BLUE DIAMOND, Nev. — The Nevada landscape offers such a fetching and beguiling contrast. You can wake up in the morning in one of the casino hotels and survey the sunrise glistening off the desert rock and cactus and the concrete mass that is Las Vegas; swoon to the verdant inner-city acreage, with a handsome waterfall, that is the Wynn Golf Club — all of which brings about a rock, sand and green medley that overwhelms.
You can take excursions that stir the imagination and lift the spirits — options from helicoptering to a sit-down by the Colorado River on the floor of the Grand Canyon. Haven’t been there and done that, but is it ever something to think about?
You can take the scenic tour out into Red Rock Canyon where a museum video and brochure explain the stunning mountains of the area date back 600 million years and once was covered by the sea.
It is fascinating to photograph the red-and-orange rock formations which have come about as a result of the oxidation of minerals over millions of years. You also may spot a red-tailed hawk in a Joshua tree, a desert bighorn sheep along the sandstone bluffs and can easily see how the spines of the cholla cactus keep one and all at arms-length.
This western neighborhood is home to coyote, gray fox, bobcat and mountain lion; California jackrabbits, kangaroo rat, the poisonous Gila monster, the desert tortoise — which has been around for 3 million years — three kinds of rattlesnakes and the ubiquitous burros which remain controversial. One reference suggests that “… their population must be controlled because they damage food and water sources for native animals.”
While many who sojourn to the casino haven that is Las Vegas never move from the slot machines and the gaming tables — unless they think it might change their luck — the fun of Las Vegas is to dally into the aforementioned and to visit the Hoover Dam, the engineering marvel of the Great Depression era.
The photo-ops, even for an amateur shutterbug, are splendidly inspiring. You know that what you see there in the panoramic offering will always be embedded in your mind’s eye, but it will be nice to call up those inspiring scenes on your iPhone while you are idling by an indolent fire on a cozy winter evening or when relaxing on an April afternoon with the jonquils, azaleas and dogwoods reminding you that life can be enriching and enchanting.
I love being a tourist. Since I am not a scientist with allotted time to delve deeply into a subject, I hold deep affection for those who have researched and ferreted out details, connecting with the heart and soul of a bountiful landscape, and allows one to become the beneficiary of tourist cliff notes.
It sure trumps the synthetic, the artificial and the faux and the counterfeit to which so many are afflicted. I prefer the rush of nature’s remarkable offerings over the rush that comes with the roll of the dice that has jackpot potential. Lest the gamblers forget, the best of nature has no downside and no risk unless you are a one-legged mountain climber.
When it is time to take a break, there is no better place than the Coffee Cup in downtown Boulder City, whose origin came about when the federal government built expansive dormitories to house the dam builders.
At this delightful restaurant which is a curious throwback to the past, you can order the best hamburger, a soft drink or a beer, and delight in a mix of clientele which poignantly reflects modern-day Americana — an amalgamation of accents, race, dress and hairstyles.
This is where the burros come down out of the hills to a watering hole and free hay. You are constantly warned not to feed the wild horses and burros. Violators can be fined as much as $500.
At nearby Cottonwood Station, which the Internet identifies as ghost town, locals have posted a different sign with regard to the problematic burros. Its message is akin to what most of us feel about Congress these days, “Leave our asses alone.”