I came into Salt Lake City with the intention of not really doing much, but I was open to whatever. I ended up having a little more fun than I thought, but I had to get out of the city for that to happen. When I arrived by train around 10:00PM on Monday, I found a town that was completely dead, and no bus service to where I had to be. Things worked out, but unlike my previous cities, I hadn’t sent out any couchsurfing requests. I had been surfing for three weeks, and stayed with some wonderful hosts, but felt it was time to change things up. I booked a hostel for the entire five night stay and it turned out to be a really good decision.
I’m still new at this, but I’ll say hostel life is interesting. When I was preparing for my trip, I knew hostels would be a part of my plans. Some people joked with me about this, making comments about being around drunk 20somethings, or even getting kidnapped. In reality, hostels are a very common way for super low budget travelers to find accomodations. They typically involve a dorm environment with a shared bathroom. They also have shared kitchen and common areas, WiFi, and laundry facilities. The kitchen is nice because you can save a lot of money on food by going to grocery stores and keeping your food there instead of eating out all the time. In SLC, I stayed at the Avenues Hostel which is just East of downtown. I shared a room with two guys from Amsterdam who were on a crosscountry trip across the US. They had been on the road for about as long as me, and had also just come from Denver. I was surprised to find several people older than me staying at the hostel, and all the live-in help were definitely older. For some, it’s a cheap place to stay, for others, it’s that plus socializing.
The really big advantage a hostel can have over a couchsurfing experience is the high probability you’ll run into other travelers who you can go on adventures and share rides with. After my first full day of exploring SLC, I realized there wasn’t much going on in town. As with Denver, I debated getting a rental car. There’s definitely this balancing act going on in my head around cost vs experience. It doesn’t make sense to come this far and not see the sites in the area. However, I’ll have to cut the trip short if I can’t keep to a budget. Fortunately, the hostel experience delivered. On my second day, I was having breakfast in the kitchen, and overheard two other guests talking about renting a car to see some sites. I asked if I could join them and help split the rental car cost. About an hour later I was in a car with my Dutch roommates, another American (named Thomas) and a French girl.. Natacha. Natacha was on a crosscountry trip around the US as well. We discussed a couple different destinations, including Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, but a local resident convinced us that for a day trip, Arches National Park would be the best.
There are no words for that place. I imagined it was like being on Mars because of all the red rocks. We first stopped at a spot in a canyon and went exploring up in the rocks. The towering walls of red rock contrasted with the bright blue sky was something I’ll never forget.
Afterwards, we went to an area where the park gets its name. At first glance, it seems like the arches were formed by water flowing through them at one point, or maybe even the wind. In reality, it’s a much more complicated process that I still don’t fully understand even after reading about it. I recommend just enjoying them if you’re not a geologist.
Thomas, the other American, lives in the area and is into freeclimbing. He was definitely the most adventurous of the gang, and I’m sure would want me to post the following pic of his most daring climb of the day.
After a day in the park, we headed into the nearby town of Moab to get some beers and food. On the way home, it was my turn to drive. We played a few games in the car, but my favorite thing was when Thomas suggested we pullover to the side of the road. I figured he wanted a smoke break, but it was also to view the night sky. Utah has very little light pollution relative to other states, and the view was incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Milky Way in person, but there it was in the sky along with the billions of stars. When we got back to the hostel at 2AM, we drank champagne and looked through our pictures from the day reminiscing about how spontaneous everything had come together. The road trip, my new friends, beers and stargazing made for a memorable day, perhaps the best day of the trip thus far. KJ, Sam, Thomas, Natache… it was awesome hanging out with you guys. Hope we meet again.
The following day, Natacha told me about a concert in a nearby park, and we ended up going to check it out. It was only about a 45 minute walk from the hostel. I brought a blanket to sit on, and she got a big kick out of that, saying it was totally an American thing to bring to a concert or festival. I guess they don’t do that in France? She even got a Bud Light to complete her American experience and loved every minute of it. It turned out to be a hiphop concert, so not really either one of our cups of tea, but we still had fun hanging out and chatting about cultural differences.
My final days in Salt Lake City were spent hiking up one of the mountains just North of the city. I also took care of stuff back home, and prepared for my next destination. The pics below are from one of the peaks just North of SLC. You can see everything from the lake, planes taking off and the entire city which I’m told is two-thirds of the residents in Utah.
Salt Lake City was described to me by one resident as more of a big town than a city, and I have to agree. Without the mountains, it’s not a destination I would find interesting. I find it hard to believe the Winter Olympic Games were held here just ten years ago. The city just doesn’t have an international feel from what I saw. Sorry if you’re a resident and disagree. I think Utah’s real treasure is its National Parks. There are more there than any other state. After seeing the Arches, I really want to come back and visit some of the other places. They’re awesome spots to get lost in nature, and I would love to backpack, camp, hike and spend endless evening hours stargazing.