Utah—Desert, Mountains, the Past and Present

Fueling my travels is this mission I have of touching the WW2 Japanese American Incarceration camps and peripheral sites. I have the luxury of time to fulfill this mission. All my adult life I was climbing the corporate ladder or building a business that dealt with small, medium and large businesses. My days were locked into business responsibilities and the raising of my kids.

Today, I have freedom. My dad often said, “The best time of life is when you are busy.” It’s true. I can look back on my business careers, raising three kids who have all done more than I ever imagined, and I remember wondering, after Scot died, what my life would look like.  I have heard it said, “With freedom comes responsibility.” I knew I couldn’t just travel. I am a woman who needs a mission. My Solo Ski Sojourns provide that mission. The one sad note as I drove around Utah is that this state was one of my husband Scot’s favorite areas. The hiking, southwest Utah’s spectacular landscape, and dry desert air was his dream for retirement. Now as I drive around Utah I feel his presence and only wish he could have enjoyed it more. His death provided a freedom I wasn’t asking for. I feel I have a responsibility to do something with this gift of freedom.

But I digress. I stayed the night in St. George, UT, in the far southwest corner and the last place Scot went hiking. I wanted to feel that place again. The stay was brief, as was my sorrow.

My goal on this leg of the trip was to visit Topaz concentration camp outside of Delta, UT. I had been in communication with the Topaz Museum director, Jane Beckwith. I have been to visit several camps, and I will say Topaz is one of the best preserved in its natural state. It is located 15 miles out of the little town, which didn’t seem that remote until I got there. With mountains to the west, it is like so many of the sites–a flat, dusty, sage & greasewood covered plot one mile by one mile. The land is privately owned now by the Museum. It isn’t the entire camp as it was in 1943, but they own the property where the barracks were.

Topaz Museum in Delta UT

The museum itself is amazing. They have so many artifacts that donors have given, and buildings onsite to give the feel of the starkness of the camp. Jane is a local girl whose father ran the newspaper and employed a man from the camp in the business. She became interested in the site in the 1980s as a schoolteacher and recognized the significance of this slice of history.

We are so lucky to have her and her energy to preserve Topaz. She gave an amazing tour not only of the museum, but of the site itself. There is a monument with a US flag at the northwest corner of the camp, but the true impact comes from driving the blocks, each marked, some with descriptions like, “Baseball Field”, “Coal Chute”, “Administration”, “Elementary School”.

I hadn’t forgotten about skiing. I stayed that night in Salt Lake City and woke early to drive to Solitude to ski an area I had skied back in the 80s! It was a Saturday morning, and I was unprepared for the line of traffic headed up Cottonwood Canyon! This is why I don’t ski on weekends, I reminded myself. I decided to bail from the traffic and hit the Park & Ride. The Ikon pass got me a bus ride for free and I had my wild Alchemy of Ride Spring Flowers outfit on, and true to form, it sparked a conversation. A snowboarder started talking to me on the bus and offered to show me the mountain. I jumped at the offer.

Adam V was a great ambassador for Solitude. Utah hadn’t gotten snow since early January, so we stayed on the groomers. Adam took me from right to left as you face the mountain. He challenged me and I had to focus and flow to keep up. He showed me the Sol Bright access that links Solitude and Brighton. He didn’t want to go to Brighton, so we took the escape route out—a double black through some trees. I made it down (after one fear fall) and can now say I skied a double black at Solitude.

After Adam and I parted ways, I ended up going to Brighton. My goal in new areas is to ride every chair to get the feel for the mountain, so that’s what I did. There were a couple times I got trapped at the base of Brighton and had to skate across the flat of the parking lot to get where I wanted to go. No worries.

Memories of being in my late 20s flooded back as I skied the Brighton side. The last time I had been there I was with Larry and Scot before Scot and I were married. It was spring skiing, and we shed our snowpants and skied in shorts (we had come prepared). A million miles and a lifetime had passed, but I still could feel the fun and adventure we felt back then.

Larry, Scot, Elaine, rocking Brighton. Circa 1980

The week I spent in Utah, I spent with friends. I had met Ernest two years ago skiing Deer Valley, and the networker he is, he had me meet up with two of his friends, TJ and Joe. The four of us skied over 10,000 vertical in an hour and a half. These guys were burning the groomers, and I fought to keep up. There’s this pride thing, you know. It was great fun, and Ernest is the best at seeing commonality and bringing people together.

I spent a day at Sundance, where I had never skied before. I made an acquaintance with Wendy at my Stanford 45th reunion, and she and her husband have a place in Sundance. She showed me the mountain, from top to bottom, but the real bonus was sharing her family time—she took her 17-month-old granddaughter out skiing for the first time. SO MUCH FUN.

Granddaughter, daughter, Grandmother. Sharing the love.

I loved Sundance. It’s a smaller resort, and the shopping is great. Wendy told me about the Sundance Catalog Outlet store in Salt Lake, and I vowed I’d go there. I have been a Sundance Catalog fan for years.

My time skiing in Utah was unique because I didn’t ski alone at all! Besides skiing with Ernest and Wendy, I took the Deer Valley Mountain Host tour twice! I took a group photo of the first tour and on the second tour I met Claudia and Jeff and we had lunch together. Sweet!

All good things must end and so did my long week at the Worldmark Midway. I dreaded packing up and moving on—mostly I dreaded packing up—but I wanted to hit the Sundance Outlet store, Level Nine sporting goods store, Japantown Street in Salt Lake and 25th street historic district in Ogden. Miles to go!

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