By Irene Butler
The audience became still; not a single shuffle or whisper could be heard. A stellar radio-voice announced the particulars of this Sunday’s presentation. The full-symphony orchestra at the base of the stage, behind a rainbow of potted flowers, was drenched in a rose glow. Above them, spreading into a ‘V’ formation on either side of floor-to-ceiling organ pipes, 360 men and women dressed regally in black stood in readiness swathed in a halo of golden rays that encompassed the middle stage. A heavenly blue light shone above their heads to the upper-reaches. Divine voices began to fill the air, accompanied by the orchestral strains of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”, with both soothing and dynamic pieces, paused only with a message of hope by the announcer. This exceptional musical experience, the 3922nd broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was being broadcast over 2,000 radio, television and cable stations worldwide. An added special dimension to the performance was knowing in a few weeks the Tabernacle would t be closed for the first time since it was built in 1854, for a period of 18 months, in order to seismically reinforce this acoustical marvel.
I have always associated Utah as the Mormon State, and Salt Lake City as the headquarters for the 12 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints spread throughout 164 nations around the world; and as avid television Olympic watchers, the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics of 2002 readily springs to mind.
The city is built around the Temple Square. Every address in the central area is based on the distance from the Temple, so you always know where you are in relation to this focal point. For example, our hotel was at 121 North -300 West, meaning it is in the second block north of the Temple and the third block to the west of the Temple.
The famed Temple Square is enclosed in a 15 foot concrete wall. The towering Salt Lake Temple, with a golden statue of the prophet Moroni watching over the city from the highest steeple, is the only building off-limits to non-members. It took 40 years to build as the granite blocks had to be dragged many miles from Little Cottonwood Canyon. Eight other buildings are open to tours given by female missionaries, called “Sisters”, whose purpose is to share the Mormon history and philosophy with each guest (male members are called Elders). If you do not know a single fact about the faith when you arrive, that certainly won’t be the case when you leave. Some other buildings we found interesting were the Beehive House, built in 1854 for the prophet Brigham Young, who led the pioneers to this land from the eastern states to escape religious persecution. Spending some time at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building looking up our family genealogy was fun, though we did not have any positive results. Genealogy is an important part of the Mormon faith as deceased ancestors can be brought into the faith by a living family member, if the departed spirit wills it. Try your own lineage search at www.familysearch.org. With just a handful of visitors in the Mormon Tabernacle, the excellent acoustics were demonstrated by a “sister” tearing paper and dropping pins at the front, which we distinctly heard 175 feet away at the other end of the building.
Across the street from the Square the impressive Conference Centre is the newest Mormon facility; seating 21,000 in the main auditorium for the two general conferences held each year, and a second area seating 900 for smaller gatherings. The six-acre roof has 6 and 7 foot trees growing in a slate soil called “Utilite”, a perfect solution to living roofs being half the weight of regular loam.This building was totally paid for by tithing and donations before the ground was broken, as are all Mormon temples and associated buildings.
A day trip to Young Living (Essential Oil) Farms, located one hour south of Salt Lake City, was a much anticipated excursion. Eight years ago we hooked onto a product called Thieves, and have never been without it since. The name “Thieves” was derived from a practice in merry old England during the 15th century. As the bubonic plague raged, robbers could hardly keep up with excavating the gravesites for valuables. The thieves serendipitously found by rubbing themselves down with a particular combination of spices they escaped contracting the dreaded disease. Young Living copied the ingredients and added several others to produce a potent anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral essential oil destroying pathogens on contact, such as when used as a hand-cleaner, plus entering your system to boost your immune system.
A tour of the farm and the distilling apparatus was informative, but harvest being over, we were too late to see the spectacle of fields of lavender and peppermint. As we entered the store, after the tour, irresistible odours wafted through the air from the restaurant in the back. Lunch was in order. A crock of buffalo stew, with hearty chunks of meat in rich gravy and fresh, organic vegetables was mouth-watering. Little loaves of organic wheat bread, slices of blueberry bread with agave spread, organic greens smothered in homemade honey-Dijon dressing were delightful additions; all munched between sips of agave sweetened lavender-lemonade. If we had a body-frequency indicator, I am sure ours was sky-rocketing with this delectable healthy feast, rating a 9½ in our “Hobbit-Worthy 1-10 Restaurant Rating System”.
Since grade five geography class, I associated Idaho with potatoes. The rich volcanic valleys of the southeast produce an amazing variety of spuds, including the famed Russet Burbanic. Northern and central Idaho is second only to Alaska for the state with the most national parks and forests; a rallying place for all manner of outdoor enthusiasts. The states motto a Latin phrase, “Esto Perpetua”: “Let it be perpetual” encompasses the ideology of keeping the state, still bereft of heavy industry, the same as when Lewis & Clark first observed the snow-capped mountains, clear lakes, frothing rivers and thick conifer forests during 1805-06, the first overland expedition by Americans to the coast.
Stopping at the capitol, Boise, for the night, we were intrigued with the Basque culture, the largest colony living outside of their ancestral homeland in the Bay of Biscay, Spain. The Basque speak “Euskara”, a language unrelated to any other language in the world. A detour to the Basque Museum, on our way out of town, was a solution to our curiosity.
The first Basque arrived in America in the late 1800’s. Without others knowing both their native tongue as well as English, they struggled with the English language. Many were recruited to herd sheep in the high desert of Idaho. Basque run boarding houses came into being in Boise; where the sheepherders could find a reprieve from the long periods of isolation on the ranch-lands and a chance for camaraderie with other Basques to play a few hands of the card game “mus” or to get out the accordions and “txitu” (4-hole flute-like instrument) and dance to traditional tunes. The proprietors of the boarding houses would meet the trains on the railway platform by calling a welcome, “Euskaldunak emen badira?” – “Are there any Basques here?” A restored boarding house, the Jacob-Uberuaga building dating back to 1864, is part of the museum. Sixteen thousand Basques presently live in Idaho, and are active in preserving their culture and language.
The first two hundred miles from the Oregon border along Hwy 20 to the state’s centre is a terrain of endless rolling hills and flatlands in every imaginable brown shade. Along the way, Emili was hankering for a drink. Rick was feeling pampered after reaching for the hose, and having a female attendant get to it first, relaying only an employee can do the fills in Oregon, with a firm, “It is the law”. Mega highway construction, with detours and new roadways rendered our map inaccurate; we were aiming for Bend, but by the time we got our bearings, we were near Redmond to the north, where we decided to hang our hats. The flexibility awarded by never reserving hotels ahead saved us from backtracking.
Feeling the need for a break from our routine of fabulous towns and cities, fascinating sites, and over five months of budget hotels, we were ripe for a mini-holiday within our travels (now, we are not expecting any sympathy). Hot springs, or more specifically, Warm Springs Indian Reserve, location of Kah-nee-ta Resort & Casino has amenities to satisfy body, mind and soul. Kah-nee-ta or “Root Digger” is the name of the Indian women who once owned this land. Perched on a rise in the midst of the high desert, a breath of peace and tranquility is infused in every breath of wind blowing over the expanse of tawny hillsides dotted with ubiquitous bluish-green sage. For those so inclined, a golf course, gambling, full Spa services, hiking and horseback-riding in season are available, but our focus was leisurely floating, paddling and soaking in the naturally-heated double Olympic size pool and hot tubs at “The Village”, a 5 minute shuttle or drive from the main lodge. Both the heavenly 98F tepid pool and the 104F hot tubs are cooled from the 133F source. Steam rose around us as a result of an overcast sky with intermittent drizzle, then suddenly dissipated as the sun found its way between the roving clouds. After months of plastic and Styrofoam we were giddy drinking from real glasses and china cups in a room so spacious, we had to remind ourselves we did not have to walk sideways as we had become accustomed to; a deck overlooking the soft hills, big fluffy pillows, towels that fit once around our bodies, ohhh, such lavishness was not unnoticed. The buffet in the Chinook Room was an instant winner, with prized salmon baked in asparagus sauce, heaps of chilled shrimp and Indian Fried Bread slathered in butter and heaped with homemade Huckleberry jam. Sitting around a central fireplace with an after dinner brandy mesmerized by two-foot diameter logs crackling and aglow with flame was an enchanting end to a superb day.
Leaving Warm Springs Reserve, temperate rainforests draped the mountains as we crossed through Mt. Hood National Forest to Portland, where we spent the night. The lush growth continued through Clatsop and Tillamook National Forests to the coast, temperature plummeting as we climbed and dipped and curved our way over the winding road. Our Emili experienced many firsts. Long stretches of almost nil visibility were encountered as our path became opaque with clouds forming around us. At times the heavy mist rose at a distance turning the surrounding hills into a steaming cauldron. The over-laden cloudbanks finally burst. Emili desperately attempted to speed her windshield wipers to match the deluge. If that was not enough, she bravely squint her headlights against blowing snow when the temperature dropped to 3C. All in all, she agreed with us the majesty of the giant conifers, our towering companions, was not dwindled by erratic seasonal propensities.
A dark sky followed us into the coastal town of Seaside, but who cared. Watching the slate-grey Pacific rhythmically ebb and flow from the large front window and deck of our waterfront suite; fireplace sending out fingers of cozy warmth, little kitchen for creature comforts when not wanting to brave the elements, good books and movies, and an indoor heated pool and hot tub were sheer heaven. The indulgence went on with morning muffins and just-out-of-the-oven cookies in the evening at the Hi-Tide Resort.
Each day of our four day stay became brighter with a slight rise in temperature. The clouds forfeited their domineering stance, becoming contrasting bits of white against the blue of the sky and steel-grey of the ocean. Long walks along the miles of wide sandy beaches were added to our cocooning time. Dogs futilely chasing seagulls, and fleece-garbed kite-flyers, beachcombers and strollers came out of seclusion.
A Promenade runs along a good portion of the beach closer to the resorts and million-dollar view homes. In the middle of the Prom a statue designates the end of the Lewis-Clark expedition. To the south a salt cairn is the place where these hearty adventurers stayed the winter and boiled the ocean water daily to extract enough salt to flavour their bland diet of elk meat on the long trek back. Broadway Street in the town is still as tempting as in the old days when it was just a gravel path to the beach, dubbed “rubberneck row” because of the shops that sprung up to catch the attention of beach goers.
Autumn on the Oregon coast is a serene time in between hordes of summer sunbathers and winter storm watchers. Winter also brings out whale enthusiasts anxious to catch glimpses of the great Greys passing by on their way to Baja California, Mexico in December and January. Seaside also bustles during the whales’ spring migration back north in March and April. With the close proximity to the west coast of Canada it is high on our priority list of places to come back to.
As the time draws nearer to the end of our five-month Can-Am Peregrinations, we are having brief interludes of bitter-sweet sentiments, knowing we will miss our care-free wanderings and yet anxious to root, for a time, and reunite with our family.
Irene & Rick Butler