Category Archives: Sights

Powerplant Tour at the Hoover Dam

IMG_8973Katie and I were in Las Vegas for a long weekend. Having never been to the Hoover Dam I was hoping for an opportunity to check it out knowing that it was less than an hour away. One afternoon we jumped into the car and headed toward the border of Nevada and Arizona where the world re-owned structure was built and still stands today.

The Hoover Dam sits along the Colorado River. Above it is the man-made Lake Mead, below it lies the Hoover Dam Powerplant. The dam was built during the depression and took less than 5 years to finish. It is a National Historic Landmark and has been rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders.

Before the Depression water would flow down the Colorado River unhindered. Depending on the season and the amount of runoff from above, the cities below would be saved or destroyed by the relentless waters. The Hoover Dam was built to tame the river and protect the cities below from anymore harm that might come to them.

As we arrived at the Hoover Dam I got my first glimpse of what everyone had been talking about. However, for some reason I was a little unimpressed by it’s size. Maybe it was due to the bridge they built right nearby which seemed much more amazing to me or maybe I just needed to get a little closer to grasp the immensity. We followed the signs and next thing we knew we had drove over the top on a narrow two way road only about 45 feet wide. Realizing that the Visitor Center was on the Nevada side we back tracked to find a spot to park.

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Inside the center we walked through a metal detector and had our stuff checked. Apparently they are very worried someone might harm the Hoover Dam and the Powerplant. We walked up to the ticket sales counter and asked about the tours for the day. The only tour that had open spaces left was the Powerplant Tour so we got two tickets, at $15 each, and made our way to the front of the line. Along the way we took a picture at a green screen, received a ticket to view it later, and sat down on the bench as we waited for the next tour to begin.

While we waited we read up on some Hoover Dam facts. The Hoover Dam is 726.4 feet tall from the foundation rock to the roadway on the crest of the dam. It is only 45 feet thick at the crest, but  660 feet thick at the foundation. It is 1244 feet long spanning across the Colorado River, weighs 6,600,000 tons and contains 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Our tour finally started where we were guided into a small theater to watch a short film about the construction of the Hoover Dam. It was really interesting to see the old black and white film of how they diverted the river, built small dams, and filled the square boxes inches at a time to finally create the enormous structure we see today.

After the film was over we took an elevator down into the dam. Here our guide spoke to us about how the Colorado River was diverted through 4 tunnels around the dam that still sit there today, one of which we were currently standing in,  and how the workers also built two smaller dams, one to stop the water from reaching the dam construction site from above and another to stop the water from backing up onto the powerplant below. After the tunnels and dams were finished they opened the tunnels and allowed the water to flow through and around the dam site. When the dam was finished they closed three of the four tunnels, allowing the water levels to slowly rise before closing the final tunnel for good.

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As they built the dam, inches at a time, but 2 years faster than anticipated there were over 100 deaths. Rumor has it that some of these bodies were buried within the dam, but it is highly unlikely. The rate at which the dam was built, literally inches at a time, allowed anyone that accidentally fell into the concrete to basically just step back out easily. Plus, if that was the case and someone was buried within it would cause serious structural damage that would weaken the dam. There were however 96 deaths identified as official “industrial fatalities”, which allowed the deceased’s family to obtain compensation. There were also another 96 are individuals who died from from pneumonia, what is now believed to be a cover which allowed the Six Companies to prevent payment of death benefits to those families.

As the dam’s construction neared it’s end there were 2 spillways built, one on each side. These would aid in sending the water safely around the power plant if the waters ever got too high hopefully prevent the water from going over the top of the dam and landing directly on top of the power plant below. These have only been used twice in all of the Hoover Dam’s life. Once for testing purposes and once in 1983 when water levels rose allowing more than 2 feet of water to flow over and through the spillways.

Our tour took the elevator again, but this time moved onto the powerplant. We walked down a hallway and into a huge room the size of two football fields that was very echoey and  loud. As our guide spoke I could barely hear him even though he was using a microphone. He spoke about the generators, how they work and how the water is used to cool them down. There were three generators running while we were there. We could tell by the light on top of them. He also spoke about the huge  crane that could lift heavy the center pieces out of the generators if there was ever a need for repairs.

We headed back to the elevator and to the main floor. Our tour guide finished with a little bit about how the dam is actually 36% below water capacity right now and how there only has to be 260 ft in the dam to reach the water intakes.  I asked him what happens if the water gets too low and he only responded with a slight I hope that never happens, but also almost as if it was impossible to happen.

Our tour ended there and we headed to the overlook which was soon closing at 4:30pm. We got an amazing view of the dam there and could hear on the speakers a little bit about the cable cars that run along the far side. We then headed to walk over the dam where we could see just how low the water levels really were. There were clear lines of pure white rock with darker rock above it and I wondered if that was were the water level was when the dam was first created or if the line was created by something else. Without any more guides around I could only guess.

We walked and took pictures over the dam and that is when I finally realized how magnificent it truly is. I just needed to get up close and personal to understand the what everyone was talking about. As I peered over the edges and down to the water below the sheer size had finally sunk in and I now knew why everyone is so impressed. We stopped on the border between the two states and I stood straddling the line, in two places at one time. I was glad I had finally made it to the Hoover Dam, a place were almost every Californian has visited at one time in their life.

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Holy Cross Chapel Rocks

IMG_8973My friend and I stumbled into Holy Cross Chapel, a Roman Catholic chapel, while we were in Sedona Arizona. The chapel was built into the the rocks and run by the Diocese of Phoenix, as a part of St. John Vianney Parish. It took Fred Courkos’ crew 18 months to build, costing $300,000, and was completed in 1956. We weren’t originally planning on checking it out, but as we got closer to Chapel Road and since we didn’t have much free time left we made a last minute decision to squeezed it in and go see what it was all about. We took the left off 179 and headed out to the end of Chapel Road where Holy Cross Chapel is located.

As we got to the chapel, we passed it on the lower road. Next thing we knew we were stuck in traffic. Since I was excited that we decided to see the chapel my friend suggested that I jumped out of the car and walk up the road to see what was going on. As I came around a bend and to the beginning of the parking area I realized that there was traffic because there were employees helping people park. The line of cars wasn’t that long so I decided to walk a little further up the road to the top and check out the view from the chapel.

By the time I got to the top and took a few pictures of Bell Rock and several other rocks I could see that my friend was only 1 car away from parking. I took a peek inside the chapel and then headed back down to my friend. The skies that had been super clear on my way up the hill suddenly got extremely dark and it started to rain.

I met up with my friend and we ran back up in the rain and straight into the chapel which was quite small, but very beautiful. It was full of people trying to escape the rain sitting in the two rows of pews and along the edge of the building. Inside there were also two long rows of candles, a memorial plack, a donation box, and a gift shop below. We took a moment to explore the room and then headed to see if we wanted anything from the gift shop.

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We walked around looking at merchandise, most of which had a spiritual concept or connection. We also found a small wall which had a bit of history on it including a picture of what site prior to the chapel being built on it looked like in 1955 and after the chapel had been built in 1956. My friend purchased a small item and while she was doing that I overheard someone ask if there were still services held in the chapel. The employee responded by telling them that services are held elsewhere in another chapel not too far away. Later in my research on their website it says services are held, but only on Mondays at 5pm. I wondered which is true.

We headed back up into the chapel. It was still raining, but we decided to move onto our next adventure anyway. As we drove down I got a few more pictures of the front of the chapel. If you are in the area and have a little bit of time this chapel is perfect for a quick stop. It’s small and magnificent all at the same time.

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Everything Can Be Found at Joe Wilcox Indian Den Souvenirs

IMG_8973While in Sedona Arizona my friend and I had stopped at the Oak Creek Visitor Center. We were looking for hiking stick medallions for the area, but they didn’t have any at the center. The employee told us to check out the store Joe Wilcox Indian Den in town as they were the only store in the area that she had ever seen them at.

We headed into town, just 4 miles down the road, and eventually found the store. Turns out it’s the biggest souvenir shop in Sedona and has just about everything from hiking stick medallions to souvenirs to desert candy to Native American crafts. The store offers an amazing selection of Indian jewelry, from Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni artists. Including many of the Arts and Crafts such as Navajo sand paintings, horse hair pottery, and alabaster carvings and other Indian artifacts. There was so much stuff that it was almost overwhelming.

We took some time exploring the store, trying to decide if we wanted anything, browsing the small souvenirs such as magnets, keychains, and small sculptures. We soon noticed the beautiful Native American Arts and Crafts and I thought about purchasing one. Unfortunately it cost a little too much for me and I couldn’t quite figure out how to send it to family and friends without it breaking, since most of my family lives on the East Coast.

My friend purchased some candy and we left the store. If you are ever in Sedona and need some souvenirs for family and friends this is the place to stop. Or maybe you went to Sedona and forgot to get some souvenirs for your family, you can visit their shop online and make purchases without ever leaving your home. You’ll be sure to find something for everyone.

First Settlement at Indian Gardens & Oak Creek Visitor Center

IMG_8971On my friend and my way into Sedona Arizona we stopped at the first visitor center we saw, Oak Creek Visitor Center. It is located just 4 miles north of Sedona off 89A next to the Indian Gardens Oak Creek Market. We wanted to gather some information and find out about different sights that we might be interested in seeing while we were there.

We took a few moments to look around the tiny store about the size of a small bedroom and then went to speak with the employee behind the counter. She was extremely friendly and helpful, I wish I could remember her name. She told us about different hikes we could try, gave us a few maps of the area including one that stretched up to the Grand Canyon, and showed us an amazing book which I ended up purchasing.

As we headed out I remembered that right before we turned off the road to pull into the parking lot I had noticed a history marker on the opposite side of the road. I ran back inside to ask her about it and she told me how Indian Gardens was the homesite of the first settler in Oak Creek Canyon. In 1875 scouts from Fort Verde, now Camp Verde, captured a small band of Tonto Apache Indians. The following year, Jim Thompson took “squatter rights” to that piece of land. There he found the Indian’s deserted gardens where the Indians had grown corn and squash and healthy springs. He decided to built a log cabin and named it Indian Gardens Ranch.

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Since then the name has been changed to Indian Gardens and as the years past Thompson expanded his settlement to include more cabins, a 2-story building, and even a school. While the none of the structures are there today and development has occurred with new cabins and establishments where the old cabins and school were located, the river and some stone walls are still there. So, while there isn’t really much to see, it’s still nice to learn about the history of a place and be at the original location of where others settled long ago.

Alligator, Ostrich & Elk at World of Jerky

IMG_8971While my friend and I drove down route 89A into Sedona Arizona we went right past a sign that read “Elk Jerky Ahead” and became determined to try some on our trip. We couldn’t seem to figure out where that sign was trying to lead us to. Maybe the little house nearby, but it didn’t look like a store so we decided to look elsewhere. As we arrived at Sedona, we drove down the main road where I noticed the Buck Thornton’s World of Jerky on the second story of a little shopping area. I shouted to my friend excitedly and she quickly found a small parking lot to stop in.

We got out of the car, crossed the street and headed up the stairs. Inside the store was jerky everywhere as well as nuts, candies, salsas and sauces. The store was full from the ceiling to the floor. There were so many different kinds I can’t even remember them all. A few I do remember were elk, venison, beef, buffalo, alligator, kangaroo, and ostrich. They had variety packs where you could purchase a number of different flavors and just single flavor bags.

We stood at the front desk and overheard Kitty, the “Queen of Jerky” and co-founder, ask another customer if they would be interested in trying any samples. The customer replied no, but my friend and I jumped on the chance. We tried a little bit of everything and they were all so delicious we had a hard time deciding on which to buy. We finally settled on alligator, ostrich, and venison, both very pleased at our selection.

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We continued to talk to Kitty and she told us about some amazing hikes to go see in the area, but we decided to stick to the one we had already planned on checking out. She also gave me a beautiful magnet for Sedona that I had been planning on purchasing.

If you like jerky at all, Buck Thornton’s World of Jerky is definitely the place to venture to while in Sedona. With enough hospitality, generosity and kindness to win the heart of anyone that walks into the shop, you won’t find another place quite like it. And if you can’t get to their store, you can always order from their online shop!