October 05, 2011

Photo Essay: Lake Mead Railroad Trail

When we booked our trip to Vegas for my birthday weekend, I had one instruction for Michelle: "Bring your sneakers."

We were going hiking.

Edith found a rail trail in the Lake Mead Recreation Area right by the Hoover Dam, where you can hike right through the railroad tunnels. We figured even in the desert heat, it would be a relatively easy, short, flat hike for any hiking novice (especially one who carries a leather purse on her shoulder instead of a pack on her back).

The trail parallels the main road for a while, and winds through an active power line field.

"What's that clicking sound?" Michelle asked, worried about rattlesnakes, beetles and whatnot.

"That's the electricity," I said, pointing upwards at the lines above us. I'd first heard that sound while night rafting down the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania, but I'd heard it many times since while hiking through the urban canyons and mountains of LA.

We kept hiking and hiking, the sun beating down on our sweat-soaked faces...

...and kept thinking we'd find one of the railroad tunnels around one of the bends...

But it felt like we hiked forever until we spotted one.

It was so narrow and dark and winding, we wondered how a train could've actually ever run through it.

The long wait to the tunnels paid off with a spectacular view on the other side of the first one we found...

...emboldening us to continue despite our heat prostration to find two more tunnels. We stopped short of the two miles to the turnaround point, cut our losses, and returned the way we came, the sun now behind us, our faces cooling and fading in their redness. A hot breeze relieved us somewhat, as did the promise of returning to our air conditioned car soon.

There was more - lots more - we could've done there by the Hoover Dam, plenty of other trails and excursions near Lake Mead and Boulder City (including an actual historic train ride), but we were anxious to return to our hotel room and get ready for our evening out.

But it was nice to escape the madness of the Las Vegas Strip for a while, and return to it later when we wanted to. You really can have it both ways in Vegas.

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