2010 USA Tour : April 3rd, Salt Lake City

Utahfrom snow blizzards to almost tropics

Woke up to freezing cold, icicles, icy road, snow, rolled over, went back to sleep again.

Eventually got on the road just before noon and conditions got worse heading south. More snow, more blizzarding and stronger winds as we drove south towards Pocatello, then at extreme worst as we climbed into the mountain pass south of this city.

Then, on the other side of the pass, blue sky, beaming sun and a lot, lot more warmth !!!

The drive south towards Salt Lake City suddenly became a joy with the warm sun bringing out the colours of the wild plains shadowed by the high snow capped mountains.

By 3:00 pm we were truly ready for lunch so I suggested we visited the Bear River bird sanctuary on the north east of the huge Great Salt Lake, well north of Salt Lake City. We had lunch at the visitor’s centre car park, with great views, but Claire was sceptical of the 12 miles of dirt track road to the sanctuary and then another 12 miles going around the sanctuary.

At first the 12 miles dirt track was tough going and it seemed like it could be a waste of time with very few birds present, but the actual sanctuary was a stunning experience and Claire was so thrilled we made the effort to experience this. The surprise warm sunny weather certainly enhanced the whole experience.

Bear River Bird Sanctuary

The 12 mile circular dirt track at the sanctuary is a dirt causeway in the Great Lake itself. In the north west of the lake its a bit like the Florida Everglades that can be one moment all deep water and then drained into a unique marshy eco system. It was marshy when we visited. The guide says that over 200 species of birds are here. We certainly saw many species in abundance.

The most striking were the tall cranes, the beautiful white with yellow beak pelicans, the various wild geese, grebes, and the amusing coots who find it hard to take off and fly. They accelerate themselves by skimming their feet over the top of the water, looking as if they are running on water, until there is enough under air to lift them. We also saw a big brown skunk, surprisingly quite tame and curious, but watch that tail lifting! Claire also saw a yellow headed weasel pop out of a hole and run.

Such a beautiful experience was hard to leave. We wished we could be all day there, but the upcoming Salt Lake City concert was calling for us to attend and perform.

Salt Lake City concert

Salt Lake City is still one of the most beautiful cities of the USA. Driving through was a bit of memory lane for me, as I lived and worked in Utah for a year around 1990. There were additional new buildings and a very nice useful light railway system since I was there, but the stunning individual architecture of its state buildings, churches and houses still stood out grand. Its a very easy city to drive around too.

Our venue was a large house of the Walsh’s, high up looking over the city. A few years ago I was tour guide and arranged of a Walsh family reunion in Ireland.

When we arrived just before 6:00 pm, 60 people had already turned up and enjoying a lovely appetiser feast prepared by Kathy Walsh. It also seemed like the entire Utah inventory of alcohol was here too, which the early arrivers were already enjoying. If you are not familiar with Utah, Google the words Utah and alcohol to see what comes up.

The noise and laughter of very jolly well fed and well refreshed people made Claire and I wonder if we were suitable for this event. It seemed like the people were ready for wild fun, and what we serve is calm dreamtime fun.

There was no need to worry. As soon as everyone knew it was time for the concert all sat down and around us with complete attention, anticipation and timely engaging participation. This was a perfect audience for us !!! Claire also threw in “Journey Of The Wandering Aengus”, a song of the W.B. Yeats poem, that she rarely performs live, and then only to specific arts and poetry audiences, but these folks love it.

After the first set, something unusual happened. Kathy and Kevin and set this to be dinner time. They had rented a marquee tent for the meal catering. When the Walsh’s were on tour with us, Cathy motivated and arranged some amazing lunch picnics. Talk of her meal catering among this was legendary. Now we were to experience the legend ………

I then thought that a long dinner break would kill of any chance of gathering the folks back together for a second set. How I was wrong. Soon as they knew we were back on it was full attention, support and participation again for a second set that was even far better than the first.

After the second set it was time for dessert, from a wide selection, again prepared by Cathy. Kevin has also set up a remarkable Irish Coffee making station that was very popular.

It did not end there!

A singer guitarist Jim and fiddle player also called Cathy, I think, started up some tunes, both Irish and bluegrass. Eventually Claire joined in on harp, who always says she does not like playing in sessions, and Jim started signing a great selection of songs accompanied by his guitar, fiddle and harp. He sounds like Steve Martin on his recent excellent cd. Steve Martin is a terrific singer and music performer too. Claire then get everyone into Wild Mountain Thyme and Salley Gardens, and everyone finished with a rousing joint chorus “Parting Glass”.

What an evening, what an audience, what a ceili!

This all went on until about 1:30 am and then we left for our camp site, which should have been 30 minutes away in Park City. As we set off the snow sprinkled then got thicker and thicker into a blustering an blinding blizzard within minutes. Our driving was down to a 10 or 20 mph crawl as it was hard to see the road. After almost two hours we literally skidded into our camp site, surprisingly found the electric and water connections under the snow, now a good foot deep, surprising to have water especially, then hibernated as soon as possible ………


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