Amtrak to San Francisco, Part 6: Mountains, Mormons and Home

DAY 18: TRAVELLING FROM DENVER, COLORADO TO SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

It took a whole day to travel from Denver to Salt Lake City, but this was by far the best scenery (predominately the Rocky Mountains) we got to see as we travelled though mountains, tunnels and deserts getting a chance to admire the beautiful scenery of Colorado and Utah. It almost made up for the one- to two-hour delays that I regularly had to wait for Amtrak’s trains. Almost.

DAY 19: SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

It’s not a good sign when you message your friend who has been in Salt Lake City for a year, asking for tips and the best places to go and he simply replies ‘stuff to do in SLC is a hard one, it’s quite a boring city’. With this knowledge in mind it was no surprise that by 2pm I’d run out of stuff to do. Don’t get me wrong, Salt Lake City is a beautiful and fascinating place — a shiny clean city in the middle of a desert. The Mormon section of the city, a massive area called Temple Square, is a fascinating place to explore with free tours and visitor centres to observe the Mormon religion. The Mormons themselves seemed friendly and were more than happy to answer any questions, but I kept feeling I had to make excuses to leave as they offered me Book of Mormon after Book of Mormon.

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Mike Norton

The Month I Lived Out of a Backpack, Part 2: Salzburg

“Oh, look!” I shout from the train compartment. “An IKEA!”

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Make the World Great Again Part Two: No Time to Wait

There is little time to dwell on the fundamental flaws of the structure of American politics so this article that will aim to focus primarily on how the rest of the world can proceed following America’s choice to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

We are amidst a global crisis that America has elected to ignore. As National Geographic points out, “Climate Change isn’t a hoax or a scientific conspiracy, it’s a grand challenge.” The average global temperature has risen 1.69°F and we have reached 400 parts per million in average atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is up 216 since 1832. That has taken less than 200 years. Nine out of ten climate scientists agree that “carbon emissions cause global warming”: this should be overwhelmingly obvious proof and leaves a sense of disbelief that, at this stage, anyone could be in denial. Our living is unsustainable and it is necessary, not optional, to take legislative action to stimulate societal change and improve the environmental crisis we are facing.

So, here’s a little note to the man who thinks it’s all a hoax, courtesy of National Geographic:

Humans are most definitely responsible as “no natural cause explains the half-century warming trend”, which has been documented by satellites. This is caused by “human-emitted greenhouse gases” of which the U.S. is the second largest contributor; this forms a “steadily thickening blanket that traps heat at the Earth’s surface” (I learnt this in high school. If I have to know it, then so does the President of the United States). Arctic ice has decreased from 2.78 million of square miles in 1979 to 1.82 in 2016 – just 0.96 in 47 years. Melting land ice raises sea levels and since 1900, there has been a total sea level rise of 8-9 inches which has caused coastal flooding. Should this continue, low lying land, such as New York, will disappear underwater. Extreme weather is far more likely. In 2003, a heatwave in Europe killed 70,000 people; once a 1-in-500-year event, now it is a 1-in-40. There will be an “exponential increase in water and climate related worldwide catastrophes.” There is potential for all this to ignite human conflict. The Syrian Civil war was ignited partly by a historic drought that drove farmers into the city. If the human impact is not convincing, animals are already suffering. There has been a shift in migration patterns and behaviour. There are “1 in 6 species at risk of global extinction if the climate warms by nearly 8°F.” All this factual information is outlined in the April 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine which emphasises the extent of the global crisis with an article that someone should probably forward to the White House, where most of the deniers seem to reside.

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Living La Vida Local: Part 2

Chile was my third time spending an extended period living abroad, and I’ve noticed a pattern in terms of how things tend to go, at least for me personally:

  • Month 1: throw yourself into everything. Feel homesick realising that you’ve not known anyone for longer than a month.
  • Month 2: find some routines. Feel more comfortable and begin to develop some normality.

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Cruising West to Vegas

After we had driven away from the Grand Canyon on our family RV holiday, I felt a sense of sadness about leaving the landscape that has always been such an iconic part of the Western United States. Yet, due to the variety of natural beauty in the west, the Grand Canyon receded into my memory and was replaced with other less revered but still spectacular views and experiences. Along the many highways that we cruised, the landscape seamlessly changed and never failed to capture my attention.

With the Grand Canyon behind us, we headed north to Zion National Park in Utah. Zion was one of the highlights of the holiday for me, because it was unexpectedly fun and enthralling. I highly recommend hiking in the Narrows, where you can wade through a river surrounded by cliffs on either side, which I found a refreshing experience, though the rocks can be slippery. It is sensible to wear suitable clothing and shoes and not rush, as my mum found out, when she nearly slid head-first into the river. The peak time to go into the Narrows is the summer and autumn when the water is refreshingly cool. It is possible to go in the winter and spring, but wearing wet or dry suits is recommended if you go then.

In Zion National Park, there are a variety of non-guided or guided hikes that range from easy, one-day excursions in the Narrows and on the rocks above the river, to longer, more challenging overnight trips. Alongside hiking, Zion offers a range of adventure activities from rock climbing, golf, and cycling, as well as helicopter and off-road tours. The Rocks Odyssey Guiding Co. offer rock climbing trips in Zion for £96 per person and Zion helicopter tours range from $45 to $299, depending on the length of the trip. There are also off-road tours from Zion ATV & UTV tours from $125, where more of the landscape is accessible.

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