Dam boys

October 24 – 25, 2012

The next stop on our tour of the southwest was going to be the Grand Canyon. Originally we planned on going to the North Rim, but we found out that it was probably closed so we had to change our plans slightly. On the way to the South Rim we stopped at the Glen Canyon Dam near Page Arizona.

The Glen Canyon Dam is the next dam upstream of the Hoover Dam, with the Grand Canyon in between. The 4th tallest dam in the US is a concrete gravity arch dam like Hoover, but it is considerably thicker. Like Hoover it’s primary purpose is to impound water for release to water owners below with power generation being a bonus.

image

The crest of the dam serves as a parking lot for power plant employees – traffic is routed over the steel Navajo Glen Canyon Bridge just downstream of the dam.

image

My brother and I went on the tour of the dam which allowed us to get out on the crest and ride the elevator through the dam to the power house. The tour was a little underwhelming and rushed with the tour guide regurgitating facts about the dam without a particular interest in discussing the dam’s more technical details. It was too bad because it turned out that there was an engineer in all four groups of people on the tour, one each from Italy, Germany, Canada and the US. As the enginering representative from the USA I was particularly proud that I looked like I had just stepped out of Phish concert after several days of hiking and being on the road without the benefit of a shower.

image

One of the unique aspects of this dam was a large field of grass that sat between the toe of the dam and the power house. We saw a guy 600 something feet down there on a riding mower right when we got there. It turns out that the grass was planted to keep several hundred feet of soil placed from blowing away. The soil was placed to dampen the vibrations of the pipes which lead to the turbines in the power house.

image

:

image

Obligatory generator picture

image

High Voltage

We made it to the Grand Canyon right before sunset. It was cold there, in the low 40s or so. The park had a surprisingly well stocked and inexpensive grocery store with a stellar beer section. We bought ingredients for burritos, and made them on the tailgate. After dark Tayler and I wandered through the woods toward the canyon attempting to use the stars to guide us north. We couldn’t find the big dipper, the little dipper or orion because of the trees. After exhausting our celestial navigation skills we stumbled around until we came across a major road with signs pointing to a paved hiking trail along the rim. A true backcountry experience.

I tried to make some long exposure images at night, but with no tripod or shutter remote and a steady breeze, they didn’t turn out great.

image

Turns out it is easier to photograph the Grand Canyon during the day.

image

image

image

When we woke up we saw our car thermometer had gone down to 26 during the night. After indulging in hot pay showers we chowed on breakfast burritos and decided to head south to warmer weather.

Advertisements

Zion

October 23 – 24, 2012

We woke up early in the Walmart parking lot and headed to Doggy Dude Ranch outside of Zion. The weather in Zion was cooler than down in Vegas but it was still too hot for Lucy to hang out in the truck while we hiked in the park. After depositing Lucy we found a campsite and drove around the park a little.

Dramatic sandstone canyon walls and formations carved by water are what define Zion. The region was once a massive sand dune desert similar to the current Sahara. The sand dunes transformed into sandstone and were then eroded by streams over time. The canyon walls are often over 2,000 feet of nearly vertical yellowish to red rock winding along stream valleys. The canyons are not barren desert landscapes though- precipitation slowly filtering through the porous sandstone produce consistent springs that feed lush cottonwood forests in the valley bottoms. The springs also feed small patches of vegetation called “hanging gardens” which cling to ledges high on the canyon walls.

Chandler had done a little research beforehand and read about Angel’s Landing which is a classic park day hike. The first 2.2 miles were on a paved trail which was relatively easy but steep, the last half mile was another story. There were chains bolted to the rocks leading the way up to the summit because there were cliffs which dropped off 1,400 feet on either side. This resulted in single file lines of ascenders or desenders clinging to the chains with white knuckles. It was a little scary at times.

When we finally got to the top it was time for a snack. Apparently we weren’t the only ones thinking that as we were quickly surrounded by 5 or 6 rock squirrels. These little guys had no fear as one crawled under my leg and another actually pulled Chan’s finger, who was too startled to respond.

image

image

image

image

image

Another memorable moment was when a woman called Chandler and I gals, not once but twice! (Chandler’s edit: in my defense she also misidentified a bumblebee as a fly in the same breath.)

Originally, we had planned to head to Buckskin Canyon which is a slot canyon down the road a bit, but with Doggy Dude Ranch nearby and more to explore, we decided to stay another day and hike The Narrows.

This was a hike unlike any of us had ever done before. Instead of climbing for a view, we waded up the Virgin River through a canyon. The canyon got narrower as we headed upstream until we turned around at a point where it was about 20-30 feet wide.

image

image

image

The water wasn’t too bad but it got colder the further up river we traveled. We saw a lot of people wearing dry suit pants which would have been warmer, but we were fine in our shorts. The deepest water we had to wade was between knee and waist deep.

The day ended well with a meal of Trader Joe’s gnocchi, pesto pasta and a few beverages around the fire at the campground.

Like a virgin

October 22, 2012

On Monday morning Tayler, Chandler and I went mountain biking at Bootleg Canyon outside of Boulder City, NV. It was rocky, hot and challenging for me, but very fun. I left an hour early to take Lucy to the Vet for a vaccine so she can go to doggy dude ranch outside of Zion National Park tomorrow. The boys kept biking.

image

That night we couldn’t find a campground because the state parks in Utah close the entrance gates at 9pm, not sure how people get back in if they leave. So we ended up camping like real Americans in the Walmart parking lot in Virgin, UT!!!

image

Cons: Windy, bright
Pros: Instant access to cheetos

Another Dam Day

October 21, 2012

Considering we were in Vegas, Chandler is a dam engineer and Tayler had never been, we headed to the Hoover Dam.

When we got to the security check point, we were told our trailer could not go down to the dam and we had the leave it at a casino up the road. Luckily Taylor was paying attention because he noticed a historical railroad hike that goes to the dam in the parks ng lot of the casino.

The hike was flat and easy, but it was sunny, warm and Lucy was welcomed. There were five tunnels and lots of interpretive signs along the way. The tracks had been removed, but we followed the route that had been used during the construction of the dam.

image

Tunnel

image

Lake Mead

The Hoover dam is the second largest dam in the US and is a concrete gravity arch dam.

image

Hoover Dam

The bridge which bypasses the dam was also amazing and a little scary. Chan had already been on the bridge so he offered to stay with Lucy while Tayler and I had a look around. It was super windy and extremely high up with traffic rushing close by.

image

Bridge

We spent the night at a campground that used to be right next to Lake Meade when the reservoir water level was higher. Now it is a 10 minute walk or so to the water.

Viva Las Vegas

October 20, 2012

Chan woke up early to watch the sun rise while I slept in until 7:45am. I am not a morning person, but we have been getting up so early without an alarm clock. I think it is because it is not dark all the time like it is in AK.

We bought a interagency park pass in Crater Lake and want to get our money’s worth so we drove through Death Valley National Park. As usual, no dogs allowed off the pavement so we didn’t do any hiking.

image

Can't image why it's called Death Valley

Death Valley wasn’t too interesting except when we passed by the lowest point in the US, 282 ft below sea level. The temps were pretty moderate rising to only around 88 degrees F. We made a quick stop to walk out on the salt flats. I tasted it, it was salty.

image

Just outside of the park were some rooms and stairs carved into some soft, white rock. Lucy had a good time checking stuff out.

image

image

We survived the crazy Las Vegas traffic and made it to La Quinta in the afternoon on Saturday. It was nice to finally get settled in the hotel, driving through Vegas with the trailer was stressful. I think Lucy was also very happy to be out of the car for a while and relax. Poor puppy is 10 years old and used to a little less daily excitement.

Chandler picked up Tayler from the airport and brought him back to the hotel to enjoy a few beers before hitting the strip. Tayler wanted to see the water show and the fire show. Chan and I wanted to ride a roller coaster. The water show at the Bellagio was actually quite impressive and free. We never found out where the fire show was.

image

We headed to New York New York next for the roller coaster. We played arcade games and skee ball wly ile finishing our drinks. The roller coaster was a bit pricey but totally worth the money.

We spent the rest of the night people watching and wandering around the strip before going back to the hotel.

Yosemite and Mono Lake

October 18 – 19, 2012

We had another lazy morning with Amber and Miles while we made plans for the next two days before heading to Vegas to meet Chan’s brother, Tayler.

We decided on Yosemite because neither of us had been there before. The drive was uneventful, except for the cotton.

image

image

I had never seen cotton plants and felt like we should have been in Georgia or Alabama instead of central California. Chandler was able to find a field without a fence, so we were able to get up close.

We made it to Yosemite just after sunset. Chandler tried taking some photos of half dome in the fading light, but none of them were blog worthy. We decided to get up early and take some pictures at sunrise. I’m surprised we actually managed to do this as we shared a bottle of Meeker’s graffiti zin (it was delicious, thanks Ty) that night.

Waking up before the sun was a good idea, as the park quickly became a zoo. Chan was able to get some nice photos of the sun rising with Half Dome and El Capitan without having to fight any crowds.

image

image

image

We bailed early because national parks are not especially dog friendly. Since Lucy was not able to have any fun today, we stopped at a lake just outside the park so she could swim. The lake was called Tioga Lake and was just to the east of Tioga Pass which was probably the highest point we’ll hit on the trip at just under 10,000 feet.

image

image

We descended to Mono Lake. Los Angeles began diverting water from the lake’s contributing creeks in the 1940s, which resulted in the water level dropping dozens of feet. As the lake level lowered these crazy formations called tufas were exposed.

image

image

Tufas are fossilized springs. The lake water has high salinity and has high pH so when fresh water from springs under the lake mixes with the lake water, minerals in the lake water come out of solution and form towers under water. When the lake level subsided, the towers were exposed.

We drove towards Las Vegas that afternoon and camped out in a pullout out in the desert to the west of Death Valley.

Family meeting

October 16, 2012

We started the day slowly by going on a run and a leisurely cup of coffee before meeting my parents for lunch. After Mexican food, we boogied down to my cousin’s place in Campbell. But of course we got distracted along the way. At Suisun Bay there are a bunch of large rough looking ships moored in clusters that had caught our eye on a previous trip to California. It turns out they are part of a reserve fleet of cargo, tanker and military ships that can be used during times of national emergency. The inventory and purpose of the mothball fleet changes over time and it sounded like currently the ships are primarily used for oil spill training and hostile boarding exercises by the Marines.

image

image

After the stop in Suisun Bay we drove straight to Campbell in some pretty wild traffic. My Aunt and Uncle were in town from Saint Martian, which was an added bonus. We talked about our upcoming bike trip and ate pizza, but mostly were entertained by the cutest boy in the room, Xander, my “nephew”.

image

image

We sang songs, played musical instruments, went to the park (tetherball is really fun) and watched Xander brush his teeth.

We had already made plans to go to Hollister to stay at my cousin Amber’s house so, after the little man went to bed, we drove south..

October 17, 2012

We woke up in Hollister to a very warm day ahead of us and decided the beach was the place to be.

My cousin and aunt took us to Lover’s Point in Monterey to do some snorkeling and sun tanning.

image

Coolest guy on the beach

image

Again, I was a big weenie and didn’t go in the water. Instead I stayed on the beach with Miles, my other “nephew”, so his mom and grandma could enjoy the water. Good looks certainly run in my family, who wouldn’t want to hang out with this guy? Miles was pretty entertaining as he was unsure of the sand and waves and it was fun to watch him explore his surroundings.

image

On the way back to the house, we stopped to check out some local history. The Old Mission San Juan Bautista was built in 1812 and has three aisles, making it the largest of the mission churches.

image

image

The day ended with pizza and deep fried artichoke hearts at my aunt’s house.

image