Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Historic Five Tunnels Railroad Hiking Trail

If you like hiking, biking, history, or railroads, you’ll enjoy the Railroad Hiking Trail at Lake Mead. Hikers and bikers will appreciate the trail’s level surface (a rare find in these parts). History buffs will appreciate walking the same route that the trains traveled as they ferried supplies to Boulder Dam’s construction site—in 1931, trains and railroads were the only feasible way to transport the massive amounts of materials needed to build the dam. And if you are a lover of railroads… well, you are in luck. Either before or after your hike, make sure to stop in Boulder City to visit the Nevada State Railroad Museum on Yucca Street where you can view and ride historic trains.

Since it’s still a little warm for hiking in desert, it’s best to do the Railroad Trail early. (You can also wait a couple of months so the heat won’t be an issue.) My poor son said I “tormented” him because he thought it was just too warm to hike. Personally, I think the problem has more to do with his love of the sofa. The trail originally ended at the last tunnel, but now extends all the way to Hoover Dam. We didn’t make it that far. My Drill Sergeant Mom approach got my griping hiker past the fifth tunnel, but when I surveyed the trail down to the dam, I knew that I’d be listening to Level 5 Complaining if we continued.

Bring water and sunscreen to hike the Railroad Trail; binoculars would also be good to have. From the vantage point of the trail, Lake Mead’s low levels are painfully obvious. You can also see two relocated marinas from the trail. From the trailhead to the fifth tunnel is approximately a five-mile round trip.
Photo Information: My photos of the Railroad Trail.

Monday, September 22, 2008

School is Back in Session for the Las Vegas Meeks Academy for One

This year, my son and I are doing homeschool again. Friday is field trip day at the Meeks Academy for One (MAFO)—with only one student, we can go on a field trip every week.

So far this year, we’ve been to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, the Lied Children’s Discovery Museum, and the Old Mormon Fort. These photos were taken at the Old Mormon Fort.

We’ve learned about flash floods in the desert at the wonderful display at the Springs Preserve (it comes complete with rushing water). The Springs’ high-tech displays are well worth the price of admission. I suggest going early in the day at this time of year so you can take full advantage of the hiking trails. At the Natural History Museum, we visited the creepy CSI Bugs display—it comes complete with simulated morgue body freezer (and body). If you haven’t been to the Lied Children’s Discovery Museum lately (right across from the Natural History Museum in the Cultural Corridor), I’m happy to say that the exhibits have been both improved and expanded. My favorite new exhibit was the hurricane winds exhibit, which allows visitors to stand inside a phone-booth type contraption while a fan whips up the “wind” to about 78 mph.

The Old Mormon Fort, also located on the Cultural Corridor, is the oldest non-native building in the state of Nevada. Today only a portion of the original 1855 adobe remains in the ranch house. I was impressed with the visitor’s center; ask for a treasure hunt to keep your young scholar occupied finding the freight wagon, petrified wood, and other artifacts. Dedicated restoration prevented the Fort from suffering the same fate as the Kiel Ranch. By far, the most intriguing figure of early Las Vegas history, in my opinion, is Helen J. Stewart, a pioneer woman who wound up in charge of one of Las Vegas’ most important early stops after her husband was killed in a gunfight. (By the way, the local school is not named for the pioneer woman herself but for her handicapped granddaughter.)
Photo information: My pictures of the fort. Hard to believe, but this slice of very old Vegas history is at the corner of Washington and Las Vegas Boulevard.