Just got back from a week in Vegas.
Well... not excactly. We went to visit Vicki's cousin Jim and his wife Carol. They live in the Spring Mountains just to the northwest of Las Vegas. Home of Mt. Charleston. Mt. Charleston is the highest peak on southern Nevada, coming in at 82 feet under 12,000.
So of course I wanted to climb it. Jim even had a parter lined up for me to make the trek -- a local woman who's lived there for a bunch of years... 23? and had never done the peak. But as she had a doctor appointment that day and it rained the rest of the week except for friday (thunderstorms we apparently brought from Missouri), I never made that trip.
But that didn't keep us from doing lots of other hiking in the mountains.
The flight in was interesting enough. There were lots of clouds along the way, but I did get to see some of the high peaks flying over southern and southwestern Colorado, and Marble Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and Lake Mead on the way in.
The bathtub ring around Lake Mead is distinct, impressive, and sobering. We've got too many people living in the desert for the water resources. I'm thinking desalinization is the only way out of this for the Southwest.
According to Jim, "Las Vegas" means "The Springs", and in fact there were springs in the hot valley when the city was established back in the early 1900's. The surrounding mountain ranges collected snow in the winter and rain in the summer. Jim says the streams rarely run because the ground is so porus the water just perks down into the ground right away, and goes directly to the water table. Since the surrounding mountains are up to almost 10,000 feet above the valley floor, the hydrostatic pressure pushed the water table above ground level in places in the valley. Neat.
But no more. There are about 1.2 million people slorking it out of the ground -- some of it to water palm trees and lawns.
A week or so before we got there a tragedy occurred in their neighborhood. A small plane with two couples celebrating a mutual wedding anniversary flew up the box canyon and couldn't get enough altitude in time to get out. It crashed, killing all four of them. They left 7 children behind between the four of them. The firefighters kept the fire to a minimum, but there is a char scar across the road from their neighborhood.
It was 100-110 degrees in the city during the week for highs. But 7,600 ft up in the mountains the first few days never made it out of the 60's due to clouds and thundershowers. Later in the week it made it to ... 75 on t Friday and 81 on Saturday -- the only days it didn't rain. We apparently brought it with us from Missouri. And they like it out there, as you might imagine. The water table in the Spring Mountains is at capacity right now. There are even ... springs flowing ... from high in the mountains. They crash down solid rock and disappear into the carbonite ... er ... "soil". There were even seeps along some of the trails.
Tuesday we climbed Cathedral Rock ... a good 1,000 foot rise from the trail head not far down Kyle Canyon from their neighborhood. I mean really not far, like we hiked 1/8 mile or so down to the trail head from the lower street in the development.
Wednesday we actually drove into Vegas where we went to three of the major casinos. They look impressive. The people watching was the best part about it. I'm not much into shopping for things I can't afford, and though I have nothing against gambling itself, I have something against me doing it. I look around at all the over-the-top excess and think, "where do people think all this comes from?"
Speaking of the excess ... Jim tells me the apparently elaborate facades are made of foam ... made to look like concrete or limestone or stucco and sometimes have proven quite flamable. So keep that in mind when lighting up -- which you can apparently do anywhere.
We even saw a couple getting married on a gondola in the Venetian.
Thursday we hiked up Fletcher Canyon until we were chased out of it by the sound of thunder. It is a box canyon that gets narrower and narrower as you go up it -- perfect flash-flood scenario. I could imagine the wall of water powering down the canyon.
And by friday Jim had twisted my arm out of attempting Charleston Peak and going on the Deer Creek trail hike with them through the Bristlecone Pines on a trail that topped out on a ridge at 9,800 feet with a nice view of Charleston.
I have to admit, seeing the tundra above the treeline from this relatively close vantage point gave me a pang of summit-fever-induced remorse.
The bristlecones were breathtaking, and there is one called "the Rain Tree" ... supposedly the largest on the mountain (rumor has it there may be one larger) ... to give you an idea of the size... here's a shot of Vicki "hugging" it. Yes, she is in the shot, on the left side of the trunk.
And Saturday we packed and hung around the house until it was time to go to the airport.
But of course, that's not the whole story. A lot of the hiking took place in the morning and early afternoon. There were wonderful dinners which Vicki helped Carol make. And happy hour in the late afternoons -- a few times down at the normal gathering place down in Old Town maybe a mile down the road at Rosie's. Ah, Rosie. Quite a character (and the source of the title of this post).. and there's nothing that'll tell you more about people than the company they keep and how they interact with it. Jim & Carol are 100% solid human being in my book. These impromtu get-togethers ... dinners, parties, nebulous gatherings are a great attestment to the health of a neighborhood.
Included in that crowd was Aimee, the lady who was supposed to make the peak with me but couldn't. I was expecting somebody around, say, 65... but this lady was much closer to my age. Cute. Fit. I probably would have had to hustle to keep up with her especially with my perpetual camera. She works with the local youth camp for ... kids who've been sentenced for stuff. If they've been good, they get to go maintain the trails on the mountains. Her S.O. Dan is retired from there. Nice guy, from what I can tell.
Jim & Carol's bing cherry tree was overflowing with ripe cherries. There were so many there were plenty for everyone AND the birds, who were feeding off of them in a frenzy. We made some "Cherry Bounce" ... ok, Carol & Vicki made some Cherry Bounce ... cherries, brandy (or bourbon) sugar, and cloves ... you let it sit for two months... or in our case, two days. It's really good on ice cream. Especially the home made stuff Carol made.
We also listened to some of Jim's and Carol's performances (they're both musicians) on CD, and Carol played a few tunes on the piano on Saturday before we left. They've both performed professionally and were in the music dept at UNLV (Jim was the chair for a while). Heard a nice recording of "Misty" with Jim taking the lead on trombone. Always loved that one.
As we were leaving, I thought what the heck, they have slot machines at the airport. You can't put a quarter in anymore. To me that really takes any fun out of it. You can put a dollar in and buy credits, and it spits out a ticket at the end for you to cash in. Bleah. Your credits would go down, then you'd win some, then they'd go down. I figured when the dollar was gone, the dollar was gone. I completely expected to lose it. I was doing it just for the "experience".
Well I got bored with it and Vicki took over, betting the whole pot every time trying to lose it all. After a few minutes it rang up to $5.25, so I said "hey, cash it out. We're winners!" So we did. We made $4.25. That and a quarter will buy you two small bags of potato chips at the airport. So that's what we did.
The flight home made it back 25 minutes early, probably due to a nice tailwind at 39,000 feet. I was giving geology and meteorology lessons to the woman in the seat behind me as we looked out the window and Vicki read a book. She is so kind to let me sit by the window so I can look out. But I think she's getting a bit of window envy. Next time we fly she may have to sit there and I'll be stuck with a book. The drive home from Kansas City took almost as long as the flight. We got in at 1:30 am.
Jim had a home weather station of which I became jealous, and I bought one when we got back. It does inside and outside temperature and humidity, heat index, dewpoint, windchill, and wind speed and direction. I have wireless rain guage to go with it. Pretty rainy today. We got well over 3" overnight and this morning.
(the last photo is a shot of my favorite plant in the mountains, Indian Paintbrush)