Ten years ago today I was headed back to Michigan from Utah. I’d just spent four days in Salt Lake City, a place that had never been on my must-see list, and I was SO sad to be leaving. One of my good friends had moved to Utah years before, and I’d taken a trip to visit him, but I never thought I’d fall in love with the place. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much from the trip. Just some laughs and good times with an old friend. We did indeed have a blast, but the place turned out to be enchanting and from the moment I touched down in Michigan, I was planning a way to get back to Salt Lake City.

Utah was never on my radar, but I was definitely looking for a place to move. Michigan had been in decline for decades. By 2009 I’d been done with graduate school for four years, and was working three part-time jobs. A full-time job with a decent salary had proved to be elusive, I was thirty-four and I’d never had a meaningful romantic relationship, so I was pretty sure I’d never marry, and my novel, Lives Lived wasn’t being picked up by literary agents. Moving to a new town for a fresh start was constantly on my mind and I was open, but Utah was not one of the destinations I had in mind.  As I considered cities I might want to live in, I decided to plan one fun trip to see an old friend in Utah.

From the time I boarded the connecting flight in Denver, to the moment when I stepped off the plane in Salt Lake City, I was showered with kindness. A man stowed my bag in the overhead compartment and removed it when we landed, carrying it off the plane. As I stepped into the airport, people smiled and spoke to me, and as I stepped outside, I was in awe of the mountains that jutted into the sky in every direction. One the flight I’d been mesmerized by the red rock and snow capped peaks. I thought Utah was nothing more than the Great Salt Lake. Why hadn’t anyone told me that it was a hidden gem?

Over the next four days my friend made sure that we packed in as many activities as we could. I was enchanted with the landscape, surprised at the friendliness of the people, and I loved fry sauce. After climbing Ensign Peak I remember thinking, maybe this IS the place…At the end of my trip, I found myself longing to stay. I remember being a bit sad when I returned home. How could I miss a place I barely knew?

In September of 2010, I bought a one-way train ticket, packed a bag, withdrew the last sixty dollars I had in my bank account, and I headed to Salt Lake City. I wasn’t sure if I was going to head to another spot afterwards, or if I would head back to Michigan at some point. By October, I decided that I was going to start over in Utah. It made no sense and plenty of people thought I’d lost my mind for making such a major decision on a whim, but what did I have to lose? As the ten year anniversary roles around, deciding to move to Utah is the best decision I’ve ever made.

Home…Or Is It?

Utah is very nice but even after ten years, it doesn’t feel like home. This is confusing because after a decade, where else would home be for me? When I travel back to Michigan I enjoy my time there, but I’m always ready to get back to Utah after a week or so. This is a strange position to be in and I wonder if the concept of home is even more arbitrary than I thought it was. I wrote the bulk of Who She Was back in 2009, when I was living in Ypsilanti, Michigan. At the time, I thought, “I love Michigan and it’s my home. I’ll set my story right here at home.” Now that I don’t live in Michigan, and I’ve experienced a different type of “home,” I want to write about the desert and this foreign culture I’ve been immersed in for the past decade.

In Fracture, Sylvia Wilcox finds herself in Utah, a place that is intriguing, friendly, and mysterious. A clean wholesome mecca for families, but it’s also a haven for secretive religious zealots. While those things are true, it is possible to simply get caught up in the beauty of the place. I’m not a professional photographer, but Utah’s amazing terrain doesn’t need a professional to spruce things up. Here are a few lovely places to visit in Utah.

Places to Visit in Utah

Antelope Island is one of my favorite places to visit! It is located near Syracuse, Utah and birds from around North America nest on the island. The landscape is much different from the areas surrounding the island, because of the high salinity of the lake. While this is a beautiful place, be prepared for what locals call “no-see-ums“-biting flies, and the brining scents that rise up from the lake. It is also important to make sure that steer clear of the wildlife on the island. Do not approach bison or antelope, or any other wildlife you come across.

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Bryce Canyon National Park is a must see for anyone visiting Utah. In fact, you need to find a way to visit the “Mighty Five” before you leave the state. I never get tired of staring at the red rock and exploring the wilderness. This is a photo from a solo trip I took a few years ago.

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I live minutes from Ogden Canyon which is full of breathtaking trails, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. I often refer to myself as a flatlander because I grew up in Michigan-at sea level. it doesn’t take much for me to start huffing and puffing on a trail, but it’s so worth it. The Wheeler Canyon trail is especially wonderful in autumn.

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Driving the Alpine Loop in another great way to see spectacular autumn colors. A pass to the area will cost you six dollars (as of 2020), but it’s good for three days, so you can spread out the awe over a couple of days.

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Alpine Loop in Utah County

Ensign Peak is an easy, short hike close to downtown Salt Lake City. Head up around sunset and you will be rewarded with wonderful views of the valley. This is reported to be the place that Brigham Young declared “This is the place” during the Mormon trek west. No matter what your views are, learning about the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints is synonymous with Utah history. You can’t have one without the other, so soak up all the knowledge. I guarantee you’ll be fascinated!

 

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Utah is a religious place, but there’s more to state. If you love the outdoors, kind people, safe environments, and a fantastic economy-this IS the place! Okay, that’s just a bit about how Utah charmed me and stole me away from Michigan.

Resources

Alpine Loop

https://utah.com/scenic-drive/alpine-loop

Antelope Island

https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/antelope-island/

Bryce Canyon National Park

https://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm

Ensign Peak

https://utah.com/hiking/ensign-peak

Salt Lake City

https://www.visitsaltlake.com/

Visit Utah

https://www.visitutah.com/

 

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