Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Day Seven--Hoover Dam

Today we visited Hoover Dam. Or was it Boulder Dam. Or should it have been Black Dam? And why is it Lake Mead (the lake formed by the dam) and not Lake Boulder. It's all so confusing. But today's visit answered all of the questions it raised in the name area.

When they first started talking about a project to dam and control the Colorado River, they thought that Boulder Canyon would be the best place for it. However, it turns out that nearby Black Canyon was an even better place. However, apparently you can't teach old dogs new tricks, so they kept calling it the Boulder Dam Project. And then because Herbert Hoover was the one who signed the papers to get the project going, congress decided to name it after him 12 years after it was completed. And as for Lake Mead, it's named after a guy who was in charge when that area was developed. Also, in no small way, the backstory to all of this involves a fair amount of politics.

And Hoover Dam brings us to Boulder City where we are staying. The city was built to house all of the workers at the dam and at one point during the construction, it was the largest city in Nevada. Yesterday, I mentioned that Boulder City was one of only two places in Nevada where gambling isn't legal. That stems to its beginnings when they thought the men doing the dangerous work on the project shouldn't be distracted by gambling and alcohol. Cars were actually checked on the way into town. Not surprisingly, just outside the city limits, there were a lot of empty bottles.

There are actually a lot interesting things to say about the engineering and construction of the dam and the development of the town to support it. Maybe later, when I have more time, I will post about them.

But for now, we have to figure out how to get everything back into our suitcases for our flight home tomorrow morning. The stuff that was in them seems to have exploded to at least twice as much. I'm not sure how that happened, but I think there is some kind of law about that just like there is Vacation Time.

Here are a few sights from today.

The Boulder Dam Hotel where we're staying. It was built during 1931 during the construction of the dam for bigwigs to stay in. While not really fancy, it's still pretty nice.

Hoover Dam. I could never quite get the right angle to get the whole thing in the picture.

Most of our tour took place in some kind of a tunnel or another.

Intake towers for the power plant.

Lake Mead

Utah Vacation, Day 6, Driving

Last night it stormed for 6 hours with a lot of rain. I didn't get much sleep (or anyone else), but this was not the first thing on my mind. I was thinking about how this rare storm was affecting the areas we had just visited. Did it carve any new formations or paths? Could we even hike down the Narrows now? What new plants were going to spring up overnight? Then I thought about how lucky we were that this storm didn't change any of our plans the previous days. It was kind of exciting to contemplate all of these things and not be filled with all of the worrisome thoughts that usually accompany sleepless nights.

After the storm, we left Kanab this morning and drove to Boulder City (near Las Vegas) to spend the next two nights. We did the four hour drive in seven hours again. I think. It's the whole thing with changing time zones and not really paying attention. Vacation Time, I think it's called.

The major stop we made was in Snow Canyon State Park in Utah for lunch and a hike. The stop was recommended by someone we met on the trail yesterday in Bryce. The park wasn't too crowded which surprised us since it was Labor Day. But it also was almost 100 degrees, no breeze, with little to no shade. Maybe the smart people were inside somewhere.

Nevertheless we did a nature hike through desert plants growing among sandstone and basalt rocks. There were markers along the way identifying plants we were seeing. It was very interesting to us because desert plants, even the common ones we saw, are not something we encounter very often in the East.

Tomorrow I'll tell you more about Boulder City. Let's start by saying that is one of only two places in Nevada that doesn't allow gambling.

Here are a few things we saw today.

We left Kanab this morning. Kanab worked out very well as a hub for our other destinations. I'd like to go back sometime to explore the local things especially the Westerns made here. 

Kanab was one of several towns we saw with their initial on a hillside. Apparently this is common in the West (at least 500 towns have them) and is equivalent to having the town name on a water tower. This is the first time we had seen one.

Lunch at Snow Canyon Park.

After lunch, we started our hike down the Hidden Pinyon Trail.

This was one of the first stops along the trail. It was pointing out the black lava flow. Lava is also capping the red rocks in the back. It has helped to prevent erosion of the rocks below it. 

Another marker along the trail. This one was pointing out purple torch cactus.

Cross bedding from ancient sand dunes.

Theo standing on cap rock of the one of the peaks.

After the hike, there were more beautiful rocks to see as we were leaving the park.

The closer we got to Vegas/Boulder City, the fewer trees and red mountains we saw. And the hotter it got. The last time I remember checking the temperature, it was 104.