July 5, 2014 Fireworks at the Avi Hotel and Casino

This post was supposed to have the fireworks from both the 4th and 5th but, thanks to the craptastic nature of my Sunpak tripod, only the pictures from the 5th came out.

Before I get to the pictures, I want to talk a second about photography. You need a tripod. This is a simple fact of life. You will never get a steady shot holding the camera. Having said that, you will get a steadier picture holding a camera than you will with a Sunpak 7000 tripod. If a gnat farts in Sri Lanka the head of the tripod spins. For that matter, the same gnat fart will cause the legs to wobble.  In short, spend money on a GOOD tripod, not one that you run into Best Buy and get.

Now, without further adieu, let’s get to some pictures!  This first shot is of the Avi itself. It’s a small casino along the banks of the Colorado River in Laughlin, Nevada.

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Lake Mead Recreational Area

Since St. Thomas, Nevada is in the recreational area I stopped at a few other places to get pictures.  The first set is from Roger’s Springs.  It’s a small spring that has a picnic area near it.  Even on a hot day it was a little cooler, if humid, by the spring.

There are signs up making sure you know not to put your head in the water since there is an organism in the water that can get into your head and destroy brain tissue.

Having said that, I did stick my hand in the water to test the water temperature and it was nice and warm. If it wasn’t for the parasite I would have jumped right in.

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St. Thomas, Nevada

St. Thomas, Nevada was founded by Mormon pioneers in 1865. It was named after one of the expedition leaders, Thomas Sassen Smith.

Brigham Young sent the group here to grow cotton. That didn’t work out. Heat, mosquitoes, scorpions, and the fact that cotton hated the area made life difficult but, what killed the mission, was an 1870 survey that put St. Thomas in Nevada and not Utah or Arizona so there were taxes to be paid and no money to pay them. 

All but one member of the mission returned to Utah leaving the town to other settlers or any outlaws looking for a place to hole up. Eventually the Mormons returned to try their hand a variety of other crops.

By the 1900′s you could drive down a broad leafy avenue and find a hotel, cafe, and a mechanics shop. 

That’s when it all started to go wrong.

By the end of the 1900′s the local mines had dried up and the miners moved on. In the 1920′s the bridge over the Colorado River burned and, with the government already planning Hoover Dam and a bridge built to the north, this signed the town’s death warrant.

Residents tried to fight the government and failed. With Hoover Dam complete and the water creeping towards St. Thomas, the federal government paid the land owners pennies on the dollar for their land and all but a few people took the money and left.

The last person to leave was reportedly Hugh Lord who woke up one morning to find the lake at the foot of his bed. As a last screw you to the government, Hugh lit his house on fire and rowed away.

For years St. Thomas lay at the bottom of Lake Mead, submerged under 60 feet of water. Then, with California’s ever increasing need for water and the never ending drought the west is under, St. Thomas emerged from its watery tomb.

Today you can hike down to the remains of the town and see what’s left of a few houses. Lake Mead is now miles away and shrinking each year. In another generation there may not even be enough water to call it a lake.

Our first picture comes from the rest stop on Highway 95, just north of the SR-163 cutoff, headed towards Las Vegas. It was cool and just a little cloudy to start the day. That would end quickly.

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April Desert Walkabout

Every now and then I’ll have the urge to jump in the truck and drive off to see what I find. This is from one of my many trips. This one didn’t end as well as I would have liked though.

The first part of the trip was past the dump and up a long dirt road. This being the desert the first thing I find is one of the most annoying. Shotgun shells scattered all over.  Come on, people. Pack out your damn trash.

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Hoover Dam

This was from one of my trips to Boulder, Nevada. We went up the back way, through Golden Valley and then north towards Las Vegas.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Hoover Dam and the changes are astounding. Homeland Security has a checkpoint before you can go to the dam. There are guards all over the place. I almost felt like I was in a prison rather than a dam.

To top it off, the water level is drastically lower than when I last visited. This neverending drought has stolen so much water from the lake as you’ll see in the pictures. Look at the water stains on the dam and think about how much water it took to fill this canyon up enough to get that high on the dam. Then think about the fact that that water is all gone.

Christmas Tree Pass and Grapevine Canyon

Christmas Tree Pass is a dirt road just west of Laughlin, Nevada along State Route 163. It leads you through the hills and out onto Nevada Highway 95 leading towards Las Vegas.  Just a few miles from the SR 163 turnoff onto Christmas Tree Pass is Grapevine Canyon.

Grapevine Canyon is down a small turn off.  There’s a parking area at the trailhead but the rest of the way is on foot.  It’s a quarter of a mile from the parking area to the petroglyphs.  The petroglyphs are carved in the stones at the head of the canyon and range anywhere in age from 150 to 800 years old. Continuing past the petroglyphs you’ll find the canyon, a small spring, and, possibly, some local wildlife if you’re lucky.  I wasn’t prepared for the hike so I only went as far as the petroglyphs.

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Laughlin Labyrinths

The Laughlin Labyrinths are located in Laughlin, Nevada to the west of the casinos. You can tell these are labors of love because of the amount of effort it took to move the rocks into place, as well as maintaining the rocks and the solar lights.

These are the first two, and easiest to get to, labyrinths.  There is a sign on Thomas Edison depicting a labyrinth and it’s a short walk into the desert to get to these two.

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Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at CSULB

On your next visit to Southern California, if you happen to be in Long Beach, this is the place you need to visit to relax.

The gardens are located on the campus of California State University at Long Beach. It’s a little over an acre of water, trees, and tranquility. The gardens were built thanks to a donation by Loraine Miller Collins to honor her late husband Edward Burns Miller.

There’s no entry fee except on special occasions. You do have to pay for parking but a couple of bucks to come in and enjoy the gardens is very much worth it.

This is what you see walking up to the entry to the gardens.

Inside you’ll follow the path around the koi pond, past the sand sculpture, and through a very relaxing place that seems to leach away your tension.  If I could move this garden to my backyard I would live and die a happy man.