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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Taking the Asshat to the Springs

Day 6 - Saturday - part 2

Once I awoke from my beauty-nap, I prepared for my outing, an outing which would take me back to basics in a way that few places in Las Vegas could.

I first hosed myself down with SPF 2080 pure lead sunscreen and made sure I had plenty of bottled water - one of those pint-sized casino bottles full.

The rental car awaited diligently in its Avis spot and started up like a champ. It was some sort of Volkswagen...I think a VW Asshat?

Anyway, it had four wheels and a motor and took me the direction I wanted to go - west.

I'd checked out the location of - yes, this is the place where I disclose where I'm going - the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, and it seemed easy enough to find. Just head west under the tracks, down a bit, then right, then go for a while, then turn north and magically, it is there. Or rather, I am.

I meticulously researched my route and took extremely careful note of the names of a couple of key streets, which I then promptly forgot.

As Bonneville turned into Alta, I figured I was getting close. And man, Alta had some kind of rich-people houses on it. It was glorious to see, just glorious. True Vegas mansions, some from the 60s probably, harkening back to another time.

I got to some road, and it seemed to me that I'd gone too far, and then, for some unknown reason, I turned left. And doubled back.

OK, I know why I turned left and doubled back. It was to try to find out who owned their very own full size railway caboose.

I found myself in a very cool neighborhood full of clowns, kids, and more mansions. A small sign indicted valet parking.

Since when does a neighborhood have valet parking??? And then I saw a couple of people walking a horse along the road.

This had to be some kind of super rich-people mansion kid's birthday party, featuring valet parking, clowns, kids, horses, and probably lots of blow for the MILFs and their sugar daddies. How I wished I was invited.

I pulled the Asshat over to the side of the road, checked Google maps, did a couple more left hand turns and got back onto Alta again. This time, I went far enough and found the road that led to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.

Why was I here?

Since I started coming to Las Vegas 20 years ago, I was awe-struck by its one-of-a-kind atmosphere. And I wanted to know how such a place could come into being.

I learned that Las Vegas is Spanish for The Meadows. Now, meadows seem rather unlikely in the middle of a desert - but Las Vegas had something going for it that early inhabitants, the Southern Paiutes, and later visitors, explorers and traders crossing the desert, found invaluable - springs, delivering precious fresh water, creating a meadow, and a place to rest, drink, and tank up in the Mojave.

The Las Vegas Springs Preserve is the location of one of the key springs that made Las Vegas an early stopping point, and later, a critical source of water for the railway that would wend westward, and finally, the key resource that made early Las Vegas possible.

And I aimed to see it for myself, the place where it all started.

I pulled into the parking lot and prepared to take myself back in time, back to the very beginnings of Las Vegas.

I wended my way through the entrance...
The Springs Preserve turned out to be a pretty serious destination, with mucho dinero having been spent on museum buildings, indoor and outdoor learning attractions, and of course, the grounds themselves.

Let's see how much I learned about the valley geography, history, and such...

Once upon a time, there was the earth's crust. Tectonic forces pushed the crust together, forming the Sierra Nevada mountains, and then pulled apart, forming the Vegas valley basin, and some key cracks. Moisture naturally falls on the mountain ranges where it soaks into the porous rock deep underground. It slowly migrates along under the basin and because of the slope of the basin, there is less rock to hold the water as you move away from the mountains. This causes the water to shoot upwards like a mighty money shot, and form a spring.

There were many springs in the valley, and they tended to form huge domes of earth, sort of like zits on the face of your pubescent paper-boy. These are called, in typical scientifical obfuscation speak, 'spring mounds'. Way to go, poindexters, nobody is going to know what the heck that means.

Not only did the spring sprung on the grounds of the Springs Preserve, it formed something called a cauldron pool. Yes, this was the site of the first ReHab. The pool was swimmable, and sat in a green oasis in the middle of the desert.

As Las Vegas grew, people, in their typical stupid fashion, thought - hey, let's take as much water as we want from underground, its probably never going to run out. They drilled wells like crazy and in fact, some wells, which gushed up to the surface Beverly Hillbilly fashion, weren't even capped. They just let that water gush all over the place and used what they wanted, when they wanted it.

By the mid 1950s, most of the groundwater was gone and the wells were dry. Now, meanwhile, the city of Las Vegas held onto the land around the springs, and put up huge fucking tanks and such, the better to suck the springs dry with. When things petered out, they just kind of left the grounds empty, in the middle of the city. Thank goodness for that.

Then some smart peeps came along and turned all that land into a preserve, so that some tourist mook could write a blog post about it. Not all of what you see is 'the way it was' though - some of the eco-systems in the Preserve are artificially reconstituted, such as the recreated wetlands. Original species of animals and insects are re-establishing themselves on the lands. As far as I can tell, its a huge success. The species think so too.

And with that, I bought my ticket, and headed out into the desert, with my security pint of water.
Proof of purchase, placed prominently on my foot.
First stop, one of the museum buildings where I was greeted with, what else?.... THE WORLD OF CHOCOLATE!!!

What the fuck?

I came to see the start of Las Vegas, get back to the land, find my roots, and I get the World of Fucking Chocolate????
They even scented the air like chocolate, and to add insult to nasal injury, THERE WAS NO FUCKING CHOCOLATE TO BE HAD.

I made a very large mental note to, at the first opportunity, purchase CHOCOLATE.

Then I walked through a recreation of a (chocolateless) Paiute village and learned a lot about how they villaged. Back inside one of the museum/exhibit halls, they had a cool video game where you could pretend to be a bee.
Catch that buzz!
There was a really cool huge stone ball (pipe down, you) that was sort of suspended in a flowing stream of water from below. The whole thing was able to be spun around and was quite spectacular I thought, for a huge stone ball.

The best part of all, was the Mammoth Bubble Party in one of the meeting spaces. I had to delete all my pictures from it, it just can't be shared. You had to be there.

Okay, okay, it was a children's event, in other words, for real babies.
Cool event for the kiddies! Unfortunately, it was over by the time I got there.
And then it was onto the hiking trails of the Preserve. First stop, the spring mound from the spring that sprung the water that made Las Vegas - the Meadows.

I doubled back and headed north to find the place where the pool had been, ground zero, the start of it all.

This was a structure to protect the pool from above. It eventually collapsed on itself, like my bankroll on day 1.

I took a dip (in my mind). And I drank all of the emergency water I'd brought. It was HOT in the desert - who knew!?
Early version of ReHab. Hint - drink first, then swim.
And then, the holy grail, the place I'd wanted to go for years - the source of The Meadows and Las Vegas itself.

I spent the next hour and a half or so walking the trails through the preserve. It was fantastic. What an incredible getaway from the rigors of drinking and gambling. I wondered why it had taken me so long to find this worthwhile historical diversion! I learned a ton of historical facts that I could distort later in a pathetic rambling and erroneous recounting of the history of this magical desert city, and I headed back to my hotel.

Check out my pictorial on the Las Vegas Springs Preserve on the Royal Flusher World site for many, many more pictures and immature observations.

    1 comment:

    1. Did you see how the land sunk after the water was drained?


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