Sunday, May 20, 2018

Stay out, stay alive

[Late March 2018]

From Death Valley we head southeast towards the water of Lake Mead. Lake Mead National Rec Area includes lots of shoreline above and below Hoover Dam and along the Colorado River.  We get conflicting info from rangers on the Nevada side, the AZ side, and in a phone call to park HQ.  We stop asking after we get the answer we like - yes, dispersed camping is fine on park roads #42-47, and no, we don't need a boat permit for our canoe.  

At the exit from 95 onto the El Dorado Canyon Rd we see the remains of a semi-truck-trailer fire.  The clean-up crew is there with a loader scooping up burned remains of snacks and beer. From the way the load is scattered there were a few miles between fire start and the driver's awareness of it.

We drive each of the 4W drive dirt roads just because they are pretty and wild.  We eliminate one for camping because the sign warns of unpleasant consequences. Danger: abandoned mines and quick sand.  We approach the sign just to get a photo.  Danger! Stay Out - Stay Alive!

We return to park road #44, driving the two-track up and down the kind of hills that don’t give a clue about where the road is until you crest. From our campsite we have an unobstructed view of the Colorado River - no other humans within view.

In the morning we drive as close as we can to the water's edge.  We promise ourselves that we'll launch the canoe from the Willow Beach camp on the east side tomorrow - when the weather forecast is for merely a little wind.

As we return along El Dorado Canyon Rd to head north on 95, there is little evidence of the big truck fire.  There is just a bit of charred roadside litter.

The drive north takes us through Boulder City - altogether too close to Las Vegas for traffic averse van dwellers.  But here we find a grocery store with plenty of variety and portions acceptable to Q's pantry & refrigerator.

Willow Beach
The manager of the campground and dock at Willow Beach is sympathetic to our collection of conflicting answers to questions about camping and boating.  She sets us straight as a long time employee at Willow Beach.  The park straddles the NV-AZ border and the park entrances are miles apart.  We enjoy campground showers and remote camping; and take the Pakboat for its first paddle.

The PakBoat is a terrific solution to having a boat without pulling a trailer. It stores in two duffel bags that ride on top of Q without bumping against the solar panels.  Our first practice put-together took hours.  Alex is now really adept, and we're on the water early morning, paddling south since the forecast says there will be a south wind in the afternoon.

It is work to paddle this canoe, but it is beautiful to be on the water.
Rest stop - turn around point

The mallard duck pair that escorted us to the beach wait for us to get back in the boat.  How do they know that i have a snack in my PFD?

We get glimpses of catfish and trout in the clear water as we paddle.  And there is a beautiful birdsong with clear descending notes that we don't identify until we visit Seminole Canyon.  Thanks to blog time warp, i can tell you now that the song belongs to the Canyon Wren.

As naturalist Ralph Hoffman wrote, “The Canyon Wren pours out a cascade of sweet liquid notes, like the spray of a waterfall in sunshine.” - from Bird Notes, where you can hear the audio file. Or see this sweet YouTube. The stony canyons around the water provide excellent acoustics for the wren concert.

Desert Bighorn Sheep

As we return to Willow Beach we sight Bighorn sheep high on the ridge above the water.  

The desert is starting to bloom in incredible colors.  (More desert wildflowers on FB.)

We step cautiously around the tiny flowers, and keep some distance from the spiny sort.

Sunset brings a bit of cloud cuteness.  It looks like a shadowy hand supporting the pinkish-orange.

In the morning we drive north again to hike to Arizona Hot Springs (6 miles with a soak in the middle).  This photo looks west into the mountain climb.

As we approach the springs, the canyon reminds us of our Titus Canyon drive.

Near the hot springs water seeps from seams in the rocks and along the trail. This hot spring feeds three pools constructed by bathers over years.  If you enter the pools from the river side, there is a ladder up into the lowest pool, the coolest temperature pool. We remove boots to wade into the first pool on the canyon side - and step into nearly scalding water.  A brisk walk through takes us to nicely hot water soothing for tired muscles.

We find the pools full of mostly young adults - including those attending a bachelor party that began with a river float trip to the springs; and then camping, beer, and a lot of laughing.  One of the bachelor's party tells us that we are putting them to shame by hiking in - and offer hands to assist us back through the scalding pool to our boots.

AZ Hot Springs is a hike labeled strenuous in the park brochure.  Yes, there is some climbing/descending - and a little smugness at completion. It is as we complete the hike that we see signs warning of Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that is potentially present in the hot springs. The sign cautions us to plug noses if we put our heads underwater.  Hmmm, perhaps another sign nearer the water?  It is not at all tempting to dunk in the hot pools.

At the parking lot we encounter a group of kids who intend to hike to the hot springs.  We suggest studying the kiosk map and a cell phone photo of the map to guide their way.  

As we are driving away we notice that they are heading away from the trail to the hot springs and into disappointment in the opposite direction leading to the mountains.  We do a quick course correction for them and see them on the way towards the springs, wondering if there is anyway that they will make it there and back before dark.

We complete our visit to Lake Mead Natl Rec Area with a visit to Grapevine Canyon and Spirit Mountain at the south end of the park.

This is a sacred place holding hundreds of petroglyphs on nearly every boulder.

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