You loved the ’60s. It was all get free, flower face paint, the earth is our mother and tie-dye as a viable clothing option. And so you stuck with it. You rarely wash. You put Grateful Dead Steal Your Face stickers on, well, everything. And your geodesic dome is not for sale, man. There’s just one problem: All your friends became yuppies and/or grew up and worked for the Clinton administration. It’s hard to find people to groove with these days, and nothing’s as far out as it used to be.
But never fear! Go west, young dude. As in, Utah. As in, melty Dali-esque red rock canyons and bizzaro temples and entire tree societies. As in, straight trippin’. And you’ll be like, Whoa dude, what is life? And, Is this really my hand? And we’ll be like, Yeah brother. But keep it on the wheel. We’re on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.
5. The Wedge (Little Grand Canyon)
Hey Arizona — you can keep your Grand Canyon for all we care. Have fun being inundated with tourist families in bad safari shorts and postcard junkies. No seriously, knock yourself out, Arizona. As for us Utahns, we’ll stick to our LITTLE GRAND CANYON, which is seriously every bit as good as yours, but with zero people earning their gawking-at-overlooks merit badge or explaining their one semester of geology knowledge loudly to their bored girlfriend. P.S. Pronghorn antelopes and windswept vistas. P.P.S. No confusion about Daylight Savings.
4. Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple
Remember when Brigham Young entered the Salt Lake Valley and uttered his famous first words? “This is the place! But also there’s that other place, about an hour south, where another group of believers could build another strangely shaped temple, if they wanted to.” Well, the Hare Krishnas did it, building a domed and many-spired Indian temple in the middle of the alfalfa heartland. So now you have options. You can go admire the gothic granite spires of Mormondom, then split to Spanish Fork, where you can eat a vegetarian meal, pet a peaceful lama and throw brightly colored sand at your friends in a ritual designed to celebrate both spring and your social-media presence.
Not to brag, but Utah’s been running a pretty brisk business in imitating various world wonders: We’ve got a mini Stonehenge outside a local bank in Orem; a Mount Rushmore–themed roller coaster at a place named, and we quote, Liberty Land Fun Center; and an ersatz Delicate Arch at an amusement park confusingly called Boondocks. But our proudest gem by far is Saltair, a quaint Taj-Mahal-on-the-salty- shore built by Shah Jahan for his favorite pioneer wife.* Does that make you want to celebrate? Well now you can, at one of Saltair’s many concerts, above-board raves and other activities and events. Just right there in the middle of nowhere.
So lately the blue whale’s been all over Twitter, posting all this puffery about being the biggest mammal in the blah blah blah. Anybody else think that hairless mammal’s getting a little too big for his baleen britches? What do you say we buy him a one-way ticket to Pando, a grove of 47,000 aspen trees that — thanks to the magic of a shared root system — was for a brief and glittering moment the actual biggest organism on planet earth? That is, until it was upstaged by the thousand-acre fungal mats of Oregon. Embarrassing, we know, but the fungal mats don’t tweet and so the secret’s buried safely inside the minds of a few mycologists. But don’t let a mammal, a rhizome, and some mushrooms divide your allegiances. Just ride a whale to this aspen behemoth, lay on your fungal mat picnic blanket and revel in your trifecta.
1. Utah's Sun Tunnels
Sometimes you wish you were part of an ancient solar-obsessed society that based their entire system of civil engineering around lining stuff up with the sun. Like, “Hey, is it the shortest/longest day of the year? Gee, I don’t know because — wait, YUP! Total sun lineup.” You tried this technique with your own house but the Homeowner’s Association complained. (Fascists!) If only there were somewhere near you, some modern version of this ancient art, giant tunnels built by an artist unencumbered by her condo-owning neighbors, an exploration of the relationship between solstice, stars and planet Earth. And maybe the tunnels would be big enough to lie in, and maybe there would be holes drilled inside them that matched perfectly with certain constellations. But that’s impossible...