Saturday, January 15, 2011

Railroad Tunnels, Hoover Dam & O'Callaghan - Tillman Bridge - 1/15/11

Fifty- three hikers invaded the Historic Railroad Tunnels today. We divided into two, then three groups depending on the distance and speed desired. Thirty- two of us did the hike as a 9.5 mile trip through the tunnels, down to the dam, and over to the bridge. The remaining twenty- one hikers did a seven mile trip through the tunnels and up to the bridge, skipping the dam this time around. The third group broke off from the first group to skip lunch and make the return trip a little faster.

Along the way through the five tunnels which were once used for rail cars to transport workers from Boulder City to the dam construction, we had gorgeous views of Lake Mead. It was a beautiful day with highs in the mid-60's and there were many people out and about. Up on the hill to our left after we left the fifth tunnel, we spotted a few big horn sheep. The photo above was taken by Jerry Thomas, a new guest photographer for the website.

The tunnel section of the trail is flat as a pancake, however the remaining section to the dam is slightly hilly. We descended through the large transformer station and walked down the ramps to the top level of the parking garage. At the bottom of the garage steps, we took our lunch break on the outside picnic tables. Some people walked across the dam and back. The photo of the bridge seen below was taken from the dam.

While we sat and ate our snacks and lunches, sparrows perched in the umbrellas and on the fence rails waiting for crumbs to fall from our fingers. Below, this collage of photos shows a few points of interest around the dam. The statue of the scaler shows how the builders of Hoover Dam had to scale the walls of the canyon to accomplish the engineering feat of the 1930's.

We ate our lunch then headed up to the top floor of the garage and out to the trail. Crossing over to the other side of the road, we hiked up to the parking lot where we could climb the ramp or steps to the new bridge's pedestrian walkway. As an aside, we felt that the designers of the wonderful pedestrian walkway exhibit could have provided a little better for the many Las Vegas hikers who visit the bridge via the railroad tunnels. To get to the exhibit, hikers are required to hike up the side of the road in a round about way from the trail. Although there is a hiking path which shortcuts between the road and the trail, this area is supposed to be off limits. Give us a break, guys!

As I said, the exhibit is wonderful. There are many informa- tional signs and displays. The ramp and steps provide different ways to ascend to the bridge. The architecture of the stairway is top- notch. And, the view from the bridge is unlike any other. The dam is in full view below the bridge as seen in the first photo. There were many people taking advantage of the pedestrian walkway and the beautiful weather today.

The collage above shows a few of the points of interest from the walkway. The two seals are set into the floor of the walkway in the center of the bridge. There are many plaques set into the sides of the concrete walls. It is obvious that the O'Callaghan - Tillman Memorial Bridge was built to become as big of a tourist attraction as Hoover Dam has been for 75 years.

We walked all the way to the other side of the bridge in Arizona before making our way back to Nevada and down to the parking lot where Don took us back across the road and down to the trail. After another three miles, we hiked into the trailhead parking lot located at the beginning of Northshore Drive. All groups of hikers were accounted for.

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