Saturday, April 13Before leaving the immediate Lake Mead area, we took one last ride along Lakeshore Rd. We stopped briefly at the Callville Bay Marina. The boat launch for the marina starts out way high above lake level and sharply dips down into the lake – maybe 1/8 mile from the top to the lake. As the level drops, extensions to the boat ramp must be added to reach it. The marina gets pushed further and further out into the lake as it becomes more shallow.We are moving a bit north toward Valley of Fire State Park tomorrow. It is a favorite destination that is becoming more and more crowded. The last time there, we could not get in to camp. It takes some real luck to get a site now. We always try, but it is unlikely. On the way up, we spent a night at Echo Bay. The heat forecast made that decision easy, and Echo Bay has a hook-up RV park to keep us cool. We thought we would have a better chance arriving on a Monday as well.
Valley of Fire State Park
Tuesday, April, 15As expected, there was no room at the inn at VOF. Our backup plan was Poverty Flats, just a few miles north from the park entrance. Sounds bad, but it is a large wide open dispersed BLM camping area that is free. With no protection from the wind that continues to annoy, we won’t be spending much time outside, but we are well situated to enter the park tomorrow and the wind is keeping us cool.We were up and out early, and into the park. We are only here for the day, so we drove directly to the White Domes Road that branches off the main road through the park. The twisty road that leads to the White Domes trail we intend to walk is a wonderful way to see the best of what this park has to offer. Time was, one could stop at just any turn-out or culvert along the road to walk into the landscape and explore. Times have changed. At the start of the road, prominent signs warn to park only in the 3 official areas along the 4 mile road. We will have to park and walk much further to get to interesting areas. Most of the turn-outs are still there, but visitors are not allowed to use them except in emergency. Some still do, but risk a fine. So it goes.We reached the parking area for the hike to find only a couple of cars in the lot. That is a good thing on this short trail. It won’t be long before it is clogged with hikers, but for now it is great for us to have the trail nearly to ourselves. It starts off with a slight uphill slog through a sandy area, but soon gets past that and desends down a rocky trail into the canyon between towering formations of yellow, pink, orange, red and purple sandstone. This park has the most diverse range of sandstone colors I have ever seen in one place. It is simply beautiful. We found a wide variety of wildflowers as we clambered down the rocky trail. Orange Globe Mallow was here, and the yucca stalks were just about to pop. Down near the bottom of the canyon, one wall of stone suddenly ends, and another canyon not on the official trail can be explored. We stayed on the trail though. It drops a bit lower and passes the remains of an old movie set, then drops further into a short slot canyon. Just before the entrance to the slot, a rainbow of color greeted us.
Inside the slot canyon itself, it is less interesting than many I’ve been in before, but just at the exit, smooth multicolored layers of sandstone can be found. In-between, a river of stones flows. It is a striking little spot; one I concentrate on each time I visit. I see something new each time. The slot opens to another wash and the trail wraps up and out, to continue along more sets of strangely eroding sandstone formations. More yellows, oranges and reds. The usual groups were increasing the longer we stayed on the trail. Lots of spring breakers, among them. Just this past week, two young women in different parts of the country, fell to their deaths trying for a selfie. I see lots of risky behavior by a wide range of people. It isn’t anyone in particular.Just a little further on, the views began to open up. A bruised sky greeted us, and later, a few raindrops. Though few in number, the varieties of flowers was nice. The trail soon loops back around the giant formations we’ve been walking around, and meets up again with the road. An adjacent trail lets us walk back to the parking area while avoiding the road. One last sandstone rainbow caught my eye as we walked along this stretch. This one-mile loop packs more variety in a short distance than most places I can think of. For us, that means at least 2 hours of walking and making pictures. By this time, the parking area was full and cars were beginning to line the roadway edges. The first busload arrived. Time for us to leave. We didn’t stop at all along the 4-mile stretch of road in, but now, on the way out, we did. We skipped parking area 3 that was already crowded with people, stopped at parking area 2 for a brief look, but continued it parking area 1 to get out and explore.This is the way I like to explore here. There are no trails – one just walks into the landscape. Find a wash and follow it, or walk along a ledge to see the wider view – it all works here. We spent another couple of hours just wandering through this landscape. It seems new each time I visit. The overcast skies were helping a lot. It was well into the afternoon now, and the light would be very harsh. While it was a bit too cloudy now, the softening effect it had on the landscape, kept us working. One wash I found had sand so soft looking, it seemed to be water. It kept me busy for a time. I always come back to the layered sandstone for the infinite combinations of form and color.
We explored until the wind drove us back to the car. Down in the washes is much more protected, but peak out above, and a new hairdo is in order. We were about ready to call it a day and had begun our drive out, when sunshine broke through again. It instantly transformed the landscape – however temporarily.We took a branch road out to Fire Canyon/Silca Dome to find a nice vantage point while this brief bit of sun lasted. The clouds eventually won out as they once again closed in. We finished our day as the first drops began to fall.We just beat the rain as we arrived back in camp at Poverty Flats.
A Visit to St. Thomas in Lake Mead
Wednesday, April 17As windy and eventually wet yesterday was, today was calm clear and warm. Not a cloud in the sky as yet. We are leaving the area today, but not before we visit the town of St. Thomas nearby. The town was inundated when Hoover Dam caused the water to rise in the 30’s. It was originally a thriving little mormon community. The townspeople decided to move out when it was determined they were actually in Nevada and not Arizona and owed many years of back taxes. It was taken over by wealth businessman Harry Gentry who created a way-station of sorts for people traveling the Arrowhead Trail. They even had a train station and school. Once submerged under 60 ft. of water, it has emerged several times over the years and is once again accessible.
It was an easy 3.5 mile drive out on a gravel road off highway 169 to the parking area. The point sits high on the former bank of the lake – with no sign of water for miles. The trail immediately drops down 70 feet to the lakebed. Again thousands of clam shells cover the ground everywhere water was.On a hot day (like all summer), this trail would be murder. It is cut through solid walls of tamarack, or is completely open with no shade. This morning it is great, but it is already getting warm. All that remains of the town now are a number of concrete foundations and tree stumps. Along this 2.5 mile loop trail are several information boards detailing life in town at the time and what some of the buildings originally were.While we were walking around, I noticed some large flocks of birds in the distance. Closer inspection revealed they were American White Pelicans. These birds are over 5’ long with a wingspan of more than 9’. They were so far away though. We kept on the trail and looked at more foundations. The tallest structure left was the general store that originally a 2-story building. Of the school, all that was left were the steps. As we began to make our way back, more flocks of pelicans began slow circling the sky around us. Each grand circle they made brought them closer, until they were right above us. It was a sight to see.
It was a great way to finish our stay here. We move north later today on our way to Kanab for several days. Looking forward to red rock country