Sunday, December 31, 2017

Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake

After visiting Hardware Ranch and eating at Maddox Drive-Inn in Brigham City we drove to Syracuse, Utah, and then west over the seven mile long causeway to Antelope Island. Antelope Island is the largest of 10 islands in the Great Salt Lake. It is 42 square miles, 15 miles long at the longest points and 5 miles wide at the widest points. 
It was named by John C. Fremont and Kit Carson, who visited the island in 1845, after a pronghorn antelope they shot on the island for food. Bison were introduced in 1893 and the Antelope Island herd has proved to be a great genetic pool for bison preservation in the U.S.
The Wasatch Front as viewed from Antelope island.
I've been to Antelope Island a number of times, including several times in the last ten years, but I've never seen an antelope there. So this time, as I entered with my two oldest grandgirls, I asked the ranger (it is a State Park) where the best place to see antelope was. I was told they could be seen on the flats on the east side of the island on the drive to Fielding Garr Ranch. 
The eastern shore with the Wasatch Front in the backgrounds. 
Frary Peak, part of the mountainous backbone of the island.
Just past the causeway we turned left and saw some mule deer feeding off the right side of the road. We paused and got some pictures. 

Then we drove for a while and saw some pronghorn antelope off to the left at some distance. We got out and took some photos. Fortunately I had my 500 mm lens, but even with it they appeared quite small. But at least now I've seen antelope on Antelope Island. 
Pronghorn antelope, the Great Salt Lake, and the Wasatch Front toward the back. 

We drove further and saw quite a few different groups of bison. Some of them were a great distance up on the side of the mountain and some were a great distance actually wading through water to a small island off the island. But one group, in particular, was quite near the road and we got some good views. The grass is still quite tall and they keep their heads down grazing. So it is difficult getting good photos with head shots. 

This big, beautiful male, was staring right at us. 
We drove as far as Fielding Garr Ranch where the road ends and turned around and headed back. 

It was quite a day. We saw mule deer in multiple places, wild turkey in multiple places, elk, pronghorn antelope and bison. 

To top off the evening we stopped at Smith's in Lehi, on the way back home, and in keeping with tradition (for example, see here), we prepared a seafood dinner. We got a good deal on some small octopi, five pounds of Alaskan king crab legs and a one pound lobster tail. We fried the octopi in butter and they weren't bad. And of course, king crab and lobster are always good. 
Small, uncooked octopi ready to be cooked.
A cooked octopus on a Christmas plate. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Maddox Drive-Inn - Brigham City, Utah

I previously posted a visit to Hardware Ranch on my day excursion with my two oldest grandgirls. We'd taken sleds driven by horses out to see wild elk and were on our way to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. Maddox Drive-Inn, in Brigham City, was on our way and has been an institution since I was a child. We used to eat there when we went boating on Willard Bay or were driving through on our way to Logan or Idaho. I remember it as a place for hamburgers and fried chicken. 

I asked my grandgirls if they'd ever been to a drive-in where you ordered from your car and had a person deliver the food to your window. They immediately mentioned Sonic Drive-Inn. Growing up, I only knew of Maddox and Hire's in Salt Lake City. That was part of what made it fun. 
It was cold, in the 20s, so the drive-inn concept was a bit chilly. We kept the car running and the heater going. 

I also ordered a home brewed root beer and enjoyed it. Less fizzy and more mellow. 
Maddox is known for its fried chicken, which is skinless, a recipe developed by I.B. Maddox in 1949. The flour must have corn meal in it. We ordered a chicken basket and asked for all thighs and got four of them. The thighs came with a home-made roll, some raspberry butter and a scone. I ate one thigh, as did one of my granddaughters, and the other granddaughter had the other two thighs and the roll and scone. She really liked the roll and scone, I didn't try them. I was really surprised by the chicken. I hadn't remembered it was skinless, which totally changes the taste and texture. It was relatively moist, because it was a thigh, but I would not order a breast, confirmed by other reviews I've seen. I think it would be dreadfully dry. It was fun to try again, but I'll pass on it in the future. 
I ordered a buffalo burger. I was thinking of Antelope Island and all of the local bison, figuring it might be fresh and local. It came with a squared Wendy-like patty on a bun with a little bit of lettuce, a few pickles, a mixture of ketchup and mustard and a small slice of cheese. It was a big disappointment, a view shared by a burger connoisseur I found on-line.  I didn't like the combination of condiments and the burger was quite dry and dominated by bun. 

Each order came with fries or onion rings. I got the onion rings and special orders of fry sauce which are $.25 extra. The onion rings are all breading and no onion. 
My other granddaughter got a cheese burger and fries. She shared some fries and they were very good: thick and salty. 
All in all, I would probably only give it a 3 on a scale of 5, yet it remains a place that I and others talk about when Brigham City is mentioned. Although I have no desire to go back, if I am ever passing through Brigham City again and I'm hungry, I'll probably stop there, and I'll probably order some fried chicken and complain that it is not as good as a remember it. It is just one of those things: a fond childhood memory that I have to keep going back to. 

At any rate, it was fun to experience it again with my grandgirls. On the way out of town, on our way to Antelope Island, we saw a huge group of elk  in a field and on the slopes of a mountain, also being fed hay. It looked like there were as many or more than we'd seen at Hardware Ranch. 
Elk at White Peaks Ranch, just off the side of the road. 
I just Googled it and found that we'd seen a private elk herd owned by White Peaks Ranch, which has 800 head of elk. They focus on bull elk and sell the antlers in Eastern Asia where they are ground up and used for medicinal purposes, such as an aphrodisiac. They also sell private, guided and guaranteed elk hunts. I was recently talking to the supplier of exotic meats I frequent and he mentioned he bought his elk meat from a ranch in Utah. This could be the place, although there are other private elk ranches. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Hardware Ranch Elk - Utah

Over Christmas break I visited Utah and took my two oldest grandgirls (ages 8 and 11) on a day-long outing. Our first visit was to Hardware Ranch, a Wildlife Management Area owned and managed by the State of Utah in Blacksmith Fork Canyon, 15 miles east of  Hyrum (which is 8 miles south of Logan) on Hwy 101. The journey was about 120 miles from my daughter's home in Lehi (up the I-15 to Brigham City, then up Hwy 89 to about Wellsville, then east on Hwy 101). 

I was using Google Maps on my phone and ended up following a much more interesting route which supposedly saved 8 minutes. That route took us off the I-15 in about Roy, then up Hwy 80 into Ogden, then east up Ogden Canyon on Hwy 39, past Pineview Reservoir, past the turn-off to Causey Reservoir, then branching off on to a very long snow covered dirt road for about 20 miles. Google Maps told us we'd arrived while we were in the middle of nowhere (it must have put us at the edge of the Hardware Ranch property). Fortunately, we were able to talk to some snowmobilers who told us to follow the road for many more miles down into the bottom of the canyon (we followed the conventional route on the way back to Lehi). 

On the way down the canyon the girls, with their eagle eyes, spotted some mule deer on the side of a hill and we took a few pictures. 
Mule deer 
We eventually found the Hardware Ranch Visitor's Center which had a large stuffed bull elk, a stuffed mountain lion and bobcat, some pelts, including mountain lion, fox, coyote, bobcat and badger, and paid for the sled ride, a very reasonable $5.00 for me, and $3.00 for each of my grandgirls. 
Our dirt road connected with Hwy 101 at this spot at Hardware Ranch. 
The sleds are large rectangular beds with seats around the edges, mounted on truck tires and pulled by two large horses. The elk are fed hay, from December through February, to keep them from going into the more populated areas to forage and get into trouble. The elk are completely free to come and go and the larger bull elk come a little later in the winter when the snow gets deeper. 

We went out on a sled, with about 10 or 15 other people, and spent about 20 or 30 minutes stopping four or five times. There were two or three other sleds out at the same time as we were. There were lots of elk, mostly females and younger spike bulls, totaling about 400. 

We never got close enough to be able to reach out and touch them, but close enough to get a very good look at them. We were also nearby a grouping when one of them let out its haunting bugling call. It was magnificent. 
My grandgirls at the back of the sled.
There were a couple of good-sized bulls.
This guy was a real beauty.

A number of spike bulls with long thin "spike" antlers.

And we saw a couple of young elk rear up on their hind legs and strike at each other with their front legs.
And an older calf aggressively going after it's mother's milk. 
The temperature was in the low 20s, but we were bundled up pretty good and were not too cold. 

At the end, the grandgirls were able to pet the snouts of our sled horses which I think they enjoyed as much as the elk. 
After leaving the Ranch and starting down Blacksmith Fork Canyon toward Hyrum, we saw a group of about 20 Rio Grande turkeys on the side of the hill just off the road. 

We continued on to Brigham City where we ate at Maddox Drive-Inn, then continued on to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake where we saw some antelope and bison. Those are subjects for my next two posts. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Gur Emir Mausoleum of Timur - Samarkand

Guri Amir, also known as Gur-e-Amir, Gur-i-Amir and Gur Emir, is the mausoleum of Timur, also known as Tamerlane, located in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Timur lived from 1336 to 1405 and had a huge empire which stretched from India to the Mediterranean. He made Samarkand his capital. 
Painting of Timur in the mausoleum.
The mausoleum was very important architecturally and the precursor and model for later mausoleums, including the Taj Mahal.  The name is Persian for "Tomb of the King." It contains the tombs of Timur, his sons Shah Rukh and Miran Shah, and grandsons Ulug Bek (aka Ulug Begh) and Muhammad Sultan. 
Statue of Timur's grandson, Ulug Bek.
It also contains the tomb of Timur's teacher, Sayyid Baraka. 
The archaeological remains in the foreground are the madrasa and khanaka which have not been restored.

The entrance portal.
Detail on the upper entrance portal. 
View of the mausoleum through the entrance. 
The complex was originally built by Muhammad Sultan as a center for Islamic education. It included a madrasa, to teach the children of Samarkand's nobility; and a khanaka or khanqah,  a spiritual retreat for Sufis. After the death of Muhammad Sultan in 1403, Timur's heir apparent, Timur had his grandson's body temporarily placed in a room of the madrasa and ordered construction of the mausoleum on the site.  

The mausoleum had an entrance portal, a single decorative wall, and four minarets, one at each corner.  
Back of the mausoleum.
Side view.
Timur did not live to see the mausoleum completed. He died in 1405 while on a military campaign in China. Timur had already built a smaller tomb for himself in Shahrisabz, near his Ak Saray Palace. However, the passes to Shahrisabz were snowed in and so Timur was buried in this mausoleum in Samarkand instead. His body was perfumed with rosewater, musk and camphor and put in a coffin decorated with precious stones. Ulug Bek, another grandson, completed the mausoleum and it became the family crypt for the Timurid Dynasty. Ulug Bek is also buried there. 

The exterior consists of blue, light blue and white tiles organized into geometric and epigraphic (inscriptions as writing) ornaments on a background of terracotta bricks.  The bright blue dome is heavily ribbed. 

Inside, the mausoleum has a high chamber with deep niches. The lower walls are covered with onyx slabs decorated with paintings. Large parts of the walls are covered with painted plaster and ornamented by high-relief papier-mache cartouches (a carved tablet or drawing representing a scroll), gilded and painted. The inside of the dome is gilded with six and a half pounds of gold. 
Inside the dome - sparkling with gold.
Amazingly gold. 

Lower wall panels are made of onyx.
The carved fake sarcophagi indicate the location of actual tombs underneath. Ulug Bek had a solid block of dark green jade put over Timur's tomb, the largest known specimen of jade in existence.  Soviet scientists opened Timur's tomb in June 1941 and confirmed that he was tall, just under five feet eight inches, and was wounded in the leg and arm and would have walked with a pronounced limp. 
Various tomb markers. Timur's is the green jade.
Timur's green jade marker (above his tomb). 
Timur's mausoleum has been restored, but the madrasa and khanaka are still in ruins. 
Local women visiting the mausoleum.