Biggest Hole in the US

6 Jun

So, if you’ve already yesterday’s post, you know that Thomas, Party of 4- albeit this time with our BFFs, the Eidson’s, rounding things out- spent the better part of last week in Las Vegas.  Goodness gracious, good time were had by all!  Anyhoo, while we already out there, it only made sense to pay a visit to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon.

OK, boys and girls, a quick lesson on travel plans that’s guaranteed to save you time and headaches in the long run- and it’s one that we do RELIGIOUSLY, as you can probably already tell…RESEARCH, RESEARCH and RESEARCH some more!  Yes, it takes some time and effort up front, but I promise you that 9 times out of 10 it will make your adventure SO much more enjoyable, meaningful…and efficient!  Why do I bring this up now?  Well, our side adventure to the Grand Canyon is a perfect example of how EXTRA research wound up causing us to scrap our original plans (that had already been made as a result of preliminary research!) in favor of better plans for our specific situation (ie. limited time out west, though strong feelings of ‘must see this thing!’)  Our original plan was to rent a car and drive from Vegas to the Canyon, explore what we could, spend the night and drive back the next morning.  And on paper, that was great- the miles could be driven in 4 hours, putting us there before lunch one day and back before lunch the next.  Here’s the rub.  It turns out that between traffic to get OUT of Vegas and INTO the vicinity of the Canyon during this peak time of year averages 6-7 hours.  On top of that, it generally takes about 2 hours of waiting in line to get INTO the park itself.  SAY WHAT?!  So you’re telling me that we’ll leave Vegas at 0’dark thirty in the morning and not actually see the canyon until sunset??  Just in time to eat, sleep and turn around the next morning??  No, that would not do.  So being the undeterred adventurers that we are- and y’all know us, when we’ve made up our minds to do something, by golly it’s happening!-  we came up with the next best way to achieve this goal…

Our limo to (and into!) the Grand Canyon 🙂

I know what you’re thinking…’Holy cow, nothing would do but they take a helicopter?!’  Well…Yes, that’s true.  But here’s why…We all had very specific things that were important to us about this adventure- mainly, that we wanted to go INTO the Canyon and not just over it.  And because time was pretty limited, our options were pretty limited.  This tour took 4 hours, hotel to hotel.  Not too shabby, right?  Looking back, all four of agree that this was- hands down- the best money we spent on the whole trip.  It was AWESOME and worth every single penny.

Area map: Vegas in the west, then the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, the West Rim of the Canyon and the South Rim of the Canyon...

So just how did this whole helicopter thing work?  Well, looking at the map above, we took off from Las Vegas in our 6 person glass (yes, the walls, front and floor were all glass so there was no bad seat in the house!) helicopter.  Almost immediately, we saw Lake Mead (the largest manmade lake in the world) and within 10 minutes, we were just over the Hoover Dam and its suspension bridge.  That’s the beauty of a helicopter over an airplane- they can fly so low and close to the ground that we really got an upclose and personal view of the Dam.  Continuing eastward, the majority of our 30 minute flight was over the Mojave Desert until we reached the West Rim of the Canyon.  At that point, we actually flew the remainder of the trip INSIDE the Canyon, just below rim level, before landing on the floor on the banks of the Colorado River.  WOW.  Seriously…WOW.

Getting ready for take off 🙂

OK. let me back up for a quick school lesson.  Constructed between 1931 and 1936 as the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers and costing more than 100 lives, the Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between Arizona and Nevada. Impounding Lake Mead, it’s about 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives. It was built as a way to help control floods, provide irrigation water and produce hydroelectric power. Today, the dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California.

The Hoover Dam and its suspension bridge...Lake Mead is in the background, of course.

Another view of the Dam. The white rim is actually mineral deposits where the area used to be underwater- in other words, it shows the current low water level. The lake is actually down many feet and there is great concern over what will be done if the drought continues. Projections show that if levels continue dropping, by 2017 the dam will be unable to produce power. The state is currently researching ways to pipe in water from other parts of Nevada.

Located on the Colorado River about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States. Formed by water impounded by the Hoover Dam, it extends 112 miles behind the dam, holding approximately 28,500,000 acre feet of water. In November of last year, the lake reached its alltime lowest level at 1081 feet (gosh that still sounds deep, right?!), just 39% of its total capacity. Why is it dropping? Well, the main water supplies are rain and snow runoff from the Rocky Mountains and since both have been less than average for the last 5 years, it’s gotten to be really apparent in the lake.

A very small iota of Lake Mead

Cheese!

Located in Arizona, the Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River over the last 17 million years (yowza!). At 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep, it’s really obvious why it’s considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders.

Most of the Canyon is contained within the Grand Canyon National Park, one of the first national parks in the United States. President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of preservation of the Grand Canyon area, and visited it often. In very olden days, before European immigration, the area was inhabited by Native Americans who built settlements within the canyon and its many caves. The Pueblo people considered the area a holy site and often pilgrimaged to it. The first European known to have viewed the Grand Canyon was García López de Cárdenas from Spain, who arrived in 1540.

Crossing over the West Rim into the Grand Canyon- that's the Colorado River snaking through the valley...

Welcome to the Grand Canyon ❤

Waiting for us on the floor of the Canyon: a picnic snack and champagne toast 🙂 Cheesy, but still neat!

Sunset in the Grand Canyon ❤

Canyon Clouds

Low river levels...

Pink cacti!

So after a good 30-45 minutes on the floor of the Grand Canyon, the sun was officially setting and we made our way back to the bright lights of Vegas.  Our pilot, Josh, was so friendly and so informative- it really made the adventure all the more awesome.  What a PERFECT way to spend a late afternoon in the desert…

Heading back...My favorite person in the universe absolutely LOVING this helicopter adventure. 🙂

What a great spot for a sunset 🙂

Well, folks, there you have.  Our latest adventure…this time out West!  The four of us had SUCH a good time, although I think it pointed out just how much we miss each other during our long months apart!  And with that, I’ll leave you with a picture and the most fitting of quotes…

❤ "Best friends are the family that God forgot to give us." ❤

One Response to “Biggest Hole in the US”

  1. Eric Kimery October 12, 2011 at 1:22 PM #

    Congrats!!!! Very happy for you both!! Parenthood is wonderful!!!!!!!

    Eric

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