LAKE MEAD: Taking the long way there…..
My husband and I took an exciting road trip a number of years ago. Although we didn’t have a solid agenda, just a scratchy idea of where we were heading, it turned out that we made a full, sweeping circle, beginning at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and then on to the South Rim and everything in between.
A Photo of the Awesome North Rim of the Grand Canyon
This trip actually took in the three prominent waters of my childhood and youth. We took our truck and camper. One thing that stands out for me were the gourmet meals we cooked enroute when we pulled off the road, to a hidden location, stopping for the night. We brought a small grill top and all the ingredients to maintain our healthy eating habits. We fixed some pretty fancy meals, right there on the ground on a grill we balanced on the rocks circling our small fire pit. The fare was something I felt proud to have prepared in such crude conditions.
After visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we drove on towards AZ following historic highway 89, ending up in Sedona and then on to Jerome (two of my favorite towns in Arizona). We camped in Jerome that night then visited this artistic, touristy town that teeters on a hill-top the next day. That afternoon, we took an unknown road out the back end of Jerome that looked like a short cut to our next destination. Truly, this was the scariest road I have ever been on. Practically a one-lane road with sheer drop offs the whole way! We met a car coming in the other direction and I told my husband I had to get out and walk.
PEACH TREE, AZ (Side Trip)
Someone had told us prior to this trip that we had to visit Peach Tree. They had had a remarkable visit at this small Native American Settlement that requires a pass to go through it and down into what is called the “West End” of the Grand Canyon. There’s a landing for White Water Rafters to load and unload rafts into the Colorado River at this part of the Grand Canyon We made our reservations and arrived. We spent one night, camping down near the river. For us, the experience was not what we were expecting. It basically was a disappointment. But, we saw what we had a strong inclination to go see so can say, “now we know what’s there.”
SOUTH RIM OF THE GRAND CANYON:
We made our way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon which, to me, pales in grandeur compared to the North Rim. It is also very commercial and very congested with tourists and bulging parking lots. You don’t see the deep gorge, looking down into the canyon as you do at the North Rim. I remember going here as a child though, with my family and extended family and playing with cousins on my mother’s side. Sitting in a tent and learning of Sabre Toothed Tigers from my very intelligent cousin, Marilyn Field Hawkins. I’m glad we stopped and have discovered what the South Rim is like.
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Moving on, we drove towards Kingman, AZ with Hoover Dam not far beyond there.
You’ll find this man-made wonder is worth taking the time to stop and explore. Not only the historic dam, who’s construction began back in 1931 but the more recent bridge spanning the width of the Colorado River, across the dam area. This was a monumental feat, much like the building of the dam itself. Now, motorists can bypass the slower (scenic) route winding down and around the dam to hurry on past it.
You can view a short, informative film on the building of the dam for free at the Rail Road Pass and Casino which is just a little ways up the road beyond the dam. Lots of vintage photos of this time period decorate the casino and are seen in the film.
Arizona Hot Springs: A jewel, hidden in the desert.
People I know have finished this long hike and told me of the hot springs at the end of it. Part of my info is second-hand as I started this hike too late in the day to get to the final destination. We decided to turn around, knowing we wouldn’t have made it back before nightfall. START EARLY.
After passing through Hoover Dam, there’s a sharp turnoff on the left that takes you to a parking area where you leave your vehicle and hike down a dry river bed in a narrow canyon for a very long ways.
The hike was beautiful, with large boulders on either side of you and what appeared to be something like beach sand you trod through. I want to go back and finish it someday. You can google the hot springs or follow this link to see more.
These hot springs are not very publicized and the turn-off to get to them can be easily missed. At the end of a rather long, grueling hike you come to a steep canyon wall with nothing but a straight vertical ladder to climb up to the hot springs.
My son took a group of scouts there once, my sister has been often and a friend of mine also has gone and told me how to get there. They all said how awesome this is and it is definitely something on my Bucket List.
Follow the link for more info on finding these hot springs. Please use the back arrow to return to my blog. Thank you!
Driving through the dam, you have various choices on which way to continue on. If you go through Boulder City, you will find the road leading into Las Vegas. We purposely avoided going through Vegas and took the turn off into the Lake Mead Recreation Center to follow the course around Lake Mead. This later jogs off to the west somewhat and links up with I-15 after passing through the little towns of Overton and Logandale.
MEMORIES OF LAKE MEAD
We planned to take our time driving through this area and pointedly drove down to one of the entrances to the water. As a child, growing up in Las Vegas, with my step-dad having a boat, we came out to Lake Mead almost every weekend. We would take the boat past the main body of water to a series of canyons. As we entered into this area, a hushed silence fell upon us and we felt as if we had left one world behind and entered another. Everyone in the boat felt this sharp contrast from the blazing sun and huge open water where other boaters and water skiers buzzed around. Within these canyon walls the whole feeling and scenario changed. It became very private with a serene feeling bordering on reverence prevailed. Our boat glided through the narrow canyon walls, silently cutting a path through this water world. My step dad would cut the motor once deep within the canyon. The red walls stood straight up out of the water and you had to crane your neck to see their tops. Once he arrived at his chosen spot, he would lower the anchor and we would wait a moment, just listening to the sounds of silence before anyone wanted to break the spell.
Thereafter, he would get his fishing tackle out and start baiting his pole and the rest of us would lower ourselves down the side ladder of the boat into these blessed waters and spend the day swimming and coming up for snacks and to sun bathe on the deck now and then.
Since I was the youngest and not a swimmer at first, my mother would harness me up in the old-fashioned “water wings”; a bulky contraption, bright orange, that covered your torso like a padded straight jacket with very uncomfortable webbed straps that went under your upper legs to hold it in place. She would then tie a rope to me to keep me within a limited area so she could keep a good eye on me. Being a kid who didn’t know any difference, I loved paddling around in the water and loved it. My liberation came one day when we had taken the boat close to one of the far shores and set anchor for swimming and fishing I suppose. There was a rock, jutting out of the water, away from the shoreline within a short distance of the boat and this is where my mother decided it was time to teach me to swim. She removed the orange vest from me and swam to the rock, probably no more than 10-15′ from the boat. She sat and the rock and told me to swim out to her. I entered the water from the side stairs and warily immersed myself into the liquid. As I let go of the hand rail and felt myself water borne with no safety vest surrounding me, floating up to my neck and chin area, limiting my ability for much head movement, I felt a strange, new sensation. It was freedom. I began kicking in the direction of my mother, sitting on the rock and felt like I was swimming this short distance naked. The lightness of moving through the water minus the encumbrance of the harness was exhilarating! I had found myself and my love at that moment and have maintained my love relationship with water and swimming my whole life. I would say, it is the thing that satisfies me most of all.
Later on, as a pre-teen, after Mom had divorced my childhood father, Bob Grayson, and at this particular time was a single mom; one day we took a friend of mine and drove out to Lake Mead. We parked at the area you use for shoreline swimming. There was always such a fascination to jump from the car and go to the change room and “suit up”. I was one of those lucky kids who held a great fascination for all things going on and around me and this is a memory etched into my brain from many, long years ago. The anticipation of knowing we would soon be in the water, the sand in my toes from my sandals walking from the car to change into my swim suit then the dash to the water. The park system had placed a large, stationary raft in the roped off swimming area probably 20 or so feet out from the shore. It was a good swim out to it, or so it felt to me back then, and was thrilling, swimming to the raft to dive from it and lay upon it with other kids my age and the subtle flirting going on. Showing off our swim and dive prowess. Soaking up the sun on the raft till we were burning up then jumping into the water for instant coolness. My youth was spent out here, on the lake very often. Thus began my love affair with water.
One time, my mother lingered longer than usual at the swim part of Lake Mead. She was at the car and a friend and I were swimming late in the day. I remember sitting on the ropes, dividing the swimming area from the boating area watching the sun sinking into the mountains and staying until the light of the moon was the only light we had out there in the “middle of the lake”, sitting on the rope, kicking our legs back and forth to feel the water movement. What a magical moment this was. I have always been such a dreamer, and was humming a popular tune feeling the water with my legs and sometimes arms dipping down into the water to pull up a large water arc that slipped back into its home as I reached up skyward. Staring up into a night sky full of diamonds. What a wonderful, free childhood I had. Thinking back, I would not have let one of my kids do this, I would have been too worried that I couldn’t see them out there in the dark. I am so grateful for a mother who had the confidence in me and my ability to make good choices, safe choices for myself and to know I was fine. After awhile, my friend and I swam back to shore, following the car lights my mother had turned on, a signal it was time to head in. This is a treasure from my memory bank. Lake Mead, I will never forget you.
Back to our trip: Driving past the lake on our route home to meet up with I-15, I asked my husband to drive down to one of the entrances to the shore. I could barely wait for the car to stop to get out and hastily walk down to the water. It had been years since I had been here. I took my shoes off at the shoreline and rolled up my pants legs. Stepping into the water, an overwhelming sensation overtook me as if I were connecting with my younger self. Could I have possibly lost something of myself somewhere along the way and even upon first dipping my toes in this long-lost friend, felt it flowing back into me. These same waters that gave me my first strong sense of freedom, that I felt I could swim underwater in and breathe almost like a fish, that still carried so much of me in them. I felt strong and whole as these parts of myself I had left behind, here, flowed back into me and I embraced them again. It felt similar to the embryonic fluid sustaining me prior to my physical birth. It was a healing experience, I had come home again.
Sea Fever by John Maysefield
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
Of course, for me, I did not yearn for the sea but for the calm, more predictable waters of my lake home. But the feelings John Masefield expresses for his need to go down to the sea, the gypsy life and more resonate to the same need I felt to go down to the water I knew and loved.
We left the Lake Mead area and drove on towards Logandale and in the direction of our home. Another surprise awaited me, another long lost memory of a time from my past. Rodger Springs. How could I have forgotten you! As we traversed this lonely back road, some stirrings within me began to prick my awareness of a familiarity and yet not so. As soon as we drew close, I recognized what this was all about. The sign sitting on the edge of this warm spring brought it all back. Rodger Springs. I came here years ago, first as a child and later with a wild and free husband of my youth (a big mistake made that produced a sunshine boy so it was not all bad.) Here it sat, looking a little different than what I had remembered; the caution sign saying one should not swim here due to a type of bacterial algae in the water was a huge disappointment. The immediate landscape disappeared as my imagination replaced it with a group of bikers swarming here one Easter thirty years ago and a young mother and towhead little boy entering the waist deep water slowly and cautiously picking there way around the pool, checking out any hidden depths. We camped over night here, back then, awakening to an Easter Egg Hunt for the children the next morning. Too many memories to recount, I see them clearly in my mind’s eye.
Such a lovely spot. Perfect, warm water temperatures, perfect safe place for a family to bring young ones to play in shallow water, perfect hills for climbing. My early life was filled with so many perfect things. Why do they slip away? Why do we leave them behind?