First Week in San Diego

San Diego, CA

We’ve been settled in at Mission Bay RV Park in San Diego for over a week now.  The park is basically a large, paved parking lot with lines designating the parameters for each site.  Our site backs up to the bay, giving us a nice view with some beautiful sunsets.

A walking path behind us

Mission Bay from behind our site

The day after our arrival we were treated to a visit by our friends from England, Neil and Lindsay.  Lindsay follows our blog, and we have met up with them at a number of places during our travels, the last being  December 2016 in Cortez, FL.  The four of us loaded into the Jeep and drove a few miles to the south for a visit to Cabrillo National Monument, located on the highest point at the tip of Point Loma on the north side of the entrance to San Diego harbor.

Neil and Lindsay with San Diego in the background

The park commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay in 1542.  This event marked the first time a European expedition had set foot on what later became the west coast of the U.S.  The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is the highest point in the park and has been a San Diego icon since 1855. The lighthouse was closed in 1891, and a new one opened at a lower elevation because fog and low clouds often obscured the light at its location 422 feet above sea level. The old lighthouse is now a museum, and visitors may enter it and view some of the living areas.

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Just below the lighthouse is the entrance to the Bayside Trail, which runs for a bit over a mile down the side of the point.  We hiked down about a mile enjoying the view of the water and the San Diego skyline in the distance.

Once back at the top we watched as the USS Decatur, a destroyer built in the late 1990s in Bath, ME, head out to sea.

Leaving the monument we drove a short distance to Sunset Cliffs to check out the tide pools, since there was suppose to be an extremely low tide.  There was little to see in the way of tide pools when we arrived but the surf was very high and we enjoyed watching some of the many surfers taking advantage of the big waves.

We finished the day with a nice meal at a nearby restaurant, Dan Diego’s, before saying good-bye to Neil and Lindsay as they faced a long flight back to England the next day.

The beach is just an easy bike ride from our park so we often ride there to enjoy the view.  One day while sitting on a low wall separating the beach from the biking/walking path we heard someone loudly saying “hello” over and over again.  It turned out to be an old fellow named Chief.

He was a friendly guy who even walked over to get a bit of affection from a local girl sitting on the wall.

The Jeep has been making a tapping noise the past few months, indicating a collapsed or sticking lifter.  So we made an appointment with Rancho Chrysler Jeep, a dealer only a few miles from the park, and took it there the Monday after our arrival.  Since we were not sure how long the repairs would take we went across the street from the dealer and rented a car.  It’s been a long time since we drove around in a full size, four door sedan so it seemed strange to ride in a new Chrysler 300 for a day or two.  It is a nice vehicle but we think it would have trouble navigating some of the mountain and desert trails we take in our travels!  Our repairs were completed the next day so we only had the rental for a short time.  It felt good to return to the Jeep (without the annoying ticking from the bad lifter).

The same day we took the Jeep in for repairs we had a visit from friends Laurel and Eric, who were staying north of us near Poway.  They brought their bicycles with them so we could enjoy a nice ride around Mission Bay.

Laurel, Eric, and John

Late that afternoon we met them again at Liberty Station to do some sightseeing before joining a large group of friends for dinner.  Liberty Station is a mixed-use development  on the site of the former Naval Training Center San Diego in the Point Loma section of San Diego. When the Navy closed the base in 1997  the city took it over.  Since then it has been developed into several distinct districts: a retail and commercial district, a promenade focused on nonprofit activities, an educational district, a residential district, a hotel district, an office district, and a park/open space area along the boat channel.

The four of us spent about an hour roaming through part of the development enjoying the holiday decorations.  Cool temperatures added to the holiday atmosphere.

Ice skating in Southern California?

We then walked over to the Stone Brewing Co. where we had dinner reservations for ten.  The stars lined up here in San Diego and brought five full time RV couples together for a night.  We spent the evening enjoying a meal, an adult beverage, and great conversation as we caught up with each couple’s travels.

MonaLiza, Pam, Laurel, Lisa, LuAnn, Terry, Hans, Eric, John, and Steve

The next day we rode our bikes to Ocean Beach for lunch at Wonderland Ocean Pub, a nice bar on the second floor of a building with a great view of the Ocean Beach Pier.  We visited this pub a few times during our stay here two years ago and loved the Belching Beaver  Peanut Butter Stout and Pozole (Mexican soup with homony) they offered.  Unfortunately, neither were being served that day, but we did enjoy a stout and a cup of Clam Chowder while watching the surfers near the pier.

At the end of the week Hans and Lisa rode with us up to a point between Del Mar and Torrey Pines where we met Steve and MonaLiza for a little “urban hiking.”   San Diego is a unique location that is build on areas of land separated by undeveloped canyons.  So you can hike for a while in what seems to be wilderness, then climb up and find yourself in an urban neighborhood.  Hans and Lisa are former residents of San Diego and know a number of interesting hikes here, so they acted as tour guides.

Steve, MonaLiza, Hans, Lisa, and Pam at the trailhead

We parked along Torrey Canyon Road and headed north into an area that is part of Torrey Pines Park Reserve.

This is a classic urban hike.  For the most part we were down in a rough canyon that led through some narrow erosion channels.

Then we would climb to the top of the canyon and take a sidewalk through a neighborhood.

Exotic vegetation along the way

Great view of Torrey Pines State Beach below

After our hiking adventure we returned to our site to enjoy a happy hour at sunset.  This group is very cooperative for a group photo as long as you shower them with compliments.

But just ask them to pose without giving any compliments and you get a quite different reaction!

Hans told us about a Saturday evening happy hour at Humphrey’s Backstage Live on Shelter Island, just past Liberty Station along the San Diego waterfront.  Half price drinks and food with a band playing mostly oldies and no cover charge sounded great to us so off we went.  We had a nice meal while enjoying the music, and we were home at 7:00.  Wild times for sure!

We’re only about a third of the way through our stay here so more adventures are sure to take place.  More on those later . . .

The sun sets over Mission Bay

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A Visit to Hemet, CA

Hemet, CA

As we make our way toward San Diego for the month of December we had a week to explore somewhere new.  It is about 160 miles from our last stop in Twentynine Palms to San Diego so we decided to split the trip in half.  We looked at a map and found the town of Hemet, CA almost exactly at the half way point, so we reserved a spot there in the Golden Village Palms RV Resort.

Hemet is a city of over 80,000 people located in what is called the Inland Empire.  We spent a relaxing time here, doing some cleaning and minor repairs to the motorhome.  But we did find time for a couple of decent hikes near the city.

Just a few miles to the south is Diamond Valley Lake.  The lake is one of the largest reservoirs in California and one of the newest, completed in 2003.  The water for the reservoir is pumped from just north of the Parker Dam on the Colorado River along the California – Arizona state line, over 200 miles away.  A number of hiking trails go around the lake.  We decided to hike the North Hills Trail about 2.5 miles up to a viewpoint overlooking the lake.

The trail goes up and down over a series of small hills before it turns to the south, going  around a water tower, then steeply uphill to the overlook.

Going steeply up toward the vista

As we climbed the steep trail the lake came into view behind us.

Near the top of the hill is a flat area with a picnic table.  We continued past it and headed further up the next hill behind the table.

At the very top of the hill we had a great 360 degree view of the lake to the south and Hemet to the north.

The view south across the lake

Walt Whitman ponders his next poem

The city of Hemet to the north

Hemet sits on the western base of the San Jacinto Mountains.  One day we drove almost 30 miles up into the mountains to the town of Idyllwild, where we found our way to Humber Park located at 6,100 ft.  The small park located above the town serves as the trailhead to a couple of trails.  We went there to hike on the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail (Maxwell founded the town’s newspaper).  Towering over the parking area for Humber Park is Lily Rock (also know as Tahquitz Rock, part of Tahquitz Peak), a popular spot for climbers.  The rock is said to have a lily white appearance, which might account for the name.  Another theory is that it was named for Lily Eastman, who was the daughter of one of the founders of the nearby city of Riverside.

Lily Rock looms over Humber Park

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trailhead

The Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail goes slowly down the side of a hill for about 2.7 miles for a 675 ft overall descent.  We hiked about two miles before stopping for a snack and returning back up the trail.

At one point we caught a glimpse of Diamond Valley Lake to the west.

Manzanita Trees lined the trail

Nice view of Lily Rock from the trail

Just to our north we could see Suicide Rock.  According to legend, the name of Suicide Rock comes from a story of a Native American princess and her lover who, after being ordered to separate, instead committed suicide by jumping off the rock.  It is speculated that this story originated in an attempt to boost tourism to this area in the late 19th century.

Suicide Rock on the left

Driving back down to Hemet we enjoyed some great views of the valley below.

After a pleasant week in Hemet we will now complete our journey south to San Diego where we will be spending a month in Mission Bay.  More on that later . . .

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Hiking in Joshua Tree NP – Part 2

Twentynine Palms, CA

About half way through our week-long stay here we drove back into Joshua Tree National Park to hike the 6.7 mile Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail.

Lost Horse Mine Trailhead

We hiked the loop in the recommended clockwise direction.  That put us at the mine after hiking about two miles.

Heading to the mine (white arrow)

The history of the mine dates back to a rancher who bought the claim for $1000 in 1890.  This mine was very successful, producing more than 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 of silver in 37 years of operation.

Remains of a stamping machine – it crushed rock to get at the gold

With the creation of Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936, Lost Horse Mine came under the protection of the National Park Service.  During the last 15 years, the 500 foot mine shaft, with horizontal tunnels at each 100 foot level, began to collapse. The combination of unstable mine workings and earthquakes created a sink hole near the mill that eventually threatened the entire structure.  Even the cable netting and concrete caps, that were installed to protect visitors were consumed by the ever expanding hole.  In 1996 a new technique for capping mineshafts was tried.  A plastic foam product similar to the material used for home insulating was injected into the hole to provide a stabilizing plug.  The plug was then covered with fill to protect it from UV damage.

Continuing on the trail past the mine we came to a great view of Pleasant Valley to our west.  The black hill in the distance is Malapai Hill, formed by eruptive activity sometime between 8 million and 100,000 years ago.

Pleasant Valley

Continuing along the trail we crossed the most difficult section of the hike, going down a long, steep, hillside and back up the other side.  Soon we came to remnants of the Optimist Mine bunkhouse scattered along the southern side of the trail.  Over 300 mine sites were established within the current boundaries of the park. Optimist Mine is an example of the failure the vast majority of mining operations encountered within a few years of being established.  A stone chimney, broken bed frame, and assorted pots and cans are all that remain. It’s interesting to consider how just a mile away,  partners of the Lost Horse Mine were making up to $3000 a day on their mine while places like Optimist struggled to even get going.

Remains of the bunkhouse

After passing the bunkhouse remains the trail goes over some small hills before entering a sandy wash.  The trail follows this wash through a long, wide valley filled with Joshua Trees until returning back to the trailhead.

Hiking the sandy wash

Driving back out from the trailhead we stopped at the dirt road’s junction with the main road to look for an interesting marker.  On the west side of the paved Keys View Road, almost across from the entrance to the dirt Lost Horse Mine Road, lies the grave of John Lang, one of the original owners of the Lost Horse Mine in 1890.  When Lang was found to be stealing from the profits he was forced to sell his share in the mine.  During one of the mine’s dormant phases, he returned and set up residence in the cookhouse.  In the winter of 1925, sickly and unable to walk out for help, Lang died of exposure along Keys View Road.  Two months later, a local resident found his body and buried him across from the access road to the mine.

An interesting side-note: Grave robbers struck in the dark of night in 1983. They dug up Johnny’s grave and made off with pieces of his remains, his skull included. They were never apprehended.

The next day we drove 22 miles west on CA 62 to the town of Yucca Valley.  From there we turned south for just a few miles and entered the Black Rock Canyon Campground, just inside of the national park.  At the southern end of the campground is the trailhead for the Warren Peak Trail, a 5.5 mile round trip hike to the 5,103-foot summit of Warren Peak.

Warren Peak trailhead

The trail to the peak is a slow, steady climb up through two sandy washes.  There are three forks in the trail that are well-marked, directing you to take the right fork each time.

As we made our way up the final, narrow wash we could see the peak directly in front of us.  The climb looked to be quite challenging after the steady uphill hike through the sand.

The summit comes into view

A small arrow on the post marks the final turn in the trail

We established a base camp half way up the steep section and enjoyed a snack before beginning the final assault on Warren Peak.

At the top without supplemental oxygen!

Yucca Valley is in the distance

Looking west to the San Bernardino Mountains

Lunch with a view

A young hiker meditates at the peak

Hiking poles save the day during the steep descent

Cool patterns along the way

Once back at the Jeep we made a quick stop in Yucca Valley at one of those chain coffee shops.  During that respite the nimble hiker had a great idea (she has those often!).  Since the main road through the national park is right on our way back to Twentynine Palms, why don’t we take that road and stop for a visit at the remains of the Ryan Ranch.  What a great idea.  After a tough hike through the sand with a steady elevation gain to a high peak and back again, why not stop and hike for another 1.5 miles!  Did we mention that the sun would set during our visit to the ranch? Do we want to hike back out in the dark?

Ryan Ranch trailhead

The ranch was established by the family of J.D. Ryan, the later developers of the Lost Horse Mine.  The six room house was built as an adobe residence in 1896 with later wood frame additions.  It was destroyed by fire August 12, 1978.  We managed to get to the ranch and back just before it became really dark.

Adobe walls are all that remain of the ranch house

Our final hike in Joshua Tree NP was a three mile round trip trek to the 49 Palms Oasis.  While not long, there is no shade on the trail and it goes up 300 feet and back down (in each direction).

There are strong warnings at the trailhead about carrying enough water, especially during the summer months.  The day of our hike (Thanksgiving Day) the temperature was about 80 and we needed to drink quite a bit of water.  We can’t imagine hiking this trail when the temperature is around 100 but many do it!

A long set of steps begin the hike

At the high point we could see the palms below us (little spot of green in the center)

According to our count there were at least 49 fan palms growing at the oasis.

The view looking north toward Twentynine Palms

Winding trail with the parking area in the distance

That winds up our stay outside of Joshua Tree NP.  The Friday after Thanksgiving we left Twentynine Palms and headed west to the town of Hemet, south of Riverside, CA in what is known in Southern California as the Inland Empire.  We’ll stay here for a week before heading south to San Diego for the month of December.

The nimble hiker has been looking at some nearby hiking trails so we may have a post or two from here in the near future.  More on that later . . .

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Hiking in Joshua Tree NP – Part 1

Twentynine Palms, CA

We booked a site at Twentynine Palms RV Resort for a week to be near one of the main entrances to Joshua Tree NP.  Since we had some time to kill before we arrive in San Diego, so we decided to spend some of it exploring parts of the national park we missed during previous visits.

Twentynine Palms RV Resort

The nimble hiker worked her magic and planned a number of great hikes for us during our stay.  The first hike was a seven mile out and back trip to Willow Hole, a small oasis set inside an area known as the Wonderland of Rocks.

Trailhead for the Boy Scout Trail

The hike begins on a trail known as the Boy Scout Trail.  After a bit over a mile through the desert the trail splits, with the Boy Scout Trail continuing to the north and the trail to Willow Hole breaking off to the right.

After another mile across the flat desert the trail moves into a sandy wash.

Interesting result of wind erosion

Once in the rocks the scenery became a bit more interesting.

Heading into the willows

It became a bit of a challenge to keep going as we moved deeper into the rocks and made our way under and between some large boulders.

OK, duck your head

Made it!

A tight squeeze

It seems that we’ve run out of trail

Lunch with a view

Color in the canyon

Joshua Trees can get pretty tall

The next day we drove to the Split Rock parking area to hike the two mile loop trail.

Split Rock Loop Trailhead

It’s pretty clear where the trail gets its name.

The loop is a very interesting easy hike through some beautiful rock formations.

As we approached the end of the trail we spied a rock climber splayed on the face of a rock formation near the trail.

Looks like he made it to the top

We returned to the Jeep and drove a few miles out the Desert Queen Mine Road to visit the site of an old gold mine.

Building remains near the mine

Looking across a wash we could see a pile of tailings taken out of one of the shafts and the openings of two mines covered with screen by the Parks Service.

One of the covered mine shafts

Abandoned equipment

One shaft had no screen cover

But there was one a few feet from the entrance

On our way back to the motorhome we passed one of the most popular and well-known rock formations in this park, Skull Rock.

We have more areas to explore during the rest of the week, but we’ll save them for the next blog.  Stay tuned for more rocks in Part 2.

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A Few Days in Lake Havasu City

Lake Havasu City, AZ

On Monday we left Bullhead City and continued our trek south along the Colorado River to Lake Havasu City, a scenic drive of about 80 miles.  We were fortunate to be able to get a four day reservation at Lake Havasu State Park, on the north side of the city right on the lake.

Lake Havasu’s main claim to fame is the London Bridge.  We wrote about the bridge and its move from London in a blog from our previous stop here in 2014.  If you’re interested in the story click here to read that blog.

Since we spent two weeks here during our previous visit we didn’t feel the need to do much exploring during this stay.  Most our our time was spent cleaning the motorhome inside and out, as well as time just sitting outside enjoying the view of the lake and the mountains of California to the west.

Besides the bridge, another claim to fame of this area is its lighthouses.  Lake Havasu City is home to more lighthouses than any other city in the entire country. These scaled-down replicas are actual functioning navigational aids built to the specifications of famous lighthouses on East Coast, West Coast and Great Lakes. More than eighteen can be seen on the shores of the lake. Most can be hiked to while some are only accessible by boat.

Fire Island Lighthouse – Fire Island, NY

This large collection of lighthouses was originally started for safety purposes. The Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club, a local non-profit group, wanted to make the lake a safe place for night boating and fishing.  Instead of just settling on simple lighthouses that could be cheaply produced, they  chose to pay homage to the famous lighthouses by making smaller replica lighthouses.

Point Gratiot Lighthouse – Dunkirk, NY

All of the lighthouses on the west side of Lake Havasu are replicas of famous lighthouses on the West Coast, while the east side consists of East Coast replicas. The lighthouses around the island are all replicas of lighthouses from the Great Lakes. As per the coast guard’s navigational regulations, lighthouses on the west coast use a green beacon, while east coast lighthouses use a red beacon.

Split Rock Lighthouse – Two Harbors, MN

Currituck Beach Lighthouse – Corolla, NC

After our four day stay we headed south on AZ 95 along the Colorado River.  At Parker we turned west and headed into California on CA 62.

Crossing into California

Once across the river we continued for another hundred miles to the town of Twentynine Palms.  We will be staying here for a week while we explore more of Joshua Tree National Park.  We’ve visited this park twice before, but it is a huge park so there are plenty of new areas to explore.

More on that later . . .

Busy skies over Lake Havasu

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Bullhead City, AZ

Bullhead City, AZ

Last Monday we left Boulder City and headed south on US 95.  After traveling about 60 miles through fairly flat desert we turned east on NV 163.  The four lane highway winds its way through some beautiful hills for about 15 miles before dropping sharply down into the Colorado River valley.

NV 163 near Laughlin, NV

We crossed the Colorado River at Laughlin, NV and immediately turned south on AZ 95 for a short drive into Bullhead City.  There we had a reservation at Mirage RV Resort, one of the many RV parks in this area.  Bullhead City takes its name from a large rock formation called Bull’s Head Rock, which is now covered by Lake Mohave.

Mirage RV Park

Laughlin, NV and Bullhead City, AZ are located across from each other on the Colorado River just south of Davis Dam.  Davis Dam, 70 miles south of Hoover Dam, opened in 1951.  The water held behind the dam forms Lake Mohave.

For security reasons you can no longer drive over the dam, but it is open to bicycle and foot traffic.  We parked in a lot that is part of the Heritage Greenway Park on the Nevada side of the river and walked up through an access point, giving us access to the top of the dam.

Davis Dam is what is called a zoned earth-fill dam, with a concrete spillway 1,600 ft. in length at the crest and 200 ft. high.  The earth fill dam begins on the Nevada side on the west, but it does not extend to the Arizona side on the east.  Instead, there is an inlet formed by earth and concrete, that includes the spillway. The hydroelectric power plant is beside the inlet.

South side of the earth filled dam looking west at Nevada

North side of the spillway looking at Lake Mohave

Looking south over the earthen dam, with the generators and spillway on the left

We needed a little exercise during our stay here so one afternoon we drove back up NV 163 for seven miles.  At that point we turned north on a maintained dirt road called Christmas Tree Pass Road.   The road’s name apparently comes from a time when someone decorated some of the local bushes during the holidays.

Christmas Tree Pass Road

Two miles up the road we turned left and entered the parking area for the trail leading up into Grapevine Canyon.

Grapevine Canyon Trailhead

The trail begins by going up a wide dry wash to a narrow opening, which is the beginning of the canyon.  The rocks around the narrowing contain a vast amount of rock artwork at what a called the Grapevine Canyon Petroglyphs.

Heading to the petroglyphs

The area is covered with over 700 petroglyphs believed to have been created between 1100 and 1900.

We hiked about 1.5 miles further up the canyon looking for a spring-fed waterfall that we read has water in it most of the year.  But the only water we found was in a couple of little pools sitting in the rocks.

Small pools of water in the rocks

The canyon takes its name from the large areas of wild grapevines growing throughout the area.

Rocky go-around past one of the grapevine groves

Highly technical hiking move to avoid some Cat’s Claw branches

While most of the hike is in open wash, there is a short but interesting slot area to go through.

The hike ended when we came to a high rock wall, with the waterfall area just to its left.  Unfortunately, there was not a drop of moisture to be found.

Dry waterfall

Going back through the slot

At times the trail lead through some thick vegetation.  Can you spot the nimble hiker in the photo below?

Another view of the petroglyphs as we exited the canyon

One afternoon we took a drive to visit the nearby historical mining town of Oatman.  To get there we drove south of Bullhead City for about 12 miles on AZ 95. We then turned east on Boundary Cone Road, which turns into the Oatman-Topack Highway.  Oatman is a 14 mile drive from that turn.

Sharp peaks overlooking Oatman

Although the area had already been settled for a number of years,  Oatman really began as a small mining camp soon after two prospectors found gold there in 1915.  Once gold was discovered Oatman’s population grew to more than 3,500 in the course of a year.  The district produced $40 million (about $2,600,000,000 at current value) in gold by 1941. That year the town’s gold mining operations were ordered shut down by the government as part of the country’s war effort, since metals other than gold were needed.  The town continued to survive though, as it was located on busy Route 66 and was able to cater to travelers driving between Kingman, Arizona and Needles, California. But the town was completely bypassed in 1953 when a new route between those two towns was built. By the 1960s, Oatman was all but abandoned.  Today tourism supports the 130 remaining residents.

The main drag

In 1921 a fire burned down many of Oatman’s smaller buildings, but spared the Oatman Hotel.  Built in 1902, the hotel remains the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County.

The hotel is famous as the honeymoon stop of actors Clark Gable and Carole Lombard after their wedding in nearby Kingman in 1939.  Gable fell in love with the area and returned often to play poker with the miners.  The Gable-Lombard honeymoon suite is one of the hotel’s major attractions.

The Gable-Lombard honeymoon suite

Oatman’s most famous attraction is its wild burros, which freely roam the town streets.  Though normally gentle, the burros are wild and signs posted throughout the town advise visitors to be careful around them.  The burros are descended from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors and are protected by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Whaaaat ? ? ? ?

We left Oatman and continued east to enjoy the views as we drove up through the Black Mountains.

The winding Oatman Road east of town

Looking west from Sitgreaves Pass you can see Arizona, Nevada, and California

On our last day in Bullhead City we set up our chairs by the Colorado River and relaxed a bit while enjoying a treat from one of those chain coffee shops headquartered in Seattle.

We will now continue our southern trek along the Colorado River with a short (60 mile) drive to Lake Havasu City.  More on that later . . .

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The Strip, a Golf Tournament, and some Hiking around Las Vegas

Boulder City, NV

Each season, the Bellagio Hotel and Casino transforms a large area called the Conservatory into a showcase of the sights and colors of spring, summer, fall and winter along with a special display for Chinese New Year.  We knew the fall display, called Proud as a Peacock, was open until the third week of November, so one afternoon we drove to the Las Vegas Strip to check it out.  On the way up Las Vegas Boulevard we passed the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, currently filled with mementos dedicated to the victims of the recent shooting.

After parking in a large lot near the Tropicana Resort we walked up Las Vegas Boulevard enjoying the sights on The Strip.  Once at the Bellagio we made our way through the casino to The Conservatory where we enjoyed the beautiful displays.

During our stay in the Las Vegas area, the PGA was holding their annual Shriner’s Hospital Open tournament at the TPC Summerlin Course.  We love golf and watch most PGA tournaments on TV but have never attended one before.  So we took advantage of our proximity to Summerlin, just northwest of the city, and attended the first round.  We enjoyed the experience, following a couple of our favorite golfers on the front nine, but decided that we would rather watch it on TV.

Wake Forest grad Webb Simpson (our son, Kevin, is a Wake grad)

Two time Masters winner Bubba Watson

Graeme McDowell, Jimmy Walker, and Bubba Watson

The best seat in the house

The tournament was shown live on The Golf Channel so we know most of you saw us on TV.  But for those of you who missed it, below is a photo from our appearance.  That’s John with the blue shirt and Pam next to him in pink.

A pair of stars are born!

On our way home from the tournament we stopped in Henderson to share a dinner with a couple from our home town, Dustin and Jennifer, who now live in Henderson.  Dustin was a student in Pam’s third grade class a few (OK, more than a few) years ago.  They have kept in touch ever since but have not seen each other since he was in high school.  So it was great to catch up with the two over dinner at Claim Jumpers in Henderson.

Dustin and Jennifer next to their pride and joy

Our last adventure for this visit to Boulder City was a hike in the River Mountains behind the Railroad Pass Casino.  The casino is located along US 93 between Las Vegas and Boulder City.  We parked in back of the casino and climbed up a bank to a paved bike path.

Looking back down at the casino

We walked the bike path for a short distance before crossing a set of railroad tracks and heading up the trail.  The bike path is a section of the River Mountain Loop trail, a 34 mile paved path that surrounds the River Mountains connecting Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Hoover Dam, Henderson, and Boulder City.  The hiking trail is part of a series of hiking and mountain biking trails in the Bootleg Canyon Park.

Heading up from the railroad tracks

We combined two trails, the Sh*t Trail (that’s how Google Maps spells it) and Ernie’s Trail, for a scenic five mile loop hike.  As we rounded a hill on the Sh*t Trail we could see what looked to be the entrance to an old mine on the hillside below us.  A look through binoculars revealed a bicycle sitting at the entrance along with a fairly new Weber grill.

As we watched we were surprised when a man and a woman came out of the entrance and put something on the grill.  We don’t know if they are living in the mine or looking for gold during the day.  Very strange . . .

We continued around the mountain, with a nice look at US 95 coming into view to our south.

The view to the south

We continued up the canyon along the Cascata Golf Course to our east.  Cascata is a very exclusive course that is open to the public, if you’re willing to pay $395 for a round plus $50/player and tip for a fore caddie assigned to each foursome.  A fore caddie doesn’t carry your bag, you have to take a cart.  The caddie walks with the group and rakes traps and tends the pin.

The driving range at Cascata

You can’t see the golf course from the highway but you can see what looks like a waterfall on the mountainside behind it.  The trail went up a hill right across from the waterfall so we were able to get a closer look at it.

The waterfall

The water is pumped up there through a pipe hidden in the mountain to create a stream that runs right through the clubhouse.

Where does the water come from?

The trail went up into a canyon, then turned and came back out going over the top of the waterfall.

The arrow marks the trail ahead of us

An arch sits above the trail

Hiking up past the golf course

As we hiked around the hill over the waterfall we could hear noise in the rocks above us.  We looked up and saw the fella in the photo below looking down at us.

He watched us for a couple of minutes before scampering up over the hill.

We rounded a bend to a point where we could again see the golf course driving range below us.  A look through the binoculars revealed a group enjoying a vegetarian lunch on the range.

Scree field along the trail

Junction of the Sh*t Trail and Ernie’s Trail

Las Vegas in the distance as we headed down Ernie’s Trail

That wraps up our stay in this area.  We really enjoy Boulder City and will definitely return in the future.  We have no plans to settle down in the near future, but when we do this  town is high on our list of potential locations.

Next up is a stay in Bullhead City, about 80 miles to the south on the Arizona side of the Colorado River.  More on that later . . .

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