This trip I took to Utah in October was planned spur-of-the-moment, when my friend Raechel invited me to come visit her family in Lehi. And it couldn't have happened at a better time. Because I had booked a flight to Cancun the last week of October... I was supposed to go on this really cool, all expenses paid trip to the beach with my ex. I had bought like 3 swimsuits and a couple of flowy dresses. But as it turns out, he's not all that cool and 3 days in Utah is exactly what I needed to put that behind me. Thankfully (because of Covid) I was able to transfer the original flight (or so I thought). American Airline's website acted a fool and I ended up being charged for the flight to Salt Lake anyways, but hey, now I have a $300 flight credit I'll need to use in 2021 if anyone wants to travel with me!!!!!!!

Raechel and Nathan are some of the coolest people I know. They have an adorable love story, and getting to observe their relationship over a few days helped me believe in love again. And not to mention, they spent their time and money entertaining me for the entire weekend when we had only met once before, the previous November in China!!! I'm so incredibly grateful for their generosity and friendship, and for making this trip one of the best I've ever taken.

The first night, after they picked me up, we explored a little bit of downtown Salt Lake City. It was a bit of a ghost town, being right in the middle of the pandemic. Raechel said this area is normally always busy with events. We walked around the Mormon temple and tabernacle, and though they've both left the church, they told me some of the most interesting aspects of Mormonism. I mean I knew SLC was known for that, but holy cow! I really had no idea just how intertwined the church and state really are, still to this day.

The next day was Friday, and Raechel took me to Timpanogos Mountain. I believe its the tallest in the area, and it's really close to where they live. We hiked up a really fun trail, and normally you get to see the cave at the top, but COVID!!!! #2020. I remember just being really surprised at all the older people hiking this steep trail like it was nothing! I think people in Utah are far more active than what I'm used to. I can't even imagine just being able to drive 20 minutes to this mountain whenever I want.

I was also super excited when I arrived and saw the fall foliage! It was the PERFECT time of year to visit and capture some amazing photos.

By the way, most of these images are edited with Marco Valdez's Fall preset collection! He's a local photographer friend of mine, and let me try these out before he released them. If you love vivid colors and moody vibes in your landscape photography, definitely give these a whirl!

We also visited the aquarium that day. My favorite were the poisonous dart frogs, the penguins, and the jellyfish! Oh, and I learned that the only thing that can live in the Great Salt Lake (formerly known as Lake Bonneville) is brine shrimp. I didn't get any photos, but I became well acquainted with them the next day when we got in the lake!

The next day, we all visited This is the Place Heritage Park. Where Brigham Young led the pioneers to establish Utah in 1847. Oddly enough, the actual quote goes "This is the right place, drive on" but I guess that isn't as catchy! Most of the buildings are replicas, but they were still really cool. Raechel said normally there are all kinds of activities going on in the little pioneer town but obviously this wasn't the case when we were there.

Something I found fascinating was that I kept seeing all these beautiful birds everywhere and didn't realize they were magpies until Nathan told me! Magpies hold some significance in my art, and I created a magpie painting last year that you can see here: (I obviously need to change that URL to 2019 paintings, but whatever.) Maybe I'll share the story of its meaning in another post sometime. But I kept seeing them everywhere we went and it felt important.

Then we went to Antelope Island, and it ended up being my favorite thing that we did! I can't remember why it's called Antelope Island, when there are in fact, no resident antelopes. Lots of buffalo roaming wild though! I was so thankful I had remembered to pack my zoom lens because there was no chance I was getting out of the car to capture those buffalo and coyotes! Peep the magpie sitting on a buffalo's shoulder in one of the images. Utah is magical, y'all.

Part of this excursion was also going down to the beach and getting INTO the Great Salt Lake! Nathan and Raechel gave me the option, and even though it was stinky, and even though it was pretty cold, I decided to get in! This is kindof a once in a lifetime thing. Raechel had actually never been in the lake before even though she's lived by it most of her life! Apparently the locals aren't really into it.

You can see in the photos how the light drastically changed while we were there. It went from being a little sunny, to mostly overcast. But the most striking thing was how everything turned gray. The sky, the water, the beach, the mountains. It sort of compressed everything and made spatial awareness really difficult. Almost like being on the moon. When we first walked into the water, it was freezing cold, but then as you went a little further, there were little pockets of warmth. Nathan held our hands and helped us ease down into the water, and kick our feet up to start floating on 2 feet of water! Honestly, I've experienced some cool things in my travels, but this was one of my absolute favorite experiences! The whole thing felt so other-worldly.

On my final day, we headed up to the crater in Midway, and then visited Park City, where the Sundance Film Festival is held! The drive through the mountains was gorgeous, and I'm sure the other occupants of the car were tired of hearing me ooh and ahh . Funny story - you may have seen the viral video of the man hiking in Utah who encountered a mountain lion that followed him for several minutes. This was posted the day I got back to Texas, and Nathan said it was in the area right behind that waterfall you can see from the road.

The crater was really cool but I couldn't get too many photos there. It was warm, and something like 60 feet deep! If you want to know more about it, here's a link

Raechel had asked if I wanted to try scuba diving while there but, fun little fact about Caitie, I'm not a fan of deep water and scuba diving sounds like my literal hell. But as we were floating (in life vests) above all the brave divers, they told me about their experiences scuba diving in Hawaii, which is super impressive!

When we arrived in Park City, it was quite chilly, and we didn't end up having much time to walk around, mainly because I wanted to visit the Ikea in SLC on our way back. But I got to see the Banksy there and pop into some neat vintage shops. I've never been skiing before but this town seems like the place to go if you do! I'd love to go back one day, especially during the Sundance Film Festival held in January. Films are premiered at the little Egyptian Theatre, and I can't help but feel like that experience couldn't be topped!

I can't really express with words how blessed I was by this trip, and by Raechel and Nathan. In a way, I feel like my images do a better job of showing gratitude. I was able to move from a season of heart break, into a completely new outlook. It involved friendship, generosity, and the opportunity to be creative and appreciative of every single experience. Thanks guys!

Love, Caitie