided to go with what we knew we liked. We went to the same place as the night before, Red Iguana. Megan took just as long to pick out what she wanted, the food was just as delicious, and we enjoyed our meal just as much.
We made it back to the hotel and watched a movie until we fell asleep. We had left the window open because the hotel had not turned on the AC yet, and the next morning our room was freezing. Overnight, six inches of snow had fallen. Yesterday had been in the 70s, while today was below freezing. Thankfully we were able to make it back to the airport without any issues, our road trip out west had come to a close.