Lake Mead N.R.A.

Lake Mead N.R.A.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holidays at Lake Mead N.R.A.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Wow! It's been a while since I last posted. We've spent the last few weeks working at our volunteer job driving and checking out the back country roads. We've also managed to do a few hikes within the park with Paul and Paula and some other volunteers Laura and Sasha. One of the prettiest hikes was a 7+ mile hike in White Rock Canyon

On a hike with Paul, Paula, Sasha, Joyce, Laura and me.

One of our work days took us back to Christmas Tree Pass. As you may recall we had been out there in the middle of a snow storm that had forced us to turn back. The drive over Christmas Tree Pass was beautiful as we entered Lake Mead N.R.A. from the BLM.

We did a short hike off North Shore Drive in Lake Mead N.R.A that gave us these beautiful views of the rugged red rock terrain. This part of the park is near the Nevada State Park, Valley of Fire.

Time has flown by! Christmas has come and gone and we look forward to the New Year. During the Christmas holiday, we left our fifth wheel in the volunteer park and drove to Mesa, Az. to visit with my Father and Karen. It was a nice drive in the truck of about 320 miles each way down highway 93 passing through the Joshua Forest. We had a very nice stay and enjoyed our time in Mesa. We also enjoyed a family get together and tamales at my cousin's home.
Christmas Day party at the home of Cousin Terry and Rick
Our supervisor, Dara has been very generous with allowing us to have time off for the holidays. It appears that most of the staff is gone for the holidays.
Las Vegas is expected to put on a spectacular fireworks display. So  for New Year's Eve, Joyce and I plan to find a good overlook of the city skyline and watch the fireworks.

We hope that all of you have a safe holiday and a Happy Prosperous New Year!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

4th Week Volunteering at Lake Mead N.R.A.

December 5th, 2011 Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

At the start of our 4th week of volunteering at the park we began with some inclement weather. Two cold fronts pushed through. The fronts produced some rain and windy cold conditions. Joyce and I reported to our volunteer job on a rainy cold morning, ready to drive our assigned back country roads checking for disturbances, off road incursions and damaged barriers. One of the staff members suggested we change our assigned roads for the day due to potential flash floods.  So on their suggestion we were assigned to drive Approved Road (AR) 20 in the park just south of Searchlight Nevada about 60 miles south of Boulder City. Driving south on Highway 95 we encountered snow along the highway as we gained elevation above 3000 ft.
Joshua Tree in the snow 
After passing through Searchlight, NV on Highway 95 we turned onto a BLM road, Christmas Tree Pass Road and drove east towards the park boundary.  Hmm.. the fact that the name of the road had the word Pass in it should have been a clue.
BLM road leading to Christmas Tree Pass
As we continued east towards the park boundary, the snow got thicker as we again were above 3000 ft. in elevation.
Snow in the high desert
Before long we found ourselves in an active snow storm and the road was quickly covered in snow. Because we weren't familiar with the road and the snow was making it impossible for us to look for "disturbances" let alone see the road, we decided to turn around and head back and work on some roads at lower elevations.  However, it sure was beautiful to watch it snow in the desert!
Throughout the rest of the week we gave the park's Chevy 2500 Diesel a workout. 

We traveled through sandy washes and over rock debris filled roads some barely wide enough to fit the truck.

The road below was particularly challenging. Although it's not real evident in the picture, the road AR 70A follows along the top of a ridge line with numerous hill tops. The truck we were driving sits high making it impossible to see the road as we came over the tops of the hills making it challenging and nerve racking as the road drops off on both sides. Often Joyce had to jump out to guide me as I couldn't see the road. Making it worse, the road was littered with eroded holes in some spots.
Highway 93 in Arizona in the distance near  the Hoover Dam. AR70A follows the ridge to the left.

Driving the back country roads can be fun and challenging but it's also exhausting as we get bounced around for 6-8 hrs. each day often crawling along on rocks at less than 10 mph. On our final day of our rotation, we were assigned a road named Detrital Wash well out in the back country on the Arizona side of the park. Well, for sure it was in a wash area  and the road itself was washed away. Without the GPS, Joyce and I wouldn't have been able to determine where the road was supposed to be. The sand was deep and eroded and we eventually had to turn around and just drive out the way we came in for fear of getting stuck in the sand out in the middle of nowhere. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Historic Railroad Trail

December 5, 2011 Lake Mead N.R.A.
Inside the park from the Boulder City entrance and just before the fee booths at Lake Mead Recreation Area is a parking area for the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail head.  It's a hike/ bike trail that follows part of the route that the railroads used to build the Hoover Dam.
Heading up to the tunnels to the left from the trail head parking lot
It's a gravel/ dirt trail that goes through 5 tunnels. It's only 3.7 miles from the trailhead to the dam parking lot.
A succession of two trails
The best thing about the trail is the beautiful views it provides of Lake Mead.
Lake Mead marina
Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail
family hiking through tunnels
Family hiking through railroad tunnels
Time Line & Facts
  • 1931: Lewis Construction Company began construction under Bureau of Reclamation.
  • 1961: Last year railroad in use.
  • 1962: Tracks dismantled and sold for scrap.
  • 1984: Nominated to National Register of Historic Places.
  • Length: 3.7 miles from trailhead to Hoover Dam Parking Garage. 
  • One of two most difficult sections of track to construct.
  • Only remaining section of Hoover Dam Railroad system that is not highly disturbed or under water.
  • All tunnels are approximately 300 ft. in length, and 25 ft in diameter. The tunnels were oversized to fit penstock sections and large equipment being transported to Hoover Dam.
  • Nine steam and four gas locomotives and 71 people were used to operate the system. It was a standard-gauge, 90-pound rail construction that used Oregon fir ties.
  • This section was used in the motion picture "The Gauntlet" starring Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke for a sequence in which they were on a motorcycle being chased by an assassin in a helicopter.

Joyce emerging from one of the 5 tunnels.
From the trail head parking lot the trail would only give us about 7 miles of bike riding. I wanted to ride further so, Paul rode with me from our campground to the trail head and Joyce rode back to the campground with me from the trail head for a total of about 17 miles. Riding up to the trail head there is a long grueling 8% grade on the bike path. However, it makes for a very fast return trip!
Bike path in the park.
We enjoyed our little excursion to the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail. It seems to be a very popular stop for the locals and it sees a lot of use. It's worth the stop if you have the time and need a scenic hike or a short bike ride.

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.