Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Henderson, NV (3/16/2018)

Friday was a day for doing chores, such as cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping, with no plans for touring.  I wanted to go out on Saturday and hike to the Bowl of Fire, a place I had read about on the internet.  This site was described as having the same Aztec sandstone that makes Valley of Fire State Park such a colorful place, and the same as Little Finland in Gold Butte National Monument.  The photos made it appear very interesting, and I was anxious to see it.

During the afternoon, winds picked up quite a bit, prompting me to check the weather forecast.  Sure enough, Saturday was going to be very windy and overcast, with a chance of showers.  Given that I was going to leave on Sunday, my opportunity to see the Bowl of Fire seemed to be right then.  So, on the spur of the moment at 4 pm, I jumped into the LRJ and drove 25 miles to the Lake Mead NRA, where the Bowl is located.  Along the way, I noticed some lenticular clouds, caused by high winds swirling around mountains before hitting the clouds and making them look like flying saucers.
The low sun was lighting some of the mountains and badlands very nicely, giving them a golden glow.

Turning off the highway into the appropriate wash, I went about two miles and found the trailhead.  From there, it was said to be 1 1/4 miles to the start of the Bowl, following a sandy, rocky wash.  I started finding landmarks that had been described, so I knew I was on the right trail.  As expected, there were a couple of dry falls that had to be climbed, but they were no problem.  I began to see the sandstone formations as described.

The entire area of formations was quite large and would take a few hours to explore fully.  Since sunset was approaching, I decided to return to camp, not wanting to be finding my way out after dark.  I circled around a bit, taking a slightly different trail to see formations not seen on the way in.

The sunset wasn't particularly good, but as the last light was giving those lenticular clouds a reddish tinge, I drove up to the roof  deck of the hotel's parking garage to get a better view.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hoover Dam, NV (3/15/2018)

The last time I visited Hoover Dam was before the new bridge opened in 2010.  The official name for the bridge is "The Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge" to honor Nevada's most popular governor and a professional football player who gave it up to fight and die for his country.  I'll just refer to it as "the bridge" from now on.

Every time I visit the dam, I marvel at the engineering and planning that went into the project, as well as the physical effort and sacrifice of the workers who actually made it happen.  The bridge is another engineering feat that took ten years to design, plan and execute.  It is a unique and beautiful structure that I was anxious to see.  There is a pedestrian walkway onto the bridge that is extremely popular with tourists, primarily because of the great view it affords of the Hoover Dam.  Getting to the walkways requires climbing some stairs or walking up the handicapped-accessible ramp, but the effort is truly rewarded at the top. 

On the way to the bridge, there are numerous signs to explain the design and construction of the bridge and how it compares to other great bridges around the world.  One sign shows how the fragile canyon wall is secured by a large number of rods driven deep into bedrock, holding screens to prevent rock falls.  The rods have metal caps to protect them from the elements.

After a short time on the bridge, I drove down to the dam and crossed over to the Arizona side, where most of the overlooks are located.  Going down the steep, twisting road, I was stopped long enough to get a picture of the bridge and the people now up there looking down, 886 feet to the water below.
From the overlooks on the Arizona side, there are great views of the dam, the bypass tunnels, the Visitor Center and the bridge.

My original plan was to be there before, during and after sunset.  Once there, I realized the sunset wasn't going to be particularly good, and that what sunset there was would be blocked by the mountains behind the bridge.  So, I left to find a place to have dinner, stopping at the Hoover Dam Lodge.  I learned the original hotel/casino on this site was active from 1948 until in burned in 1998.  A new building went through several ownerships, with the latest having done a major refurbishment.  It's a very nice place and I had an excellent meal, then went to find a good sunset spot.

After sunset, I went back to the dam and crossed over to the Arizona parking areas to get some night photos.  Unfortunately, they don't allow any stopping on the dam at night, so I wasn't able to get good shots of the bridge under the lights.  On thw whole, however, I felt like my visit had been very successful.

I'll be moving today and may not have internet access for a while, but I'll catch up when I can.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Henderson, NV (3/13 through 3/15/2018)

As mentioned earlier, one of my objectives here is to spend more time around Lake Mead.  Two main roads run along the shore on the Nevada side, so I've spent time driving both of them.  While the roads themselves stay mostly in the desert, with views of mountains and smaller rock formations, there are quite a few spur roads that lead to lake overlooks.  Of course, with the lake level at only 40% of capacity, the overlooks aren't as close as they once were.  Since water from the lake supports such a large and growing population, the annual outflow exceeds normal inflow, causing the level to drop every year unless there is above average precipitation.  Colorado snowfall is the most important factor.

The Las Vegas Wash is the only drainage for the entire valley, but does contribute to Lake Mead.
Lake Mead offers numerous campgrounds and marinas for public recreation.  Unfortunately, due to the low level, some marinas have been forced to move to another location, and some have shut down until the situation improves.  On others, the boat ramps have been extended significantly.
I was caught off-guard by another nice sunrise, forgetting about it until it was well underway.  With no time to go anywhere, I simply aimed above the RVs and buildings to get these.
There is a canyon south of town that reportedly has a large number of petroglyphs, so I made an early trip there one day.  However, the entrance was barricaded, despite a sign saying it opens every day at 8 am.  The only reward for 50 miles of driving, much of it in rush hour traffic, was a good view across the valley, the Red Rock Conservation Area, all the way to the Sierras.
 Since the morning was unexpectedly freed up, I decided to visit more of Henderson's park system.  More sightings of northern harriers were fruitless, as they were too far afield for photos.  I did get one shot of a red-tailed hawk flying away from me.
Eventually I found my way to the Henderson Bird Preserve, a large facility with 100 acres divided into nine ponds with trails around each of them.  The only problem was the ponds are so large, ducks can stay out of camera range.  There was a pretty good selection of birds, however, and I do have a few photos to share.
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Northern Shoveler

American Avocets

Eared Grebe

Cinnamon Teal
There was also a good view of the mountains from the preserve.