Posted by: Juniper Road | December 8, 2012

Sun, Sky, and Scenery

We’re still boondocking by Lake Mead, enjoying some sunny weather, fine views, and a great cell & data signal. We’re managing despite the absence of our friends, whose departure admittedly lessened the charm of this spot. Before we arrived, I harbored a big bias against Las Vegas — and while we really didn’t spend any time at all in the city, the surrounding area has turned out to be surprisingly beautiful. The desert is much more varied than I expected, with many great hikes and lots of wildlife flying, swimming, or running (hello coyotes!) right near camp. Wrapped around all of that have been some really spectacular skies during sunrise and sunset.

Although the weather has generally been great – clear skies and 70 during the day, with nights in the mid 40s – we did have a few days (or nights) of gusty, howling winds with clouds that almost looked like rain. Well, we didn’t get rain (which would have been pretty neat to experience out here in the desert) but we did get whatever atmospheric conditions are needed to create nearly psychedelic skies. I opened my eyes at dawn one morning and it looked like the entire sky was on fire. In all directions, it was some variation of vivid orange as the sun rose. Lucky for me, Kris was willing to get up and take pictures while I stayed under the covers. And for a few days, sunsets turned the sky pink, purple, peach, violet and more – it stopped us in our tracks some evenings.

We found more great views on our hike to Hamblin Mountain. Like almost every hike here, it starts out in a dry wash. This one goes past a spring (dry in this season at least), climbs over several rock scrambles, and trends upward through multiple canyons and washes that seem to appear and split off every half mile or so. That’s where it gets tricky…the surrounding geology was beautiful and interesting, but made the trail difficult to follow. After a large climb, we missed a sharp right, and ended up close to, but not quite on the summit of Hamblin. Since we were overdue for lunch and the view was amazing, we stopped to enjoy it instead of backtracking. Ridges, canyons, hills and valleys in every color in every direction. Yeah, it was worth stopping for. Who knew it could be this beautiful 30 miles from Vegas?

Back at camp, we’ve seen a coyote trot along the lakeside directly across the narrow cove we’re camped above – we hear them call and sing most nights, but this visitor was here in mid afternoon. Juniper was the first to spot him (or her), and while we weren’t in any danger, it did make us more cautious at all hours of the day. Since we are on the water, we have front row seats for all the birds that make their homes on Lake Mead – flocks of American coots, a neighboring snowy egret, several Great Blue Herons, cute little Gambel’s quails that scatter when we walk near the bushes they hide under, and what we learned is a Northern Harrier that flies low to the ground and swoops by our camp while searching for prey. Maybe best of all was our glimpse of what we think was a Peregrine falcon (they’ve made a comeback here at the lake) flying past with a large fish in his talons, perfectly framed in profile. It’s a pleasure to see all this life thriving in the desert, seemingly oblivious to the clumsy humans clattering by. Fortunately, we’ve been spared any snakes, scorpions or scary spiders, although, truth be told, I did see something I can’t identify in the lake while Kris was swimming. It wasn’t close enough to him to be a problem, but I don’t know what it was – small, black, bobbing at the surface, but moving with a purpose, there were two or three creatures that didn’t move like snakes, fish or turtles. Since I don’t know what else would be in there, I was just glad Kris was almost to shore and 30 yards away. Hmmm.

Lake Mead itself is interesting – the water level is below previous years, but not at an historic low. You can see the ring around the lake left behind as water receded, and we are staying near a now-closed boat ramp – closed because there is no water even close to it anymore. It’s sort of sad to see, and this is not the only impacted boat ramp. Yet the lake seems healthy and there is still an active boating industry here. For us, it means walking Juniper on what used to be the lake bottom. In the sandy parts, we can find lots of animal tracks, even from the smallest critters. However, it fits in with other places we’ve seen out west, with lakes drained dry and fresh water a hotly contested resource.

Boat ramp to nowhere, critter tracks, Juniper tall and proud

We’re wrapping up our time here with a few desert bikes rides, which as Kris said, feels like you’re riding into a painting; campfires and Dutch Oven dinners; and forcing ourselves to make some future route decisions to wrap up the year, and, eventually, our big adventure. Heavy naturally we made tin foil hats to help. Hmm…maybe we’ve been out here too long??



  1. First of all, I love the hats! We totally should have made those for the movie. Second, I’m glad you went on the Hamblin hike and found the trail as hard to follow as we did. Makes me feel like maybe we’re not completely inept at following directions. And third, you saw something freaky in the water while Kris was swimming…ahhhh! I knew there was a reason I didn’t go in!

  2. We are saving the hats for the next time we see you guys! And we’d still be in the desert if you guys hadn’t hiked there first so we knew to keep choosing south when there was a choice. No trail at all much of the time. And I’m not going to talk about the lake creature…creepy! Glad we were safe on land 🙂

  3. Love the alien head gear!! Did you make contact??

    • No aliens! Well, unless the creepy thing in the water was an alien. We’re saving the hats..sure to be useful! Xoxo

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