This blog post has been in draft for several years. The events happened in March 2016 but only today have I finalised the post.
Friday, 25 March 2016
It had been a long time since I had seen Dad. Usually, once a year, Dad would visit each of his boys on the east coast rotating between Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida. He would spend a week reacquainting himself with his grandchildren. But recently, his health had worsened. He was in the early stages of Lewy Body Dementia and, while out for a walk, became disoriented and fell and hit his head. It was no longer safe for him to be alone or travel to visit us. This time we would have to see him at his home.
We took an early morning flight from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), transferring to Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) to catch a plane to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). We left New Jersey around 4 AM EST and arrived in Salt Lake City around 10:30 AM. With some time before the next hop, we explored the Chicago Midway International Airport. Shaan got some popcorn.
We were tired and hungry, so after getting our rental car, we headed to the Sugar House neighbourhood of Salt Lake City for lunch at The Annex by Epic Brewing. Sugar House seems like Chelsea, New York, with beautiful parks, proximity to the University of Utah, great places to eat, and what seemed like highly laid back people.
While planning the trip, I had read about Utah’s beer scene and knew what to expect. Due to Mormon laws, the alcohol level of ales is highly regulated. Most of the brews on the menu at The Annex were session ales with ABV not exceeding 6%. The few beers higher in ABV, anything over 6% but less than 8%, were classed as “strong ales”. Utah laws prohibited drinking more than one ale at a time. I did not do a flight but instead ordered each ale individual after consuming the previous glass.
After lunch, we checked into our room at the SpringHill Suites Salt Lake City Airport, which, as the name suggests, is near the Salt Lake City Airport. We took our shoes off, called Dad to tell him we had arrived in Salt Lake City and discussed his plans for the weekend. We were tired and fell asleep for a late afternoon nap.
Knowing our experience with the “weak ales” at The Annex, and knowing how much Kiran was into German culture, I suggested we have dinner at the Bohemian Brewery, a German Restaurant and Pub Midvale. They had a few “strong beer” selections, but none of the ales was to my liking.
After dinner, we drove to Midvale to visit Dad.
I had unrealistic expectations about our trip. When Dad visited me in New Jersey, he would talk about the things he did in Utah, skiing, etc. I was excited to do some of these things with him. But when I saw him, I realised that we would be doing nothing of the sort. He was hunched over and walked and talked slowly. He looked frail and older than his 71 years.
I learned that Lew Body is a disease caused by abnormal deposits of alpha-synuclein proteins in the brain. These deposits affect the brain’s chemicals, leading to problems with thinking, movement, behaviour, and mood.
His wife, whom I was meeting for the first time, explained that he had daily physical therapy, would tire quickly and spent most of his day sleeping. The late afternoon was best to visit after Dad had had his physical therapy.
We adjusted our plans to spend the mornings exploring Salt Lake City and spend the afternoon with Dad.
Saturday, 26 March 2016
After a quick continental breakfast at the hotel and knowing that Dad had hours of therapy in the first part of the day, we were free to explore hiking in Big Cottonwood Canyon. I had scouted some locations for photography. Of this was a hidden waterfall near Trail B. I got lost finding the trailhead and the waterfall, but once I did, it was beautiful. But cold.
After the hidden waterfall, I wanted to visit Donut Falls. Unfortunately, I had not planned for the two feet of snow that had fallen overnight. The trail was completely covered, we didn’t have proper snow boots, and Bhavna and Kiran returned to the car after their toes started to freeze. Shaan and I continued, but after about 45 minutes of rough hiking, we turned around as well. A group coming from the other direction mentioned that the snow was even deeper further ahead. Shaan and I turned around and hiked back to the trailhead.
By the time we returned to the car, it was time for lunch. A quick search on Yelp and Foursquare, and I found the Porcupine Pub & Grille an American pub in Cottonwood Heights just fifteen minutes from our location.
After lunch, we drove out to The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve. When I hear the word “shore”, I think of lakes, oceans and beaches. I think of water.
The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve spans 4,400 acres of wetlands and uplands habitat along the eastern edge of the Great Salt Lake—one of Utah’s most unique natural treasures. As the largest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere, the Great Salt Lake is crucial to both people and nature. The lake is a fertile feeding ground for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, supporting between four and six million migratory birds as they journey from as far north as the Arctic to southern points in Central and South America.
We walked along the “boardwalk” section of the park facing the Antelope Island State Park Causeway. I was fascinated by this wide-open space with grassland that seemed to go on forever toward the mountains shrouded in drama by the clouds. I felt small and yet at peace. I don’t know how long we were at The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, but the time passed quickly.
As part of his weekend ritual, Dad wanted to eat out at Himalayan Kitchen, a restaurant that offers Nepalese Indian food. The restaurant seemed nice, but outside, the street looked a bit worse for wear. I felt safe, but this section of Salt Lake City needed some TLC.
We have a lot of Indian restaurants in New Jersey, but very few serve food from Nepal. I asked my Dad why he chose Indian, and his wife answered that it was his favourite type of food. I had never known that Dad likes Indian food. I learned something new about Dad on this trip.
I ordered the Intermountain Wheat ale by Epic Brewing Co. to enjoy with my meal. Having drunk a few different brands over the weekend, I think I can say that Epic Brewing Co. is the best brewer in Salt Lake City.
It was great to see Dad, but he looked worn down.
Sunday, 27 March 2016
The following day, while Dad was in church, we drove out from Salt Lake City back to Layton for a stroll through the Great Salt Lake State Park. The water in Salt Lake is all dried up at this time of the year. It was more Salt Desert than a lake.
According to the State of Utah wildlife website:
Oolitic sand is the oblong, pill-shaped sand comprising a large portion of the surface bottom of GSL. Oolitic sand is smooth, soft, and rounded, while regular sand is jagged and inconsistent in shape. Just one handful can contain particles from ten to 1,000 years old! Oolitic beaches rim most of the lake’s islands and much of the mainland coast. The western shore of Antelope Island is a great place to experience these beaches. In many areas, the wind has made dunes up to several meters tall!
The nuclei of oolites can be brine shrimp fecal pellets, quartz grains, carbonate grains, or other tiny debris. The nucleus attracts calcium and magnesium carbonate particles in concentric layers, thus creating Oolitic sand. This sequestering of waste is an efficient process that wastewater management industries have used as a template for processing and filtering!
After getting lake salt and faecal sand stuck on the soles of our shoes and in the cracks of my tripod legs, we drove to the Great Saltair.
Saltair is a 4600 capacity all-ages concert and events venue that offers all the ambience and accommodations promoters look for. Outfitted with a large stage and a state of the art PA system, the grand hall has plenty of space for concertgoers to dance while listening to high-quality concert sound.
It was time for lunch, so we went back to the hotel room for a quick change of clothes before stopping at the Wasatch Brew Pub in Sugar House.
Having just filled our gut, I suggested we burn some calories with a hike to Ensign Peak at Ensign Peak Nature Park. The park features a short, steep trail to an expansive scenic overlook with a historical monument. Even after we read the signs posted near the trailhead, we thought it would be easy. I almost quit halfway up. Ouch. I am so out of shape!
We stopped at the Utah State Capitol Building so I could take a photo. This building is enormous. The building is built at the top of a hill overlooking Salt Lake City as though to say, “I have dominion over you”.
Monday, 28 March 2016
The next day, while Dad was in physical therapy, we spent most of the morning at the Natural History Museum of Utah. It’s not quite as impressive as the Natural History Museum in Manhattan, but it does have an exhibit that New York does not have, a Utahraptor. It started to snow while we were at the museum.
Kiran was excited by the new gecko exhibit. She loves geckos and wants one as a pet.
We broke for lunch at The Pie Pizzeria near the University of Utah campus. According to Yelp, The Pie Pizzeria is considered one of the best in the area. Maybe it is, but compared to east coast pizza, especially pizza from Brooklyn, The Pie Pizzeria is shit. Sorry, Utah. Perhaps it’s the high altitudes or the hard water, but your pizza is subpar.
Later, we spent the day with my Dad at his home. We ordered take-out Chinese food for lunch which, as we discovered the night before, Dad loves. Later, when his wife came home, she cooked dinner. She needed a few items from the grocery store, so we offered to shop while she prepped the home. After dinner, we stayed with Dad at his home, chatting and sharing memories before heading back to the hotel.
Back in the hotel room, Bhavna and I drank some of the ale we had purchased at the grocery store in Midvale, including a beer called “Respect Your Mother”, an Organic Amber Ale by Squatters Craft Beers.
Tuesday, 29 March 2016
The next day was the hustle and bustle as we packed for the journey home. We had breakfast at Siegfried’s Delicatessen, a deli and marketplace with traditional German specialities and imported groceries that Kiran wanted to visit.
Then it was off to the Salt Lake City International Airport for our trip home to New Jersey with a stop at Denver International Airport. We arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport around 10 PM.