A Friend Visits

October 2018

It was time for my friend's yearly visit to Las Vegas. Initially, it was intended for spring but again like the last visit we both had matters to contend with at the time so it was moved ahead to October. Autumn in Las Vegas and surrounding areas is like summer in other places yet for myself after residing here for nearly 20 years the norm has become that it's not a real summer day unless the temperature is at 90+ degrees. This is not merely a statistical regard, my physical being actually enjoys it at that level. Do I have some occult pact with the Fire Goddesses? No, it's simple acclimatization. So, on this visit the temperatures around 75° or so felt cool at times but with a very nice warmth from the Nevada sun. Yes, it's everyone's sun but around here it tends to play a little differently. :-)

Before proceeding, my aunt Alma who is mentioned in the previous 2017 piece passed away on June 15, 2018. On my last visit to her in the hospital - which at the time I did not think would be the last - she said she wanted to tell me something she told no one else. She said, "I'm going to miss you". I immediately understood the implication of that but quickly changed the conversation to a lighter tone by telling her that she would get better, that she had been in worse situations before. She just smiled and looked at me without saying anything. I guess she knew somehow. Anyway, I dedicate this current piece to her. She lived a good, long life of 92 years.

Alma, I wish your consciousness and spirit well on your voyage to other realms. Much love be with you.

Aunt Alma with hat

Dave calls me on Friday night to confirm driving up on Saturday. I tell him that after a year and a half he must be looking forward to getting away for a little while and he agrees that it's a nice change from the usual. The conversation is short, some minor details and I wish him a good drive from LA.

He arrives around 7:30pm on Saturday and after settling in with his things we sit on the balcony drinking Foster's Ale as we talk about how things have been going. Every few weeks we use the phone or Skype so there were no monumental changes new to either of us but in a conversation in person there's more nuance and a better sense of how someone else is dealing with life in general. Dave seems to be doing well with things and along with that keeping healthy with his yoga regimen of many years. As for myself, well, let's say the dealing is mindfully apace. What that will yield I'm not sure but I do have to admit noticing an emergence of something 'foundational' for myself. As to what it is foundational for, I'm also not sure. Not trying to be cryptic, that's just the basic feeling I'm getting.

Yet, at this time in our lives and no doubt the lives of many others there are also questions and perceptions that run in the background. Sometimes they're addressed and sometimes only a passing mention since there are no conclusive answers, only a wondering about local and cosmic uncertainties; semantics can be sketchy on those kinds of trails. Uncertainty whether local or beyond is something we all deal with but it can be negotiated now and then with the right attitude. The road can be rough but at least the shoes are in good condition. From all appearances Dave seems to be handling the attitude well and still maintain a sense of humor. I think I can say the same for myself in some ways and perhaps that's why we have been friends for a long time since our high school years.

Later on after the balcony conversation I showed him on Google Maps a possible way to get a different view of Fortification Hill in Lake Mead. We have seen it from different angles in past visits but I've always wanted to get a view of it with more water in the foreground. Boulder Beach is of course one of the easiest places to get such a view of it but I was looking for a different angle. From what I saw on Google Maps there was a road that seemed promising and would take us to a place for that difference.

We ride out on Sunday, the skies are clear and of particular interest to me was that having checked the weather forecast for Lake Mead the wind speed was going to be around 25+ mph. What that told me is that the lake would look fairly active with a windy atmosphere and capped waves rather than a flat surface seen on quieter days.

Passing the park ranger entrance booth we continue south on Lakeshore Road past "#33 Hole" where we've usually gone on previous visits. Around 3 miles further there is Saddle Cove Road which turns onto Dick's Cove Road and then to Hatchery Cove from which we could hike a short distance to the shoreline (in this case shown as a red balloon marker, 'Las Vegas Bay', in the map link below). But while it seems that way on Google Maps the fact is that Dick's Cove Road was closed with what seemed like a makeshift chain-link fence that had seen better days and Saddle Cove Road just to the right had a sign stating 'personnel only' for the water treatment plant which could be seen ahead. Here's an interactive map (which opens in a new tab) of the Saddle Cove Road area. You may want to keep this tab on the side for further reference of the area in general. (Note: for those readers with target="_blank" concerns re tabs, I use a no-referrer js script.)

Nothing to be done there so we returned to Lakeshore Road and figured to just go south to Boulder Beach. Around 2.2 miles we turned off to the left on a road which seemed to connect to the beach area. I then noticed that the road we were on kept going toward the shore bypassing the Boulder Beach road and so we continued on it and already I could see Fortification Hill in the distance from the angle I was considering earlier. This was 'Boulder Harbor' which surprisingly I hadn't been aware of before. It starts as a dirt road but soon enough you're on the wide, concrete surface of the boat ramp. Here's an image of it I found online.

Boulder Harbor

The following is a close-up image of Boulder Harbor.

Boulder Harbor

The raised area of ground noted in the image is only a few inches but best to get up on that slowly with the car. You will also notice some markings on the map which are vehicles on the right side of the ramp. Basically, just park on ground away from the ramp and you should be fine. Please note Points 1 and 2 as I will be referring to them.

Re the following videos: This is the first time I've really gotten into the video zone with any of this and so that required converting, minor edits, etc. I'm getting the feel of it with some software and while I could have spent more time on the process I didn't want to delay this piece too much. Then there is the aspect that on compact cameras the sensor size is 1/2.33" thus it comes down to the risk of overplaying the camera's limitations. But all in all I was surprised that the videos turned out relatively decent with some adjustments here and there and even with jumpy moments from a tripod I never used before. All of that has given me some ideas for future projects. No, don't expect future videos to be made with an $80K video camera - unless I find one in a garage sale or Santa leaves one here mistakenly. :-D

I recently got a camera, an older, compact Lumix and so for the travels this time I decided to do some more videos than the 2017 piece. The following one is from 'Point 1', it is a pan from Boulder Beach to Fortification Hill. Note: The sound of the wind is heard in all of the videos which gives them ambience but the compact camera microphone is not the most accurate so some may want to turn the volume down.

From the same position I took the next video which shows a kite surfer from Boulder Beach. Look at the middle of the screen and you'll see the kite moving in the air. Look closer and you'll see the wake from the surfer's board. It looks like he, or she, is going to make it across the screen but then midway a wind catches the kite back to the beach. I extended the zoom as much as possible on the Lumix but it would have been nice to have a better zoom lens to get detail. Given the opportunity would I kite surf on Lake Mead? Yeah, I'd give it a try but first I would learn about technique, etc., from experienced kite surfers. And maybe have a boat follow me. :-D

The next one is from 'Point 2', it is also a pan from Boulder Beach to Fortification Hill but this one continues past FH toward the west end of the Boulder Basin. It's at an angle nearer the water so the wind and waves are louder. Look at the shoreline once it goes past FH and you'll see the shadows of Dave and myself.

Those of you who've read the 2017 piece remember that I illustrated the changes of water levels at Callville Bay with satellite images from past years. In the following I do the same for Boulder Harbor.

Boulder Harbor

The image date for the above is shown as 2017. I cross-checked with a current Google Maps view and the differences are not as noticeable as in other areas of the lake; more on that later. But in the next view from 1984 the differences are glaring.

Boulder Harbor

As can be seen, Point 1 (and Point 2 though not indicated) where the previous videos were taken was I guess around 60 or so feet underwater (I don't think the camera would have handled that. :-D). Pyramid Island was indeed surrounded by water and there was a channel between the water treatment plant and Saddle Island that at it's narrowest was around 1500ft (457m) And yes, there was a marina then. Comparing this image with a current one I did some measurements and at the marina area it seems the water came as near as around 300ft (91m) to Lakeshore Rd. Taking that into account, then the distance from that point to the shoreline of the harbor is now around 3490ft (1km). In other words, the area in the previous image I found online of the boat ramp would have been underwater. Note: The image is out of focus on Google Earth probably because it was taken by an older satellite.

Here's a view of the marina in 2012.

Boulder Harbor

At that rate, what will Lake Mead look like 34 years from now? Will the area be called, "Mead Canyon"? Then again, by that time I may be exploring new lands in other dimensions. Perhaps then I will have dreams of a lake somewhere but have no idea as to where or when. If there are websites (or something similar) in those dimension then maybe I could tell others of dreams that I had. :-)

Dave had already left to go back to the car and so after the videos I just sat at Point 2 taking it all in as twilight began its whispers. I then followed and at the car we both agreed it was a good experience. On the way back as we passed #33 Hole I looked over and noticed how much it too had changed just in the time since we last visited. We decided to come back the next day and get a better look.

The next video is of #33 Hole. The water seems expansive enough but a little to the north it's a different story.

The following image from the 2017 visit came about because from that same spot the view had been different on previous visits. At the time Dave was standing there taking photos and I so I took one showing the greenery (indicated by green arrow) that had grown. The yellow arrow indicates a rock formation on the other side. The video after shows a close-up of that formation.

Dave at #33 Hole in 2017

That's the different story. The rock formation now has a 'lagoon' - at least for a little while. I must admit it looked nice with all the green despite what it portends. I would have liked to hike nearer to it but we had arrived late. I figure by next year or so that scene will repeat itself in the area of the other video.

And now for the satellite facts.

#33 Hole in 1994

The Las Vegas Bay Marina is at top-left. Notice the parking area and how close it was to the water.

#33 Hole in 2007
#33 Hole in 2012
#33 Hole in 2017
#33 Hole in 2018

We stayed there late into the twilight. I looked out over the land and water and thought about all the times I had been there with Dave and others. It was a strange feeling. Time has it's own sense of 'desertification' with many things. A little earlier Dave took a photo of me there and it looks like I'm wearing gaúcho clothing.

Daniel at 33 Hole in 2018

We left 33 Hole and on the way made a quick visit as usual to Lake Las Vegas. Nothing much has changed there, it's still as quiet as can be with hardly anyone walking around the shops and few restaurants. Occasionally there are jazz concerts and those probably make for a more populous experience. Then again, the more 'private' experience of the place is interesting in its own way.

Tomorrow, it's Ash Meadows.

As I had suspected, the foliage at Ash Meadows was greener this time than the March 2017 visit. Though I figure by the dry areas here and there that it was even greener a couple of months earlier and around May

Boardwalk Ash Meadows October 2018

The next image is one of the viewpoints at AM. Before the new visitor center was built this was the first viewpoint reached from the small parking area next to what seemed like a large, fixed mobile home for the rangers. I've taken photos of this viewpoint through the years because of its composition and subtle changes with the seasons. Here is one of my favorites from 2012. At the time I used Dave's camera to take it. I have to find out from Dave if he has the original in larger size. If he does then this is one definitely to print and frame.

Viewpoint at Ash Meadows 2012

Next is a video of the viewpoint taken during the recent visit.

From there we did the boardwalk loop, said hi to the pupfish at their pool, then back to the car and a 5 minute drive to Crystal Reservoir. As always, the reservoir is a pleasant place to be at and this time with its autumnal skies it made for a wonderful atmosphere.

Crystal Reservoir view to south
Crystal Reservoir reeds

By the side of the reservoir there is a road that goes to what I call a 'woodland' with seemingly more trees and foliage than elsewhere at AM. In the header image to this piece I'm on the road pointing at Shadow Mountain and in the distance you can see the treeline. You can see the trees nearer in the next image. I lent Dave one of my hats - which I then gave to him since I have another one - and while I took the picture he said in a nearly convincing accent, "Have you seen any dingoes?" I guess he was feeling his Aussie self with the hat. No, he's not originally from Australia, unless unbeknownst to me the state of Kansas had a colony of Australian expats at one time. And no, there are no dingoes at Ash Meadows. :-)

Dave on Ash meadows reservoir road Oct. 2018

When I encountered the scene shown in the following image it had a mystical quality to it. The clouds, the light, the wind, everything seemed balanced just right at that moment. The woodland area probably has many spots like this, it's just a matter of taking your time to discover them. I liked this image enough to currently use it as the desktop background.

Ash Meadows woodland area

The next video is of this place. I asked Dave to walk over to the small tree so as to show the area. Seeing it later it was also a good indicator of the camera sensor registering detail, i.e., Dave and his clothing are clear and defined as he starts the walk then not so much when he gets to the tree.

We stayed in the woodland area for awhile, it's a peaceful place and I wondered what it would be like if one could camp there for a couple of days. But camping is not allowed at Ash Meadows and it's not too difficult to understand why.

This is from the southern end of the reservoir.

Crystal Reservoir from the southern end

At the car the sunset show was beginning. Here is the video of it and you can faintly hear Patrick O'Hearn's 'A Lovely Place to Be' (yes, it certainly was/is) from the car's speakers. Other music that we listened to during the sunset was, Altus - 'Cerulean Skies', Bruce Kaphan - 'Outpost', and an oldie but always goodie for Dave and I, 'Orange Skies' by the group, Love, from 1967.

Another good day at Ash Meadows. After the video I stood by the car listening to the 'local' music and pondering the beyond. Many thoughts and feelings. And Probably all part of the aforementioned, 'foundational'.

Daniel - sunset at Ash Meadows

The next day we went to the casinos on the strip. Before doing so we made a quick stop at Black Mountain. It was late with an hour or so before sunset so we only hiked a little ways enough to get a view of the strip and city. By the time we got back to the car it was night and we made our way to the parking at the Palazzo Hotel. Went to the Panda Express at the Venetian for something to eat and then to the Bellagio Conservatory to see the Fall 2018 display titled, 'Falling Asleep' (Hmm, sounds slightly political). On the way we stopped outside of Ceasars Palace and I took a photo of Dave. It looks as if he's a character that just found out the bosses at the casino were coming to get him. :-D


The streets were fairly busy with people and street performers for a weekday. Saw 'Minnie Mouse' on the sidewalk and I said to her, "Minnie, it's not safe being here." I heard this slightly sarcastic laugh coming from behind the full head mask immediately followed by her saying to me, "You wanna cuddle?". I figured that the 'cuddle' meant my posing with her for a paid photo but I just smiled and continued walking. But what if Minnie had fallen on hard times? You don't see much of her, or Mickey, anymore. No, I just couldn't handle the morning after with the big shoes and polka dot dress on the floor.

The Bellagio exhibit was interesting in that they had a massive, sleeping woman with wings. She's described as the 'Goddess of the Harvest'. Amazing that it was all made with flowers.

Bellagio Conservatory Oct. 2018

She had couple of smaller, goddess attendants.

Bellagio Conservatory Oct. 2018

The rest of it was okay. They had a couple of tigers but I'm not sure what they had to do with the Fall theme. Before leaving we each had an Orange Julius with vodka; yes, just one. It was a shorter walk than the one we did last year. :-)

On the way to the Palazzo I saw 'Batman'. I called out his name, extended my hand and while he shook it spoke to me in that growly Batman voice. Had no idea what he was saying, I just smiled, nodded and went on my way. Passed an overhead marquee with large photos of Donny and Marie Osmond. I knew that Marie was a little bit of country and Donny was a little bit of rock and roll but here Donny was wearing a suit and tie in a singing pose. Marie, With her black, body-hugging outfit, electric guitar with a big "M" on it, and her hand extended down and to the side as if she just struck a power chord, looked more like a little bit of spacey Rock Babe. And she still has that Marie smile. A nice way to end the evening.

Donny and Marie-Las Vegas marquee

Dave left the next day around noon. It was nice seeing him and we both had a good time in the past few days. We talked about planning something for next time around the beginning of September 2019.

Excuse me, someone's calling on the phone. "No, Minnie, there's nothing going on between me and Marie." :-)

The new year is almost here and of course I wonder what it will bring. Many things going on in the country and the world. I think the shoes are in good condition, but maybe I should get a new pair just to be on the safe side. I could get into a lot of paragraphs about it all, but I'd be telling what most of you already know.

Thank you to whomever has read this piece. I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and a New Year of well-being and inspiration.

I leave you with a 'moving' painting. A five-minute view of Fortification Hill. Happy trails.

Daniel V.