Lake Mead N.R.A.

Lake Mead N.R.A.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hoover Dam

November 26, 2011 Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

For the past month we've been living less than 10 miles from the Hoover Dam but until just recently had yet to pay a visit. 

We started out by stopping at the parking area for the Mike O'Callaghan- Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
This bridge just opened last year and diverts traffic from actually driving on top of the Hoover Dam. It's my understanding that one of the reasons for the new 4-lane bridge was in the interest of Home Land Security.
Mike O'Callaghan, Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
From Wikipedia:
The bypass was constructed to improve safety, security, and traffic capacity. Through extensive studies, this bridge route was determined to be the best route for the bypass.
U.S. Highway 93, in conjunction with U.S. Highway 60 via Wickenburg, Arizona, is the primary highway between Phoenix, Arizona, andLas Vegas, Nevada, two cities that have seen great increases in population since the completion of the Hoover Dam. The section of U.S. 93 that approached and crossed Hoover Dam was not adequate for modern traffic needs. It was too narrow, with just one lane in each direction, it had many dangerous curves, including several hairpin turns, and it had poor lines-of-sight, especially at night.
Through highway traffic combined with sightseeing and pedestrian traffic at the dam, the traffic often came to a standstill. As a consequence of the heightened security measures following the September 11, 2001, attacks, truck traffic over the Hoover Dam was diverted south to a bridge crossing the river at Laughlin, Nevada, in an effort to safeguard the dam from hazardous spills or explosions. This disruption, however, did not eliminate the threat of a possible attack on the dam, since regular traffic still passed over it. Hence, the new bypass and the bridge are intended to improve travel times, replace the dangerous roadway, and reduce the possibility of an attack or an accident at the site of the dam.
More than 17,000 cars and trucks are using the new bridge daily, a number expected to grow by 50 percent over the next 20 years. This bridge is a key component of the proposed Interstate 11 project.

Marker on the pedestrian walk of the bridge.
From the Mike O'Callaghan- Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the views of the Hoover Dam are spectacular.
Hoover Dam taken from Mike O'Callaghan, Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
After checking out the bridge, we drove down to Hoover Dam which is till accessible for tourists (yea, that would be us!)
Joyce on the Hoover Dam
Water intake towers
From the top of the Hoover Dam, the view is of the Mike O'Callaghan- Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
Mike O'Callaghan, Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

Joyce and Paula
Overflow release tunnel
Dam overlook from the Arizona side.
Good news for us, our friends Paul and Paula whom we have traveled with over the summer have recently secured a volunteer position here at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. So they moved into the VIP RV park near us. Paul and Paula will be working for the visitor center staff.
We've been staying busy and of course, I'm continuing to fall behind on the blog.

Friday, November 25, 2011

3rd Week of Volunteering at Lake Mead N.R.A.

November 25, 2011 Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

We’ve completed our 3rd week of volunteering here at Lake Mead NRA. We’ve been averaging just over 24 hrs. a week each. Which is more than the required 16 hrs. each. The other day we drove 150 miles out one way to the Gold Butte area of the park in the Northeast quadrant. Most of the driving was interstate with about 20 miles of off-road through BLM land before reaching the park boundary.

The diesel 2500 4x4 we occasionally use.
The scenery through the BLM land was very beautiful as we climbed to an elevation of 4K ft. and the plants were more abundant. Because we would be working in a wash area we had to keep our eyes on the weather as the area is prone to flash floods.

We also saw large numbers of Joshua Trees of various sizes.

The Joshua Tree likes dry soils on plains, slopes and mesas, often growing in groves. Joshua Trees, Yucca brevifolia, grow in the Mojave Desert of southwest California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona, at elevations from 2,000 to 6,000 feet.

The Joshua Tree, the largest of the yuccas, grows only in the Mojave Desert. Natural stands of this picturesque, spike-leafed evergreen grow nowhere else in the world. Its height varies from 15-40 feet with a diameter of 1-3 feet.

Originally thought to be members of the Agave (Century Plant) Family, the Joshua Tree and other yuccas have been reclassified as members of the Lily (Liliaceae) Family. Two variations of the Joshua Tree are classified as J. brevifolia var. herbertii and J. var.jaegeriana.
Joshua Trees (and most other yuccas) rely on the female Pronuba Moth (Tegeticula) for pollination. No other animal visiting the blooms transfers the pollen from one flower to another. In fact, the female Yucca Moth has evolved special organs to collect and distribute the pollen onto the surface of the flower. She lays her eggs in the flowers' ovaries, and when the larvae hatch, they feed on the yucca seeds.
Without the moth's pollination, the Joshua Tree could not reproduce, nor could the moth, whose larvae would have no seeds to eat. Although an old Joshua Trees can sprout new plants from its roots, only the seeds produced in pollinated flowers can scatter far enough to establish a new stand.
Mormon pioneers are said to have named this species "Joshua" Tree because it mimicked the Old Testament prophet Joshua waving them, with upraised arms, on toward the promised land. 

Inside the park, we worked with a park employee, Kelly to re-install 4 metal barrier posts that had been pushed over by 4-wheelers violating the law to ride off-the designated (dirt) road. 
Kelly and I re-installing metal posts.

We then inspected the remainder of the road, making sure it is passable, looking for abandoned vehicles etc. and restoring areas where vehicles had driven off the road by raking them out. 
Getting home after 300 miles and 10 hrs. made for a long day. We’ve discovered that most of the days working this volunteer job have been long. We weren’t expecting the long hours when we accepted this job. We expected to do about 6 hrs. a day. We don’t like leaving Maggie and Rico home alone for so long.  Long story short we’ve discussed the matter with our supervisor Dara and she plans to work with us and try to shorten our days. In fact since Joyce and I had already put in over 16 hrs. in our first two days this past week, Joyce took off and I worked our scheduled 3rd day with Dara which turned out to be another 9 hr. day!  Part of the problem I think is that the regular staff works either a 10 hr. day shift or 12 hour shift.  I feel confident though that we will be able to shorten our days as we move along.
Thanksgiving day, we had our friends, Paul and Paula over for turkey and all the trimmings. We (Joyce) made a 9.5 lb. turkey in our convection oven and Paula made a lot of the sides. We had a fabulous meal. We have much to be thankful for. We hope everyone enjoyed the holiday as much as we did.
I hope you enjoyed the pictures of the desert.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Catching up...

November 13, 2011 Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

We moved to the Volunteer Park last Monday which is about a mile north of Lake Mead RV Village. It's a nice secluded park with currently only 5 RV volunteers and about 24 sites. 
Our site 22 

Our views are of a large butte out our door side and the rugged terrain out our back window. 

View out the back window
We have a concrete door side slab and the rest of the site is crushed granite lined with poplar trees on a drip system. Our Verizon MiFi signal and phone reception is weak probably due to the large bluff on our west side. 

We worked just over 20 hrs. last week learning how to use the large handheld GPS and navigating through the park on some of the "back country" roads. After the first day of orientation, we rode with Kelly one of the Resource Management term employees of the National Park Service (NPS).  She drove us out into the park along some rough roads in a unmarked NPS GMC Sierra 4x4 extended cab truck, as we looked for "disturbances". 
Joyce and Kelly plotting a "disturbance".
Disturbances are basically any vehicle tracks off the approved road, litter, barrier or sign damage. Having discovered some vehicle track "disturbances", we plotted them on the GPS and then attempted to obliterate the tracks by racking them out. Most of the ones we discovered were old or from vehicles turning around. The data is later downloaded from the GPS for various reporting indices.

The third day, I drove. Kelly again came along with Joyce and I. We did the same routine only driving on different back country roads. The driving on most of these roads is very rough and bumpy, forcing us to go very slow. It seems most of the roads we drove lead no where and dead end or take you to the edge of a bluff. The scenery on some of the roads is spectacular.
On others, not so much... picture driving on a bleak rock littered terrain with only small Creosote bushes scattered randomly about. 

The two days out in the field were each in excess of 8 hrs. and perhaps a bit too long for us and our dogs Maggie and Rico back at the RV. I know Joyce didn't enjoy the long days bouncing along in the truck. Hopefully when we are out on our own we can shorten the days to an average of 6 hrs. and 3 days a week. Our obligation is for 32 hrs. a week combined between Joyce and I. This week we will continue our orientation training by riding along with our counterparts Mike and Barb whom volunteered in this position over the past two years and whom are parked next to us in the campground. 

Our friends Paul and Paula are still in the park staying at Lake Mead RV Village. We've enjoyed their company on a couple of excursions to the Las Vegas Strip. On Joyce's birthday we enjoyed a buffet at the M Casino and walked through several Casinos on the strip. Last night we enjoyed a meal at a Mexican restaurant and then drove along the strip to the Fremont Street District where we enjoyed some live music and spectacular overhead (as in on the ceiling) music videos.

Fremont Street District is a "must see" when in Vegas. 
We will keep you posted on our volunteer 'job' here at Lake Mead N.R.A.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On The Road: Hawthorne, Beatty, Lake Mead N.R.A.

October 26-November 1, 2011. Lake Mead RV Village

We got rolling out of Dayton RV Park around 9:30. As always I had a full tank of fuel and I made sure to have my two 5 gallon diesel cans filled. Paul and Paula have a reserve 50 gallon tank in the bed of his truck. Such a tank would be handy on trips like the one we had planned. We were headed to Lake Mead National Recreation Area where Joyce and I are scheduled to volunteer beginning the week of November 7th. Paul and Paula planned to just hang out in the area for a month before separating from us and heading further south.
The plan was to just push through along Highway 95 with our first stop in Hawthorne, Nevada only about 120 miles drive on the first day. We would have liked to go further but between Hawthorne and Beatty Nevada, there just isn't much if any RV parks.

The roads throughout the trip were some of the smoothest nicest roads we've experienced in our two years on the road. Not much to see out there in southwestern Nevada.

Our first overnighter was at Whiskey Flats RV Park on the north side of Hawthorne, Nevada. As we neared Hawthorne we passed a huge Army Munitions Depot that was really impressive after miles and miles of virtually nothing but a flat or rolling desert with mountains in the back ground. The weather had been mild with starting drive temps in the 40's and only reaching the 50's due to a cold front that had pushed through ahead of us.
Whiskey Flats was much larger than we expected but we got assigned sites 5 and 6 without reservations. Surprisingly the park was busy and seemed to fill quickly with travelers. 

We paid about $25 with tax for our full hook-up site with WiFi next to Paul and Paula's. Both sites and I believe all if not most of the sites in Whiskey Flats are pull-throughs. The sites have a concrete pad for the Rv and gravel grounds. It was perfect for a stop-over with lots of room to walk our dogs. We both kept our trucks hitched to the fifth wheel and used our Bigfoot Levelers manually to level the rigs for the night.

The next morning we got an early start and got going around 9:00 with about 200 miles to go that day to Beatty RV Park in Beatty Nevada. Fortunately, I had called ahead as I discovered that an annual celebration "Beatty Days" was beginning that weekend. Beatty RV Park was able to get us in for just one night, (Thursday night) as they were filling up with vendors for the downtown event.

Again we paid about $25 for the overnight site and didn't unhitch. The site included full hook-ups with Wifi on gravel. However, the sites are a bit odd. Although our sites were pull throughs they were right behind each other. In other words, Paul and Paula were parked behind us facing the same direction in the picture above. Thankfully, they didn't need to unhitch and we were traveling together or they would have to back out of their site or wait for us to leave ahead of them! Also about 30 yards from the front of my truck was highway 95 making it a bit noisy but not bad. Beyond the highway was just open desert as we were a few miles north of Beatty. I saw wild donkeys on a bluff across the highway. Again it was good for an overnight stay.
The following morning, we got out ahead of Paul and Paula and filled up the truck as I had emptied my diesel cans the day before when we stopped for lunch in Tonopah, Nevada.
After filling up Paul and Paula caught up to us and we pushed on the 150 miles or so to Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Lake Mead RV Village. The drive through Las Vegas wasn't as bad as I anticipated on the Interstate. Once again, I was impressed with the smooth highways throughout this trip. After entering the manned gate for Lake Mead National Recreation Area I got our rig through with our Volunteer Pass but had to pay the $10 entrance fee for Joyce and the Jeep which was good for a week. Driving through the park towards Lake Mead RV Village the views of the lake were beautiful.

At Lake Mead RV Village we got registered without reservations. Joyce and I were assigned site 1204 and Paul and Paula took site 1103. The sites are full hookup pull-throughs with long sites and with outside views of the lake about a quarter mile away.There's a concrete patio pad and gravel everywhere else with the exception of the paved roads. Our site is in the same pull through row as Paul and Paula and we are parked ahead or behind each other in opposing positions. My truck in the picture below is actually parked in their space behind their rig. There's plenty of room in each space for our vehicles but parking my truck next to our pad provides us with some much needed extra shade as temps are in the low 80's but warmer in the sun.

The WiFi via coupon for TengoNet is virtually useless but our Verizon MiFi works well. There is also cable TV hook-up provided. The park is actually very nice but surrounded by older well kept mobile homes that I assume were here before Lake Mead National Recreation Area became a park in 1964. We paid close to $240 for 10 days at which time we expect to be moved to the Volunteer campground. Paul and Paula paid for a month.
Coyotes roam through the park at night and we can often hear them yipping and howling at each other. The park is dated in some respects and the sites aren't very level, at least ours wasn't but all in all not bad.
We will hang out here for the 10 days before beginning our volunteer assignment next week which was described to us in the following manner:

Most of the work will be in the backcountry driving along 4x4 roads, so 4x4
driving experience is necessary for this position.  Lake Mead has some
rather remote, rough roads where you are not likely to encounter other
visitors.  While driving you'll be looking for resource damage: off-road
tracks (any vehicle tracks: dirt bike, ATV, truck that are not along the
approved NPS road), trash, graffiti, missing barrier posts, missing signs,
damaged signs, downed cable.  Depending on your ability and comfort level,
you may assist in barrier installation, graffiti removal, sign
installation, trash pickup and track obliteration.  Track obliteration
usually entails raking out the tracks, but may also include plantings or
mulchings.  Depending on the projects for the year, you may be involved in
planting plants, seed collection, and weed removal.  You will be using
handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) units to record site location
information. My biggest concern is to make sure you are comfortable driving
along 4x4 roads in remote areas of the Park since most days you will mainly
be driving around in a 4x4 truck.  This is not a pretty job, but it is an
important one for preserving Park resources.
It sounds like fun and should be interesting. As long as we are rewarded with a nice campground site we should enjoy our stay.