Wednesday, May 14, 2014
At 726-feet tall and 600-feet wide at its base, the Hoover Dam (1935) is the largest structure of its kind in the western hemisphere. Holding back Lake Mead, the water is 130-feet below the top and 80-feet below its normal level because of the western drought. I was amazed at the Lake Powell Dam, but it comes in second place to Hoover. Hoover was constructed in five years during the Great Depression. There is enough concrete in it to make a four-foot-wide sidewalk completely around the equator. After seeing the miracles of our Lord, I feel blessed to also see the miracles of men able to envision controlling nature so that seven states can reap the harvests of this water (literally) in the desert. Our whole nation eats fruits and vegetables from Hoover-watered farmlands. Because of the electricity generated here, both the costs of building and maintenance of Hoover Dam have been paid for many times over, and it is now creating a profit. Jim and I rode back and forth several times over both the dam and the equally incredible bridge over it before going down inside for the internal tour. We did not, however, change our watches each time we passed the center of the dam where Mountain Time is displayed on the Arizona intake tower clock and Pacific Time is displayed on the Nevada intake tower clock. Again, I marvel at the engineering geniuses able to envision the concept of using the Colorado River’s destructive forces for the benefits of society. I admire those 3,500 men from all over our country who worked three eight-hour shifts 363 days a year to build it, including the 96 who died onsite and the 200 who died at home or in hospitals. Their two days off were Christmas and the 4th of July.
Now we are camped at the National Park at Hemenway Harbor on the azure waters of Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake in the world. Overlooking the still, clear waters directly in front of us are Saddle Island, Sentinel Island and Castle Reef; low sand and adobe swells with spotty green junipers. On the north side of the lake, with binoculars, we can see the big-horned desert sheep drinking at the foot of Black Mesa, with its surreal display of multi-hued reds, greys, blacks and browns changing with the sinking sun. There are only two trolling boats, a sailboat and a touring paddleboat visible, but it is a Monday. Were it a weekend, we’ve been told, both the lake and the marina would be packed. Today is a sparkling 84 degrees with a slight cool breeze cooling us as we read in our lounge chairs under the awning. So contented are we with the scenery here that we have opted not to go on the dinner cruise we had booked for this evening.
I feel a futility in describing things now, either because I’ve seen so much indescribable beauty or because it’s made me know the inadequacy of words and photos. Jim and I do feel we made a good decision in realizing how much America has to offer rather than paying plane fares to foreign countries for two-week jaunts. We have tried to hike and linger in the places we travel, rather than driving by and marking off a check list of places to see and things to do, but even at our slow pace, we can only make generalizations and don’t really get to know these beautiful areas. The best “come hither” for America is that the people we talk with in each part of the country have loved it because it is home, and they don’t want to leave it because, according to them, it is the best place in the world.