Hiking and Meeting Friends in Boulder

Boulder, NV

The area surrounding Lake Mead Recreation Area is filled with slot canyons created by erosion during the infrequent rains in the region.  One afternoon we drove south on US 93 into Arizona to explore one called Spooky Canyon.  The canyon can be accessed from the Arizona Hotsprings Trailhead parking lot, about three miles south of the state line.  From the parking area  we walked north along the highway for about a half mile.

Look to your right as you walk up the highway and you’ll see the canyon below.

There is a nice grassy area at the end of the canyon where the water pools during the monsoon season.  As we approached along the road we disturbed the youngster pictured below enjoying lunch in the grass.

A fence runs along the highway to keep wildlife off the road.  There are a couple of spots nearby where you can slide underneath it and make your way down into the canyon.

This is one way to go under . . .

. . . while this is another

Grassy area at the beginning of the canyon

Entering the slot portion of the canyon

A cool spot, literally and figuratively

The name Spooky Canyon comes from the entrance to a short side canyon.

“Spooky” side canyon entrance

We were pleased to get an email from friends Jim and Gail (Life’s Little Adventure) informing us they would be spending the night nearby while passing through the area on their way to Yuma.  We made plans for a Jeep ride and a short hike, followed by dinner at the Boulder Dam Brewing Co.  We drove down US 93 about eight miles south of the state line and turned west on Old Ranger Station Road 62, a rough, two track path that goes for about three miles, ending at a point where you can hike down to the Colorado River.  We did this drive/hike during our previous visit (our post) and were anxious to return.  The road was a bit rougher than we remembered, but we made it to the end without incident (Gayle only had to get out to walk once!).   We then hiked down the wash to the Colorado River.

Looking to the north

Looking to the south

Gayle, John, and Jim enjoy the view from the remains of a ranger station

We enjoyed the hike, conversation, and beer/food at the Boulder Brewery so much we forgot to get a photo of Jim and Gayle for this post.  We’ll try to do better when we see them again later this winter.

The day after meeting up with Jim and Gail, we were pleased to learn that friends Brian and Leigh (Aluminarium) would soon be arriving in the area.   They would be dry camping in Government Wash, a Bureau of Land Management area along Lake Mead.  We arranged to meet them at the 33 Hole Overlook parking lot, right across Las Vegas Bay from their camp site.

Looking across Las Vegas Bay at Government Wash

The overlook is an access point for a short hike up into White Owl Canyon.

Brian and Leigh

The walls of White Owl Canyon

The trail goes under the highway

After the hike we set up our chairs and enjoyed happy hour in the parking area.

We knew friends Hans and Lisa (Metamorphosis Road) would be visiting Las Vegas while we were here.  Once they arrived in town we arranged to meet south of Henderson for a hike in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area.  We wanted to hike a couple of trails that take you right through the Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Site


We followed the 100 Trail for about two miles, going up over a couple of short pourovers.

The trail above the pourovers was filled with over 300 petroglyphs.

Lisa swears she was never here before, but ? ? ?

The 100 Trail ends at the junction of the 300 Trail and the 200 Trail.  We turned west up the 200 Trail and followed it as it looped around and returned back to the 100 Trail, creating a lollipop hike.

The intersection with the 200 Trail

The Las Vegas skyline to the north

Our visit to Boulder City is approaching its conclusion, but we have a few more adventures here to share with you before we go.  More on that later . . .

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Sunny Days in Boulder City, NV

Boulder City, NV

We’ve kept pretty busy since flying back from our east coast visit.  The weather has been perfect, with sunny skies and comfortable temperatures each day.  The day after our return to Boulder City we needed to stretch our legs a bit so we decided to hike the the nearby River Mountain Trail up to the top of Black Mountain, a hike we did while here three years ago.

The trailhead is located in a paved parking area on the north side of US-93, just .7 of a mile from the traffic light in Boulder City.

The trail goes along a drainage canal in a neighborhood for about a quarter mile before it heads across the desert toward the River Mountains.

After meandering through a canyon the trail heads steeply uphill in a series of switchbacks.

Once up on the saddle at the top of the switchbacks we turned east headed for Black Mountain.  You can turn to the west and follow a trail up to the top of nearby Red Mountain, a hike we made on our previous visit.

Looking up from the saddle the arrow marks our destination

Getting closer to the peak

The trail ends at the peak, where a bench provides a good spot to take in the great views all around you.

Lake Mead to the east

Las Vegas to the west

Lunch with a view

The temperatures during the next week were a bit too high for any long hikes so we returned to another location we visited a few years ago.  Steve and Joan (FOSJ) told us about two Jeep roads located about seven miles from the nearby state line along US-93 in Arizona.  Both roads follow washes for a few miles before ending.  From the end of the road it is a short hike down to the Colorado River.  We decided to go down the first road and check out the river.  Google maps designates the trail as Cranes Nest Road if you’re looking for it.

Cranes Nest Road isn’t much of a road

End of the road – time to hike

The hike down the wash to the river is only .7 of a mile with few obstacles.

Once at the river we sat for a while enjoying lunch while watching kayakers paddling down the river.

Lunch with a view

Just a short distance behind Canyon Trails RV Park is Bootleg Canyon Park, a mountain bike area filled with trails.  One section of the park is called the Discovery Trail and Rock Garden.  The trail there is an 1800′ paved path that winds its way past larger than life animal statues that include a scorpion, roadrunner, horned lizard, Mojave rattlesnake, Gila monster, and a tortoise.  One afternoon while someone was watching football the nimble hiker made her way over there to check out the statues.

Gila Monster

Mojave Rattlesnake

Horned Lizard

Road Runner


One afternoon we combined our love of scenic vistas with a treat from one of those chain coffee houses headquartered in Seattle.  We made our purchase in Boulder City and drove out to Sunset Point, a nice viewing area along Lake Mead.  Once there we set up our bag chairs and enjoyed the view.

Enjoying Sunset Point along Lake Mead

We spent another afternoon exploring the small downtown area of Boulder City.  During our walk we made a visit to the Hoover Dam Museum, located inside the historic Boulder Dam Hotel.

Boulder Dam Hotel

Built in 1932 the hotel was visited by many famous people during the 1930s including Will Rogers, Henry Fonda, Boris Karloff, Shirley Temple, and Howard Hughes, who recuperated at the hotel after wrecking his airplane on Lake Mead.

Hotel lobby

Stairs leading to the museum on the second floor and hotel rooms on the third

The museum is small but it does a great job in telling the story of the building of Hoover Dam.

Final photo of a construction crew before the dam opened in 1935

There is a nice walking tour of the downtown area which includes a series of interesting sculptures related to construction of the dam.  One sculpture in particular caught our attention.


Alabam was the nickname of one of the unsung workers who helped to build the dam.  Alabam was a specialist.  His job was to clean the outhouses of the vast construction site: sweeping refuse, tossing lime into holes, and restocking the constantly diminishing supply of toilet paper.  It might not have been the most glamorous of jobs, but in certain moments during a long work day many workers probably saw it as the most important!

The real “Alabam”

We’re nearing the end of our visit to Boulder City, but we have a couple more adventures to share in our next post.  More on that later . . .


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East Coast Tour

Boulder City, NV

Our last post ended with us on an airplane headed for Baltimore. We landed at BWI, picked up our rental car, and headed north toward Pennsylvania.  After visiting with our daughter, Jessica, and her new (last December) husband, Dan, in York, we drove about ten miles south to our former hometown of Shrewsbury where we had a reservation at a hotel.  We could have stayed with Jessica and Dan, but we had a number of medical appointments scheduled for the week and decided to just get out of their way during the work week.

On Saturday we moved up to their house and joined them and Dan’s daughter, Ella, for a family outing to a local apple orchard.  We had a great deal of fun harvesting a large crop of fruit and enjoying some locally prepared baked goods.

The apple picking crew

The chairs were a bit oversized here

On Tuesday we headed north to the village of Clayton, NY in the Thousand Island region of the St. Lawrence River.  The first day of our visit was a beautiful, sunny, fall afternoon so we spent some time enjoying the beauty of the river.

Clayton Town Dock

A young local sits with his friends enjoying the town dock

Watching the river traffic from Frink’s Park

One evening we enjoyed dinner at the Wood Boat Brewery with Pam’s mother Fran, her sister Suzanne, Suzanne’s daughter (our niece) Daniela, and Daniela’s boyfriend Brandon.

At the end of the week we returned to Jessica’s house in York for the weekend.  On Sunday morning we headed to the airport where we caught a flight to Atlanta for a visit with our son, Kevin.

Kevin spent several years as an attorney in Atlanta, the last few in the legal department of Delta Air Lines, but his real passion is commercial aviation.  So he left the legal field and spent a couple of years working his way up to a commercial pilot license.  After two years flying with a regional airline he recently returned to Delta, but this time as a pilot.  After he picked us up at Hartsfield Jackson Airport, we drove over to the other side of the runways to visit the newly improved Delta Flight Museum.  The museum is housed in two 1940s-era Delta Air Lines maintenance hangars which were used until the 1960s.

The smaller of the two hangers is dedicated to a display of early aircraft called The Prop Era.  One aircraft on display is a Huff-Daland Duster biplane replica representing the first aircraft operated by Delta’s founding company.  Kevin explained to us Delta was first a crop dusting company located in the Mississippi River delta area.

the crop duster

Next to the crop duster is Delta Ship 41, Delta’s first passenger-carrying DC-3 and the museum’s most prized piece.  Delta’s Ship 41 was the second of Delta’s first five DC-3 airplanes to be delivered.  The first, nicknamed “City of Atlanta“, was used for crew training only, so in December of 1940, Ship 41 became the first Delta DC-3 to operate passenger flights.

Delta Ship 41

The larger hanger houses a display called The Jet Era.  The main attraction here is Delta Ship 102, The Spirit of Delta.  Acquired in 1982, the aircraft was the company’s first Boeing 767-200. It was paid for “by voluntary contributions from employees, retirees and Delta’s community partners.”  The effort, called Project 767, was spearheaded by three Delta flight attendants to show the employees’ appreciation to Delta for “solid management and strong leadership during the first years following airline deregulation.”

Note John and Kevin standing in front of the engine

Turbojet engine in the museum entrance

There are three planes on display outside the building.  One is a McDonnell Douglas DC-9.  After McDonnell Douglas was purchased by Boeing in 1997 the aircraft was re-named a Boeing 717.   Kevin flies the 717 so it was fun having him take us around it, pointing out the different features.  Too bad you can’t go inside.


Dwarfing the 717 is a plane sitting next to it, Delta Ship 6301.  Retired on September 9, 2015 after serving since December of 1989 with Northwest Airlines, this aircraft was the first Boeing 747-400 ever built.  It logged more than 61 million miles of flight over its lifetime.

Visitors enter the 747-400 via stairs or an elevator, proceed through the intact first class cabin, and through the economy section, which was turned into an exhibit space.

We were able to go up into the first class upper deck and look into the cockpit.  The upper deck was renovated in 2011 when the conventional seating was removed and individual seating areas were installed.  A docent located in that area of the plane wasn’t sure of the year of the renovation but he was impressed when Kevin knew it, as he had worked on the contract during his time in the Delta legal department.

A life-like mannequin demonstrates the new seating area

The docent told us about some movie scenes shot in the museum.  One of them was an opening scene of the newly release American Made.  The scene, with Tom Cruise piloting an airliner, was shot in a 737 simulator housed in the museum.  We were curious about the scene so off to the movies we went.  Pam and Kevin stopped at the concession stand to pick up what they described as a “small snack.”  The theater charges an arm and a leg for a “small snack” and the price only increases a bit for the large sizes.  But the size of the popcorn and drink they returned with were a bit excessive!

The opening scene shot in the museum was very, very brief  but we did find the movie to be entertaining.

After two weeks living out of  suitcases, we have now returned to the motorhome outside of Las Vegas.  We’ll stay here in Boulder City for the next couple of weeks before beginning a slow move to San Diego for December.  There are some great hikes in this area so we have plenty to keep us busy while we are here.

More on that later . . .

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A Stop in Barstow, then on to Boulder City

Boulder City, NV

On our final day in Lone Pine, CA we went over to the nearby Mt. Whitney Golf Course to play nine holes.  We played this course two years ago with Dave and Sue and enjoyed the course and the great views of the nearby mountains.  The course is not in very good shape now, but the views are just as beautiful.

Tough to focus on golf with this view of Mt. Whitney

The caddie enjoyed the view more than the golf!

The day after golf we headed south on US 395.  Our destination was Boulder City, NV but the drive of over 300 miles is much too long for us.  So we booked a site in a small RV park outside of Barstow, CA (halfway to Boulder City) for two nights.  There is not much to do or see in Barstow, but just to the north is a nice area operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  To get there we drove north on Irwin Road for about five miles, then went west on Fossil Bed Road (a fairly smooth dirt road) and followed the signs to Owl Canyon Campground where the Owl Canyon Trailhead is located.

The trail is mostly in a dry wash with decent footing.

After a short distance we went up a side trail on to a mesa overlooking the wash.  The mesa gave us a nice view of the surrounding area.

Looking south on the mesa

Looking down into the wash from the mesa

Elephant toes?

Dropping back down into the wash

A narrow section of the wash

About a half mile up the wash there is an entrance to a cave that goes about 20 yards into  an adjacent canyon.  You can get through the cave without a light, but it’s pretty dark so we took out a flashlight to help us through.

Cave entrance

A young spelunker coming out

We went through the cave to the other side and returned back through it to the trail.

After a bit less than a mile we came to three pour-overs, where water drops over a falls from six to ten feet high.  The wash was narrow and the rocks on either side provided good hand rails to help us up.  About a mile up the trail we came to a clearing, where we turned around.  The trail continues further up the wash but we had seen enough for the day.

Back town one of the pour-overs

Another pour-over

A slot section

Near Owl Canyon Campground is Rainbow Basin Natural Area, a short, one-way loop road through a mishmash of shapes, colors, and interesting formations sculptured by water and wind.

The loop begins on a wide dirt road, but it soon narrows as it winds through the rocks.  Any car or small truck can navigate the road, but the turns are too tight for a long vehicle or with a trailer.

The next morning we headed north on I-15.  We wanted to avoid traffic in Las Vegas so we left the interstate at exit 286 and headed east on Nipton Road.  After 13 miles we reached the state line, where the road becomes NV 164 and is called the Joshua Tree Highway.  After a few miles we could see where the highway gets its name, as the Joshua Trees were all around us.

The road ends at the junction of US 95 in Searchlight, NV where we turned north and drove the rest of the way to Boulder City.

The main purpose for going to Boulder City was to be near a decent airport.  This year instead of driving the motorhome all the way to the east coast we decided to fly back.  So we parked the motorhome in Canyon Trails RV Park for a month and the next day headed to McCarran Airport for a flight to Baltimore.  We don’t like to leave the motorhome for that length of time but, fortunately, our neighbor in the park is a federal police officer who works in security at the nearby Hoover Dam.  Kevin is a nice guy and volunteered to keep an eye on it for us.

As we parked the Jeep in the long term lot at the airport, the view to our west was a bit eerie.  The large golden hotel in the photo below is Madalay Bay.  The arrow points to the broken window where a shooter fired down into a crowd of people enjoying an outdoor concert across the street.  The view was pretty humbling!

So now we are back east to complete some routine medical appointments and visit with family for two weeks.

crossing the snow covered Rockies

We are currently in our former home town of York, PA visiting our daughter.  Our plan is to drive north to the Thousand Islands along the St. Lawrence River to visit Pam’s mother, then return here and fly down to Atlanta to visit our son.

More on that later . . .

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Cottonwood Lakes Hike – Lone Pine, CA

Lone Pine, CA

As you drive out of the Boulder Creek RV Park you can see a winding road making its way sharply up in a series of switchbacks.  The road is called Horseshoe Meadows Road and it climbs up 6,000′ to Horseshoe Meadows,  a vast 10,000 foot high meadow, surrounded by lodgepole pine forest.  We drove up there two years ago but didn’t have time to hike any of the many trails that begin there.  So during this visit a hike up there was high on our to-do list.

Horseshoe Meadows Road

We drove up the winding road for 15 miles and turned north following signs to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead.  Interestingly, we did not see another person or vehicle the entire drive up into the parking area.  But when we arrived, the parking area looked like a Wal-Mart lot.  Where did these people come from?  And where did they go?   Because we saw very few people on the trail and hike alone the whole time.

One half of the lot, the other side was just as crowded

There are a couple of trails branching off from this trailhead.  We selected a 5.8 mile route up to a series of lakes, creatively named Cottonwood Lake #1, Cottonwood Lake #2, etc.  While the temperature was around 70 degrees at the RV park, the temperature at the trailhead (10,000′) was a crisp 45.

Foxtail Pine Tree

The trail slowly gains elevation during the first part of the hike and crosses Cottonwood Creek twice over narrow single log bridges.

A nervous hiker

At the 3.5 mile point we came to a split in the trail and have gained 400 ft of elevation.  Go left and you head for New Army Pass, a trail that continues up through the mountains into Sequoia NP.  We took the right fork heading to Cottonwood Lakes.

After another 1.5 miles up a fairly steep, rocky trail ( gaining 800 ft of elevation), we came to an open meadow surrounded by mountain peaks.

Up the steep section (can you see the nimble hiker?)

The meadow at the top

We passed Cottonwood Lake #1 far off to our left.

Just past Cottonwood Lake #1 the trail went along side to another larger lake on our right.  Oddly, this lake is unnamed on the maps we looked at, although it is one of the most beautiful.

After hiking 5.8 miles we finally came to our destination, Cottonwood Lake #3.

Cottonwood Lake #3

We found a large, flat boulder to sit on and rest our weary feet while enjoying the spectacular views around us.

Lunch with a view

The lake looking to the south

We waited patiently for a shuttle to go by and take us back to the trailhead but apparently they don’t stop along this route.  So we finished lunch, enjoyed the view for a bit, and headed back down the trail.

Along the trail we spotted four deer enjoying a quiet lunch in the meadow.

Check the two sets of ears facing our way

The hike going down the steep section was much more pleasant than the hike going up!

Coming back down

As we approached the 12 mile mark of the hike we were very happy to see the front of the Jeep peeking through the trees at the end of the trail!

On the drive back down Horseshoe Meadow Road we enjoyed the great views looking down 6,000′ into the Owens Valley below.

That wraps up our short stay in Lone Pine.  Next up is a visit to Boulder City, NV, just outside Las Vegas.  It is too far for a one day drive so we’ll break up the trip with a two night stop in Barstow, CA.

More on that later . . .

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Alabama Hills and the Eastern California Museum

Lone Pine, CA

Lone Pine is a little town (pop. 2,035) sitting in the Owens Valley just east of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Looking west from our site in Boulder Creek RV Park

The mountains directly to the west are some of the highest in the Sierras.  In the photo below Lone Pine Peak (12,949′) is on the left and Mt. Whitney is the far peak near the center.  At 14, 505′ Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous U.S.

Between Lone Pine and the Sierra’s is a rocky area known as the Alabama Hills.  The Alabama Hills were named for the Confederate warship CSS Alabama by prospectors in the area sympathetic to Confederacy.  The Alabama Hills are a popular filming location for television and movie productions, especially Westerns set in an archetypical “rugged” environment.  Since the early 1920s, 150 movies and about a dozen television shows have been filmed here.  We spent a few hours locating some of the many arches located in the hills.

The Shark Fin

Two arches are located near the formation called the Shark Fin.

Rancher Arch #2

Rancher Arch #1

The Shark Fin is a popular spot for rock climbers.

Lone Pine Peak on the left and Mt. Whitney in the center

We left the Shark Fin and drove deeper into the hills to check out some more arches.

Ram’s Head Arch

Rebel Arch

As we searched in one area we passed a formation that looked very much like a foot with four toes sticking out of the sand.

We call this the “Four Toes Formation”

Graffiti Arch (we didn’t see any graffiti)

Cave Arch

Little Heart Arch

Face Rock

West of Face Rock Arch

Another popular climbing spot

In the southern section of the Alabama Hills sits a marker identifying the location of filming for the movie Gunga Din.

Two nice arches sit up in the rocks just behind the marker.

Gunga Din Arch

Eagle’s Head Arch

Most of the arches pictured above are small and very difficult to spot.  We were aided by the book Arches of the Alabama Hills.  Many are so hidden we needed to use GPS coordinates to locate them.

One afternoon we drove north 20 miles up US 395 to the little town of Independence for a visit to the Eastern California Museum.  Founded in 1928, the museum has been operated by the County of Inyo since 1968.  The museum has a nice collection of artifacts and photos tracing the history of the Owens Valley.

Image result for eastern california museum

Artifacts Collection

One of the main exhibits is on the WWII, Manzanar Japanese Internment Camp, located between Independence and Lone Pine.

One of the main exhibits deals with the life of a local climbing legend, Norman Clyde (1885-1972).  Clyde was a mountaineer, mountain guide, freelance writer, nature photographer, and self trained naturalist.  He is well known for achieving over 130 first ascents, many in the Sierra Nevada Range and Glacier National Park.

Behind the museum building they have preserved many of the buildings from the earlier years of Independence.

Double Freight Wagon

Old Farm Implements

Just outside the museum is a garden that displays many of the plants found in the area.

A young botanist surveys the garden

We have one more hiking adventure planned before we leave Lone Pine.  More on that later . . .

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Lone Pine

Lone Pine, CA

The 65 mile drive from Bishop to Lone Pine is a stress free ride on a great highway with beautiful views of mountains to the east and to the west.  The view of the Sierras to the west are especially nice.

The day after our arrival we headed to the east on CA 191 to enjoy the scenery and hike a short trail to Darwin Falls, a desert waterfall.  The low, jagged hills along the way contained a great variety of colorful rocks.

After a bit we entered Death Valley National Park, where the road descended steeply in a series of switchbacks.  It’s a great drive in a car, but we wouldn’t want to do it in the motorhome.  Near the bottom of the descent, just before Panamint Springs, we turned south on a one lane dirt road called Old Toll Road on Google Maps.  There is no sign for the road but the National Park Service has a marker for the water falls just a short distance from the highway so we knew we were on the correct road.

View of Old Toll Road from the highway (NPS sign is just visible on the far curve)

The Old Toll Road is a bit “bouncy” but drivable in any vehicle.  After two miles we came to the trailhead in a small parking area.

Darwin Falls Trailhead

The two mile (roundtrip) hike begins in a dry creek bed filled with loose gravel.

About half way to the falls the trail enters a narrow canyon surrounded by riparian greenery that seems out of place in Death Valley NP.

In times of high water hiking this trail would be problematic, as it crosses Darwin Creek numerous times.  But we had no problem crossing, using small logs as bridges and our poles.

As the trail began to narrow we came to the end of the canyon.  There the falls form a small pool surrounded by a variety of plants not usually seen in the desert.  Darwin Falls, named after Dr. Darwin French (1822–1902) a local rancher, miner, and explorer, is as unique as it is beautiful.

The pool at the base of the falls must be very inviting for a refreshing dip on a hot day.  But the temperature was very comfortable during our visit so we decided to stay dry.

Crossing some rocks on the return hike

Colorful views driving back out to the highway

The road must have been paved at one time, as we went over two small areas of asphalt.

It was good to be back on pavement

Returning to the highway we drove back up through the series of switchbacks and stopped at the Father Crowley Vista Point.  The view wasn’t very impressive from the large, paved parking area, but a dirt road lead out to a point with a great view of a section of Death Valley below us.

A section of CA 191 is visible on the left

This short hike was a great way to begin our one week stay in Lone Pine.  We’ve been here once before so we know there is much to see in the nearby Sierra Mountains and the Alabama Hills.  More on that later . . .

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