Now in his 5th year as an instructor for Lifelong Learning, we spoke with Tom Wharton who in the Spring (mostly) retired from a career in journalism at The Salt Lake Tribune, and is our go-to Guru for all things “back roads” in Utah:
LL Hi Tom, please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
TW Last Spring I finished 45 and a half years at The Tribune where I have covered sports, outdoors, business, features, and been a columnist. I spent 21 and a half years in the Utah National Guard as a public affairs officer. My late wife Gayen and I had four children. My wife Nancy, who has two daughters, and I live in Taylorsville. We have 12 grandchildren. I enjoy travel and have visited over 40 countries. I have authored 5 guidebooks, with Gayen, on what to see in the state of Utah.
LL What was it that first got you interested in the “back roads” of Utah?
TW As a new high school sports writer in 1971, The Tribune had me take a basketball and a football trip to small schools throughout Utah. I began to discover interesting little restaurants and places to say. Then I started covering outdoors and went into even more remote places. In the late 1990s, I also wrote a column called Utah Backways about the smaller towns and businesses that helped me learn even more about Utah.
“Having done a fair amount of traveling, I think the diversity of scenery in Utah is unmatched in any place I have visited. I am passionate about this state.”
LL What drew you towards teaching Back Roads Utah as a class, and how did you come to be an instructor for Lifelong Learning?
TW I did a little teaching in journalism classes at the U of U a few years ago and enjoyed the experience. What I love about this class is almost being as much a facilitator as an instructor. Our class involves getting students to share their experiences in the state as well.
LL Of all that you’ve seen, what is your favorite place to share with students?
TW Asking about a favorite place in Utah is kind of like asking which of your kids is your favorite. The state is so great. I did a series of stories on the Great Salt Lake in 1991 and am really attracted to that area. I like Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the Uintas as well. We talk a lot about the West Desert and Great Basin. Students seem to be really interested in that place.
LL Thanks for spending this time with us Tom! In closing do you have any exciting future projects or developments you’d like to share?
TW I retired from full time work at The Tribune on April 1, but I will continue to do a little contract writing. I would like to write a book on the history of land management in Utah and the roots of the conflict between the state and federal government. I plan to do some family history projects. And I want to take some Lifelong Learning classes to learn Blues Harmonica and banjo.