Before I begin, I want to present Salt Lake City, Utah the award for Best Apocalyptic Sunset. You remind us everyday that if annihilation of all human life were imminent, Mother Nature would probably celebrate by throwing a colorful parade in the sky.
The most common reaction I received when telling people that my journey was to begin in Salt Lake City was a look of unfavorable skepticism, followed by “What’s in Salt Lake City?” I’d then reply “I have no idea.” Because I didn’t know. I expected a salt lake and a city, which (spoiler alert) are both present in Salt Lake City.
I was in SLC for two days which is the shortest amount of time I spent anywhere on my adventure. I knew that there was no way I would discover anything extravagant given only 48 hours. Truthfully, I only wanted to start in SLC because it was the closest city I could fly to and grab the Amtrak train from. After all, I wasn’t keen on waiting to reach the Rocky Mountains on a train from Los Angeles.
Salt Lake City just did not have much going for it even prior to my departure. My initial arrival had a similar theme. Empty lots. Vacant buildings. It was playing too well into the apocalyptic wasteland I’d pegged it for. This quickly became an investigation and I wanted one question answered—what’s with all the empty space?
The investigation led me to a few places. I followed city heartlines on the TRAX light rail, visited the University of Utah disguised as a student (I used the pseudonym “Morticia Grisly” if you must know), and roamed Temple Square. But it quickly became apparent that business owners would have to be my primary targets of interrogation.
Here’s my investigative conclusion: If you were to walk around SLC and throw stones through the windows of random small businesses (which I don’t condone), the likelihood of hitting one owned by a Californian would be extremely high. That’s because Salt Lake City is growing. I’ve read plenty of articles labeling SLC as the new burgeoning city of business and startups. Being there in person, I actually saw it. From what it seemed, there is a lot of money in SLC and not enough places for that money to go. Give it a few more years and I guarantee that SLC will be a place on the business map.
The case was closed just as quickly as it had been open. Well, nearly closed. This didn’t explain why there were so many vacant areas to begin with, but it solved the question of what effect it had on the city. I was a little disappointed that creepy conspiracies associated with the imminent destruction of the world as we know it were not involved, but I suppose we can’t always pick our battles.
The remainder of my time in Salt Lake City was used to prepare for my upcoming nine-hour train ride to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. In my mind, the post-SLC train ride was to be the official beginning to my journey, but that’s unfair to dear Salt Lake. After all, it did provide me the chance to be a sleuth for a short period. That is why I’ve chosen my plane ride to be the official beginning to Chasing Winter. It’s still unfair to SLC, but only less so. Sorry, Salt Lake.
||Images and words by Darlene Barahona||
About this blog series: In February 2015, I did something mad. Chasing Winter is about how I did what I did and the things I discovered doing it. In the midst of winter’s fury, I made my way from West Coast to East Coast across the United States documenting my adventures. These are those stories.