March 24- April 2
We have visited Las Vegas many times but this visit was a first in many ways. First time we are here with Leo not in a business capacity and first time here with our motorcoach. We arrived at the Las Vegas Motorcoach resort and our first impression was that we were back in Palm Springs. This place looks similar in layout to the Palm Springs Resort we had just visited, with the difference being that it is smaller and strictly limited to Class “A” RV’s only.
I knew I was in for a relaxing time and a totally different Las Vegas experience from past visits. The resort is located about 15 minutes from the famous Las Vegas Strip and it is a real oasis from the hustle and bustle associated with this area.
With just over a week to enjoy the area we decided to divide our time between city activities, resort time and hiking adventures. Here I’ll just pause to say that we always need some down time in these extended road trips, it just can’t be all go, go, go. So I welcomed this beautiful resort and planned to use their wonderful facilities as much as possible.
A near by attraction is Hoover Dam, which we visited over 30 years ago. Since our last visit there have been many changes (post 9-11 security measures, a new and gigantic visitor center, restaurants, gift shops, and dam tours), but the awe inspiring first look as you drive up at this marvel of civil engineering, was still the same for us. You can still drive and park on the Hoover Dam road but there is a new bridge which bypasses the old road. This new bridge has a pedestrian way that allows you to walk above the canyon and see Hoover Dam from a completely different perspective. A convenient parking lot at the foot of the bridge allows you to walk up to the pedestrian way for a picture perfect opportunity. On the day we were there the weather cooperated for great photos but it is a bit of a scary view, it’s a long way down. From there we drove to the Dam itself and parked in the new parking garage which is massive, but charges $10 to park. There are still some free parking just beyond the Dam (on the Arizona side) if you care for a little hike.
What an amazing site it is to see this dam, built on what was in the 1930’s the wildest and roughest spot on the Colorado River, and built to address the regular ruinous floods that plagued this part of the world. After 5 years of 24/7 construction, $49 million dollars, and over 5,000 workers, the mighty Colorado River was tamed and now the hydroelectric plant serves over 1.3 million people in Nevada, California and Arizona. As the Colorado River was damed, a new 28.5 million acre lake was formed. Lake Mead is now a National Recreation Area and managed by the National Park Service. This area draws more than a million visitors a year. Lake Mead also made Las Vegas possible as it is the main source of water for Las Vegas and the hydroelectric plant provides the electricity.
The lake itself was one of our destinations as we have seen it from afar on previous trips. We drove into the marina and hopped on a Mississippi style paddle wheel boat, The Desert Princess, for a tour of the lake and Dam. The tour was very scenic and a pre recorded narrative describes the evolution of the lake, plant and animal life as well as taking you very close to the Dam itself. It was well worth the $28 per person fee (we got a $4 senior discount). They have a full bar and snacks for purchase onboard and overall a great 1 1/2 hour ride on the lake.
This lake recreation area offers hiking and biking opportunities and it required a couple of trips to completely see and enjoy the area. This was no problem as our RV Resort was less than a 1/2 hour drive from Lake Mead and very convenient. On our first return trip we hiked the Historic Railroad Hiking trail. This is a seven mile trail that takes you from Lake Mead to Hoover Dam. The trail goes along the original railroad supply route through a series of 7 tunnels which were specifically dug out to bring in all of the heavy equipment, turbines and just about everything else needed to build the dam. Because of the extremely large turbines the tunnels are unusually high and wide. All along the trail there are posters detailing the life and times of the people that built this Dam and the hardships they endured. On the day we were there tunnel number three was closed because it was deemed unstable so we were not able to make it the entire way to Hoover Dam. Nevertheless we hiked for over 3.5 miles with spectacular views of the lake and blossoming wildflowers accompanied us along the way, a perfect day in the desert.
One of the things we look forward to on our trips is biking opportunities and Lake Mead has the perfect trail suited for our ebikes. The River Mountains loop trail at Lake Mead is a 36 mile paved trail, with beautiful desert scenery and spectacular views of the lake and Las Vegas. The trail is very challenging at times with steep climbs and curvy descends. There is a series of climbs known as The Three sisters that are just wicked, but that is where our ebikes shined. We took the hills as if we were 20 years old, honestly I could not have biked those hills even when I was 20 and that’s the beauty of these electric bikes. Some people think that this is cheating, but I see it as an opportunity to do something that otherwise would be beyond me, it has opened a new world for me. We ended up riding a total of 38+ miles as we got off the trail and headed for the Lake for a much needed rest and water break. This trail is shared with hikers and I highly recommend it for hiking as well. We were able to spot two roadrunners by the side of the trail and they really do look like the old cartoons “Beep Beep”.
Just a short 20 minute drive from our resort is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. This beautiful park has a 13 mile one way scenic drive with stops along the way for outdoor activities, overlooks, picnic areas, etc. We chose the Calico Tanks trail as our destination and had to drive twice into the park in order to get a parking space. The scenic loop drive, unfortunately doesn’t return you to the starting point inside the park, but rather ends up exiting you a few miles down from the park entrance and right out into the highway, so if you miss your stop you will need to re enter the park. So the point here is to get there early as the place is mobbed with people by 10AM.
After finding a parking space by the side of the road at the Calico Tanks trailhead, we set out for what was described at the ranger station as a “moderate” hike through and up a canyon wall. The trail starts in a rocky wash area surrounded by the vivid red rocks this park is famous for. Then you begin your ascend, which is mostly scrambling up rocks, to the highest point in the canyon which upon reaching the top rewards you with beautiful panoramic views of the Mojave desert and Las Vegas in the distance. I thought parts of the trail to be very challenging as it required climbing over and around rocks, sliding down unreachable areas and my favorite, walking along the rock face on a ledge that was no more than three inches wide, let’s just say Leo owes me big time! But we made it and it was a true sense of accomplishment. I don’t know if I would do such a climb again, but it is one for the books for me at least, there were plenty of young people racing along this hike and they seemed to be having fun 😄
I know some of you are thinking, you are in Vegas, what about the casinos, the restaurants, the shows. Yes Yes and Yes! In between hiking, biking and pool time at the resort we hit the Vegas Strip for some great shopping at the Caesar’s Forum, some food and drinks at the Venetian and took a drive to view a fabulous art installation right at the end of the strip called “Seven Magic Mountains”. These limestone colorful boulders reminded me of the balancing rock art you see in some of the trails in the desert.
The Cirque du Soleil “Love” was a fantastic show at the Mirage hotel with music by the Beatles. This spectacle coupled with this music I love, made a great combination. I sang along the entire night.
We had many wonderful moments this week but one of the highlights was our dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at the Paris Paris hotel. Last time we were in Vegas we had dinner here but sadly Leo received a call from work in the middle of our dinner, which put a bit of a damper on our evening. He wanted to return to this fabulous restaurant and this time it was perfect. They gave us a table by the windows that overlook the Bellagio fountains, just an awesome view and along with great French food who could ask for anything more. I know we will return to this area, we had a wonderful time, there is just so much to do, see and experience here.