A Dam Fine Holiday Week

After five days of driving every day, we were more than ready to roll into Las Vegas, and get out of the damn truck. No driveway has ever looked more welcoming than that of my sister’s home there. We piled out, ready to hang out with friends and family for a few days, and that’s exactly what we did.

But, you know the old saying…..”Family, like fish, begins to stink after five days.” Ever mindful of wearing out our welcome, we decided to head to Lake Mead for three days of camping, and return on New Year’s Eve, in time to watch the Spartans beat Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. (HA! We all know how that turned out, right?) I had even gone to the casino and placed a $10 bet just to get a bit of skin in the game.20151227_135145On the advice of brother in law Dan, we decided to camp at Boulder Beach CG, which is the closest of the established campgrounds to Hoover Dam. Both John and I have visited the Dam previously, but not together, and not for many years. Boulder Beach turned out to be a marvelous choice – sparsely populated and sparkling clean.20151228_13133520151229_091209 Low water levels in Lake Mead make a waterfront site just a wee bit of a walk these days, but the camping fee of $5/day (with our Senior Pass) was just right. Lots of beautiful sights here, and a few not-so-beautiful. I was intrigued by this dead mallard in the water, which had been picked nearly clean.20151228_142021Low water levels are always a topic of conversation here. Lake Mead was last at capacity in 1983 – currently it’s at 38% of capacity – a 143 foot drop.

Once again, we are happy to be people who enjoy cycling. As we hit the bike trail heading toward the Dam, we could see traffic backing up on the highway. It’s a great feeling to know that we probably beat most of those folks to their destination. The best part of the ride was the last 4 miles, where we connected to the National Historic Railroad Trail. This unpaved 4-mile segment, constructed on an old railroad grade, passes through five tunnels used during construction of the Dam.20151229_134210 20151229_104222Throw in a dozen panoramic views – it adds up to a really fun ride. 20151229_10453320151229_134714Hoover Dam is one of those public works projects that defies imagination. 20151229_130148 How could it have been so well engineered that, nearly 80 years later, it still provides water to 25 million area residents, as well as providing power, silt control, and erosion control? How could it have been completed nearly 2-1/2 years ahead of its seven-year schedule? There are dozens of amazing statistics in this massive project.

Adjacent to the Dam is the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which opened in 2007.20151229_114748 John and I actually cycled across the bridge the day before it was open to traffic as part of Viva Bike Vegas. It was dazzling to be on that high span with thousands of cyclists and NO car or trucks. Now, the pedestrian walkway on the Bridge provides great high views of the Dam. No matter what your interest, wandering around the Dam complex and the Visitor Center is a great way to spend an afternoon.20151229_114254Great weather influenced our decision to ride the 35-mile River Mountains Loop Trail on our last day in camp.20151230_145706 While this should have been a breeze, the rolling terrain took a toll on us. We were delighted to find that the last 8 miles were a slick downhill from Boulder City back to Boulder Beach CG. We were knackered – why do we let ourselves get so out of shape?

New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas should be a huge party, and it probably is for the thousands of other visitors to this playground. Back in the safe haven at my sister Gail’s house, we all managed not to see any fireworks, or toast the entry of the 2016. Old farts? Well, maybe….

Death Valley National Park will be our home for the next several days. Family, like fish…..

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 

20 thoughts on “A Dam Fine Holiday Week

  1. While I have no desire to visit Vegas, I would love to see the Hoover Dam area, especially after seeing your photos of the scenery there. You escaped Michigan at just the right time, the cold and snow icon its way here. I can’t wait to see your photos of Death Valley, another place on my bucket list.

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    • Hoover Dam is spectacular. I debated whether to gush over all the statistics of its building, as well as the scary stuff about water levels in the post, but decided to leave that out, in the interest of brevity. But it’s an amazing story. When I was first there about 30 years ago, you were allowed out at the base of the Dam (on the dry side, of course), to stare up at the enormous expanse of concrete soaring over your head. Since 9/11, visitors aren’t allowed out there. What you would HATE about the Dam is the all the selfie sticks. Crazy.

      Death Valley is amazing and bizarre. Can’t wait to get out and roam around. Hard to believe it’s raining right now….the Crankshaw Curse. It rained when we were here two years ago, as well!

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  2. Happy New Year! That sounds nice – just relaxing and not worrying about festivities! We did the same thing at home. I’ve wanted to visit Hoover Dam for awhile – it looks amazing. And I can’t wait to hear about Death Valley – another place on our list!

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    • While we love the whole holiday/family thing, we have been happily anticipating heading out to the boonies for some campshaw time. Except for one very whiny toddler a few campsites away, all is good so far.

      Death Valley is incredible.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The BB campground is intriguing, especially with the bike trail. Is it good for those of us who like flat and easy trails?

    Anxious to hear more about Death Valley and hope you don’t get too much rain. Be careful out there!

    Robin

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    • The bike trail to the Dam from the campground is flat. Easy to ride. The last section being gravel might be a bit slower for you, Robin, but you probably don’t have really skinny-tired road bikes, so you should be okay.

      We visited DV two years ago, and it’s been one of the spots we can’t wait to revisit. More to follow…..

      On Sun, Jan 3, 2016 at 11:58 AM, campshaws wrote:

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  4. Happy New Year and here’s to many happy travels. Your pictures capture the enormity of the Hoover Dam project and the surreal landscape in that part of our world. Amazing. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I love living vicariously through your adventures.

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    • Hi Alison – Happy New Year. We hope to find a few new adventures this year – my list of places to visit it huge! Should have started this journey before I got so old!

      Hope this year brings new adventures your way, too.

      On Sun, Jan 3, 2016 at 10:08 AM, campshaws wrote:

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    • From what I know about your camping style, I think you will really enjoy Boulder Beach. Being right on the bike path to Hoover Dam is a big plus – that portion of the trail was flat, and pretty easy to cycle.

      The actual travel part is the worst aspect of traveling, isn’t it? I so wish that we could just teletransport the Fireball from spot to spot. We find that the more we camp, the distance between campsites have become shorter and shorter, and the stays longer and longer!

      Hope you are able to hit the road soon.

      On Sun, Jan 3, 2016 at 9:04 AM, campshaws wrote:

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  5. Just thinking of biking over the bridge fills me with fear and admiration for you two. Our family has a different “fish expiration” for visiting…3 days. Have fun in Death Valley.

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    • I think our expiration would be sooner, but we so rarely get together, that we just all gut it out for a few extra days.

      Happy New Year – hope our paths cross again this year, somewhere.

      On Sun, Jan 3, 2016 at 9:01 AM, campshaws wrote:

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  6. We lived in Las Vegas in the early 90’s and we were never at a loss of things to see and do. Very sad how low Lake Mead has become. Not sure what the fix, if any, there might be. Enjoy Death Valley. I found it to have a surreal and prehistoric feel. I loved it.

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    • We camped at Furnace Creek in Death Valley two years ago for a few days, and are excited to get back for another look. It is such a bizarre landscape. Weather forecast is for rain – seems like it rained last time we were there. Maybe we are DV’s weather prognosticators!

      Looking forward to lots of new whooping crane photos from you very soon. What campground are you in? We will probably head through that area in April again….

      Happy New Year.

      On Sun, Jan 3, 2016 at 8:54 AM, campshaws wrote:

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      • We’re in a private park that I wouldn’t recommend. I would recommend staying at Goose Island State Park. If you do, be sure and email me so I can let you know where to see the cranes via a simple bike ride. At Death Valley, we enjoyed staying at the Sunset CG in the tiered overflow area. Sunsets were amazing. Enjoy!

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      • Thanks, Ingrid. We stayed at Goose Island last year, and enjoyed it very much. That would probably be our destination again this season. We are headed to Furnace Creek CG, hoping to grab a walk-in site. Looks like it’s not too cramped there right now. Will have to check out the Sunset CG there, too.

        On Sun, Jan 3, 2016 at 11:21 AM, campshaws wrote:

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    • Happy New Year to you and Bob, too! Are you headed to Florida to wait out winter?

      I’m excited to check out new destinations this year, and revisit some of our old favorites. Hope to collect a few good stories to pass along….

      On Sun, Jan 3, 2016 at 7:13 AM, campshaws wrote:

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