Missing Lake Mead

We’ll be back soon enough…

The Lake Mead Recreation Area covers about a million and half acres with one hundred and sixty thousand or so covered by the lake. Its a rugged landscape that took one of humanity’s greatest engineering feats to bring what once seemed like endless amounts of water to the desert.

At one time anyway.

Without Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, Arizona and Southern California simply wouldn’t exist in their current state. A quick hike tells you all you need to know as to why that is.

The land there is…lonely. Whatever life exists in the coarse ground exists opportunistically. But that solitude brings with it the kind of vistas that inspire the soul. But close your eyes for too long, wander off the trail too far, and she’ll claim you.

Hiking is difficult. Trails are not well-marked and when they are, they’re often criss-crossed by false paths or scrubbed into thin suggestions by the unfettered winds.

And even if you know exactly where you are, the land can be dangerous.

Summer hiking is “not advised” by the National Park Service. Some areas are closed entirely. The sun can kill you. The lack of water can kill you. The relentless wind speeds up the dehydration process and, therefore, can kill you. Storms can cause flash floods that, yes, you guess it. Kill you. With water. The same stuff you didn’t have enough of.

Then there’s Sin City just over the horizon. One reason bodies keep washing up in the drying lake. Mob enforcers. Sketchy businessmen. Spies even. They all love to gamble. Take risks.

Which, by chance (pun lazily intended), makes Lake Mead a great setting for a thriller.

I’m currently plugging away at book two of the upcoming series. And while I peruse old photos and leaf through trail maps, I’m reminded of how much I miss that place.

We made Lake Mead one of our frequent stops as we drifted from coast to coast. Always a winter harbor – even during this colossal winter storm their temps are holding at sixty degree highs. It was one of the first places we tested our ability to boondock for long stretches.

As much as I’d long ago decided Vegas wasn’t my thing, loving the barren landscape came as a surprise. We hiked broad plateaus with expansive views and tight slot canyons connected to open mine shafts that spiraled down into the bowels of the earth. Drove he endless ribbons of park road, one end to the next and walked through once submerged cities risen up like Atlantis from the desert floor.

Despite the lack of vegetation – only cacti, twisted brush, and tenacious, burnt-up scrub survive – the land is full of color and life. Sunsets and moonrises are mesmerizing events that reveal hidden palettes worthy of a master painter.

I took my favorite picture of our dog there. Waded down a natural hot spring that trickled into the virulent emerald green of the warming Colorado River. Spotted bighorn sheep up on the ledges and eagles wheeling in the sky.

Its a damned beautiful place. And writing about it makes me wish we were there. As much as I love our little northeastern homestead, the plan is to get back on the road once the season starts. Spend our winters elsewhere while we can still get around.

We’ll have plenty of time later to huddle up by the woodstove and reflect on the memories we’ve made.



Categories: Journeys

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