This is part 2 of our “Utah Ec-Centric Summer Tour,” where we bring you new and intriguing spots to explore this summer. If you missed part 1 about our Iconic Ghost Towns, you’ll find it here.
Utah Ec-Centric: Five Offbeat Spots You Should Explore. Yeah, we’re weirder than you thought. Everyone knows about Utah’s luxurious snow, our cheerful dispositions and our delightful salt water taffy. But there’s all kinds of interesting little quirks lurking in the soft underbelly of our Pretty, Great State. Have a look:
(photo credit: L1mey)
1. Spooky: Skinwalker Ranch
Skinwalker Ranch takes it’s name from the Native American legends of demonic deities able to transform into the bodies of animals. There’s a uncomfortable tangle of occult lore and science fiction–mainly UFO sightings and exposure. Terrifying fireballs of lightning are said to slam down onto the ground and chase hapless wanderers. Other accounts of survivors of alien-based experiments were published in the Deseret News and the Las Vegas Mercury. the ranch borders the Ute Indian Reservation in west Uintah County. There’s even a low-budget horror movie called-obviously-“Skinwalker Ranch” to get you into the mood to explore, or get you out of the mood, if you’re sensible.
(photo credit: Claire)
2. Sad: Gilgal Gardens
Tucked inside a city block in downtown SLC is Gilgal Garden–a sculptor’s tribute to losing his son in the Vietnam War. According to GilgalGardens.org, Thomas Child shared Gilgal Garden with thousands of visitors during his lifetime. He hoped the garden would inspire viewers to ponder “the unsolved mysteries of life” and struggle to find their own answers. Child was aware that many people would find Gilgal Garden strange, but hoped they would accept its challenge. “You don’t have to agree with me,” he explained. “You may think I am a nut, but I hope I have aroused your thinking and curiosity.” Child’s anguish over losing his son flowed into plaintive and heartbreaking verse and sculpture.
(photo credit: Andrew Stone)
Thomas Child began work on Gilgal Garden in 1945, when he was 57 years old. By then, he had already led a successful career as a masonry contractor, married and raised a family, been a leader in community affairs, and served as a bishop of the LDS Tenth Ward for over 19 years. Child’s passion for his garden consumed much of his time and money until his death in 1963. The gardens are free to visit and open 7 days a week.
(photo credit: EnjoyUtah.org)
3. Silly: Beaver Creek Nudist Ranch
Beaver Creek Nudist Ranch: mostly entertaining for what it isn’t–a nudist colony. A group of Samak mischief-makers put up the sign years back to trick the unsuspecting into thinking they’re going to see some naked bits racing alongside the road up the Mirror Lake Highway past Kamas. Frustrated tourists will trickle back to Kamas, asking where “those naked people hang out.” After laughing at your overly hopeful friends, stop by the Samak Smoke House for some incredible smoked trout and salmon and camp in one of the well-kept and surprisingly un-crowded campgrounds.
(photo credit: Lisby)
4. Scandalous: Climbing, Carousing and Corruption
Climb Scandalous Hooker at Zion’s National Park, where the wall was allegedly named by one frustrated climber who said “it’s as hard to scale as that Scandalous Hooker in St. George!”
Carousing: Mother Urban’s Rathskeller is named after a terrifying 200 pound madam from Park City who ruled the turn of the century silver miners with an iron fist–and a wooden leg. Brothels were clustered thickly along the main drag in Park City during the time, but no madame feared as much as Mother Urban. Have a beer and enjoy the racy photos of young ladies of the era in various stages of undress.
Corruption: Utah has the dubious distinction of being named “The Most Politically Corrupt State In America,” but former Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff aren’t the first to raise some eyebrows. The Park City Silver Barons built huge mansions along South Temple in Salt Lake City–one or two from money made by bilking investors with non-existent silver mines and abusing Chinese and Native American labor in unsafe mine conditions.
(photo credit: Jesse Michael Nix)
5. Secretive: The Summum Pyramid
Nope, not just for Egyptians any more. The hilariously named Corky Ra (named after the ancient Sun God) vigorously advocates mummification for everyone. Thus far, the preserved bodies in theSummum Pyramid in Salt Lake City tend to be mostly pet cats and dogs. According to lore, Corky Ra has “followers who have signed sworn affidavits claiming to have seen him perform “miracles.” They have allegedly seen him turn a blue sky into a rainstorm, cry tears of blood after a dear friend was shot in the face and killed, and light a candle just by looking at it.”