Zion, Condors, Dam and Glitz
Trip Start Apr 20, 2012
120Trip End Sep 01, 2012
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Then we made our way back down through the park and there were two other major highlights. The first was when we stopped at "The Big Bend". It was here that we had been told that we might be able to see California Condors. Lo and behold, there was a ranger set up there with a spotting scope and it was trained on a condor in a tree. As we listened to her talk and learned about condors, it actually lifted off and went for a short flight above the canyon floor. What a treat. Apparently there are only 400 California Condors in the world, half of which are in captivity and only about 80 in the Colorado Plateau. And, they migrate back and forth between the Grand Canyon and Zion, so we were extremely lucky to see one of eighty and to see it fly. It truly is impressive and with a wingspan of nearly 10 feet, a massive bird. The second highlight of our walks was the walk along the VIrgin River and spotting the cottonwood trees that had been recently dropped or gnawed on by the resident beaver population
Overnight, Jess and I had made the plan to get out of the desert and to the ocean, as Jess puts it; "we are cool, coastal mountain people, not dry, hot, desert people!!" So, and this will sound like it runs a bit contrary to the above statement, we headed to Las Vegas, Nevada which is bang, smack in the middle of the desert. However, we had cleverly arranged this as a midway point between Zion and San Diego and booked a room in an air-conditioned motel. But, right near to Las Vegas is a sight in the desert that Eli had remembered from his "Landmarks of the World" book: The Hoover Dam. Sitting just 30 miles outside of Las Vegas is this impressive structure and before we checked in to the motel, we headed out there to take a look. It was built between 1931 and 1935 and not only is it an important source of power, its building resulted in Lake Mead and the ensuing recreational area. One mile out from the dam we had to go through a police checkpoint. They said hello, looked in the car and waved us on???? When we stopped and paid for the parking garage so that we could walk across the Dam, Jess asked the attendant why there was a police checkpoint. He told us that it had been in place since 9/11 because the Hoover Dam is considered to be on of the top 5 terrorist targets in the USA!!! Well, good thing us Kiwis made it through the checkpoint. We walked across the dam, took some photos in the blustery wind and after half an hour back in the heat, we were ready to get back in the car and head to the hotel.
We drove around Vegas and spotted some of the famous casinos and are planning a drive later tonight when it is dark and the full neon world is on display. Jess told Eli that since he wanted to see the pyramids and we were unlikely to make it to Egypt, she took him to Las Vegas to see the Pyramid Casino instead. Despite the motel advertising a kitchenette, it only had a microwave and fridge. Therefore, Tim crouched down around the corner on the opposite side of the highway from The Strip, and cooked dinner on his camp-stove. It was nice that today worked out as planned. On through Joshua Tree National Park on our way to San Diego tomorrow.