Tag Archive | Utah

Cedar Breaks and Bryce Canyon

Late in August, my mother helped me move from Los Angeles to Grinnell. Our road trip took us from California through Nevada, Arizona (just a tiny corner!), Utah, Colorado, and Nebraska to Iowa. On our first day of driving, we took nearly the exact same route I’d taken almost exactly two years earlier when Isabelle, Olivier, Adam, and I took our trip to Utah. Instead of going to Cedar City, we spent the night in Hurricane, UT, where the high temperature was predicted to be over 100°F every day that week. The next day, to beat the heat, we drove up to Cedar Breaks National Monument, where at an elevation of about 10,000 feet it was much cooler. Cedar Breaks is a gorgeuos amphitheater where the layers of the earth are exposed in shades of ocher and erosion has sculpted rock into formations similar to those at Bryce Canyon. There was also an abundance of wildflowers–columbine, elkweed, lupines, and more–and an adorable Uinta chipmunk!

Cedar Breaks National Monument

The same day, we drove to Bryce Canyon National Park. We visited the park that evening, driving in past crepuscular mule deer attracting admirers by the side of the road. We walked along the rim between Sunset and Sunrise Points. The sun was setting behind us as we looked out upon the canyon, but for a while it illuminated some of the red cliff faces in the distance. My first glimpse of Bryce Canyon was kind of like my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon on the road trip that brought me to UCLA. You approach the rim, and suddenly there’s a breathtaking view laid out before and below you. The Grand Canyon was more staggering in scale, but they’re equally wondrous.

First view of Bryce Canyon

As dusk fell, the air seemed to grow increasingly clouded, and I also smelled smoke a few times while we were at Bryce Canyon. We were pretty sure there were fires somewhere in the area.

Illuminated cliffs and smoke

The next morning, we hiked the Queen’s Garden Trail, following switchbacks from the rim down into the canyon among the hoodoos. The trail is named for a hoodoo that resembles Queen Victoria, and we arrived at that landmark before making our way back up.

Setting out from Sunrise Point

View from the trail

There’s Queen Victoria in the upper right

In my many flights between Los Angeles and the Twin Cities, I’ve had a lot of chances to admire the natural beauty of Utah from above. It was equally if not more beautiful to drive through (and the empty country highways were rather nice!).

Next was Colorado, where we went peach hunting near Grand Junction and spent the night in the quaint (always decorated for Christmas?) ski town of Frisco. The next day, we stopped at the Denver Botanic Gardens before continuing on through eastern Colorado and Nebraska, which are a bit less picturesque. We ate dinner at the same Japanese restaurant in Kearney, NE where we’d eaten on our road trip to Los Angeles six years before. I mean no disrespect, and maybe this goes without saying, but Kearney is not Sawtelle or Little Tokyo.

After a night in Lincoln, our last day brought us to Grinnell. And so I’ve left the West for now!

LSA in Salt Lake City

At the beginning of January, I attended the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America in Salt Lake City. It was my second LSA; my first was Minneapolis in 2014, when I was a first-year grad student. As a fifth-year grad student, I did both more (presented, had more social meals) and less (didn’t volunteer, attended fewer talks, and certainly no sister society talks). The conference was also my second visit to Utah, the first being our road trip last summer.

My plane from Los Angeles flew in past pretty snow-dusted mountains and over a big lake that I thought was the Great Salt Lake. Looking at a map later, I realized it had almost certainly been Utah Lake; the Great Salt Lake would have been much bigger. I took the train from the Salt Lake City airport to downtown. A relative had told me that all Salt Lake City geography was structured around the Temple, and it was true! As I rode east, I saw through the train window the Madina Masjid, next door to the Pentecostals of Salt Lake.

The LSA was being held at the Grand America Hotel; the student rate rooms were across the street in the Little America (appropriate, eh?). I checked into the room I was sharing with my co-presenter and discovered that despite its younger sibling name, the Little America was probably the fanciest hotel I had ever stayed in. I headed over to the Grand America to register, spotted some familiar faces (as linguistics is a small field, the LSA feels like a family reunion), decided not to go to anything that evening, and set out in search of some dinner. I figured if I walked north into downtown I would stumble upon something.

Indeed, after walking for several blocks I noticed a sandwich board on the sidewalk advertising Curry n’ Kabobs, Indian/Afghan cuisine. I glanced through the door the arrow was pointing at and saw a restaurant counter at the back of a convenience store. This sounded perfect. But just ahead was Eborn Books, the used bookstore I’d glimpsed from the train coming in. I decided to check it out before eating.

Visiting local bookstores during conferences is becoming a habit. There was Caveat Emptor in Bloomington, IN, the Strand in New York City… Eborn Books was delightful: a quirky, labyrinthine shop stuffed with books. A sign over one doorway read: “Welcome to What We Call ‘The Ugly Room,'” which included self-help, politics, and religion. A sign pointed in one direction for LDS books while another pointed in the opposite direction for anti-LDS books. In the foreign languages section, I found a French book on given names, quite similar to one I bought at a used book market in Paris years ago, which said, of Eleanor (Éléonore): “Perhaps no other first name fascinates as much…” (clunky translation by me).

I wished I could have lingered longer in Eborn Books, but I had things to prepare that evening, so I left and went next door to order takeout. The man behind the counter was very nice and friendly, and I took an order of Afghan mantu and a mango lassi back to the Little America. They were delicious.

The LSA is an enormous conference (for our field), and I had resolved not to try to do too much. My poster was in the Friday morning session, and I gave a joint talk on Saturday afternoon as big snowflakes fell gently outside. On Saturday evening, we had a Swarthmore linguists dinner at a Nepali restaurant. There were six of us alumni, including my friend Andrew, from the classes of 2007 through 2016, and also a former Swarthmore professor who taught me semantics and typology/conlanging and also helped me navigate getting into grad school. There are a lot of young Swarthmore alumni in linguistics Ph.D. programs across the country; there were more at the LSA who couldn’t make the dinner.

On Sunday, I had lunch with Andrew and then squeezed in a last bit of sightseeing. First, I went to the public library, a five-story building with glass walls on one side that funnily enough hosted a linguistics conference (that I did not attend) a couple of years ago. The rooftop terrace was closed, to my chagrin, since I’d hoped to take pictures of the mountains from there. Still, it was a beautiful, very modern library, and there was a mobile in the atrium that consisted of many small blue book/butterflies suspended from threads that together formed a child’s head (I think). There was also a little boutique that sold vintage Utah postcards, stationery, and literary gifts.

Finally, on my way to the airport, I stopped in Temple Square and walked around. A young woman asked me if I’d like to go into the Tabernacle for the organ concert, but alas, I didn’t have time.

The Assembly Hall

The Mormon Temple

Downtown Salt Lake City had been bright and sunny, but the airport was plunged in thick fog. It created travel problems for other linguists, but I was lucky, and my flight departed. We flew out of the fog very quickly, and below, the mountaintops looked like islands in a milky ocean.

Trip to Utah

At the end of August, I went on a road trip to Cedar City, Utah with Isabelle, Olivier, and another grad student from our department and his partner. The main purpose of the trip was to attend the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Isabelle is a big fan of playwright Mary Zimmerman, and her Treasure Island was one of the plays being performed this season.

This was my first trip with friends (as opposed to family) in a very long time, and I also never drive on the West Coast, so it was a grand adventure! We left on a Friday morning and drove northeast out of Los Angeles, through Las Vegas (I drove this part), through a little corner of Arizona, and into Utah. Luckily, Cedar City is in the part of Utah closest to Los Angeles. We just had time to settle into our Airbnb, a bunker-like but otherwise extremely nice basement apartment on a quiet street, before heading off to Friday evening’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I had neither read nor seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream before, though I roughly knew the story. The Utah Shakespeare Festival’s production was Jazz Age-themed, and the sets and costumes were beautiful. We had great seats in the middle of the front row of the balcony. Although the plot is ridiculous, on the face of it, the (human) drama was at times affecting (I particularly liked the parts about Hermia and Helena’s friendship). And the play was quite funny. I thought the dragging play-within-a-play in the last act was an example of horrible pacing on Shakespeare’s part, but the actors managed to milk as much humor out of it as possible (and I caught what I was 99.9% sure was a jab at Trump’s wall during an earlier rehearsal scene). Also, in her last speech to the audience, Puck interrupted herself to say “bless you” when an audience member sneezed, and the entire theatre laughed. Puck nearly cracked up herself, and it was a moment before she resumed her speech.

On Saturday, after a lazy morning singing with ukuleles, we explored Cedar City. We walked through the campus of Southern Utah University, home of the Shakespeare Festival, and had sandwiches and crêpes for lunch in town. Then we visited an art supplies shop and a stringed instrument store.

The luthier told us a local girl had built the instrument on the left for a Science Olympiad event and had won state! The instrument has no frets, and she bowed it.

Then we headed north on Main Street till we reached the public library. Out front, there was a sculpture that reproduced some of the petroglyphs of nearby Parowan Gap. And inside, guess whose books they had in the YA section?

Petroglyph reproductions outside the public library

Found them!

From the library, we went to a bead/comic book/trading card store, and then to a lovely (mostly used?) bookstore. After lingering there a while, we checked out a couple of art galleries and then headed to the Southern Utah Museum of Art. They had an exhibit of local artist Jimmie Jones’s paintings of the southern Utah landscape and an exhibit of quilts (broadly construed) that were part of a competition on the theme of Pathfinders. The quilts were really cool; some of them were absolutely gorgeous. Several, inspired by the theme, depicted refugees or displaced people.

We went back to the Airbnb to rest a little before the next play, and Isabelle, Olivier, and I checked out the back garden, where there were chickens and raspberry brambles from which we plucked ripe berries.

Saturday evening’s show was Mary Zimmerman’s Treasure Island, which was also excellent. The sets were splendid, and I was delighted to recognize among the incidental music the fiddle tune “Drowsy Maggie” (for the fight in the Admiral Benbow Inn) and that famous Boccherini minuet.

On Sunday, we visited Zion National Park. I drove us to the entrance to the northwest part of the park (i.e. the closest part), the Kolob Canyons area. We set out on the La Verkin Creek Trail. Our original destination was Kolob Arch, which would have made for a 14-mile round trip hike, but we actually turned back after we’d gone about halfway to the arch.

The trail led us around these majestic red cliffs, through occasional woods and alongside wildflowers and over many dry streambeds. There were junipers, pines, and cottonwoods, mainly. The earth was red and sometimes reduced to soft sand. We glimpsed small birds, including the blue Steller’s jay, and saw some very large birds wheeling in the distance (I’m not sure I believe they were condors). There were also (rock?) squirrels; at one point we observed one chirping at us and another party of hikers quite insistently, and we realized some of the chirping we’d heard earlier might not have been birds but squirrels. I’d forgotten how much they could sound like birds.

We spent a lovely evening eating crêpes and singing with ukulele, and then Isabelle and I went out to look at the stars once more. You can see a thousand times more stars on a suburban street in Cedar City, UT than you can on the Westside of Los Angeles. The Summer Triangle, Cygnus, the Big and Little Dippers, Polaris, Cassiopeia… The Milky Way, even.

On Monday, we roadtripped back to Los Angeles to a soundtrack of French Canadian music, Scottish songs, and French musicals.