The River Mountains Loop Trail: the eastern half - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

December 10, 2020

The River Mountains Loop Trail: the eastern half

Today’s planned ride covers  the eastern half of the River Mountains Trail, the miles we didn’t cover on yesterday’s ride.  In addition, we’ll bike out to Hoover Dam on the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail, repeating the experience we so enjoyed last January.

It’s still quite chilly when we roll our bikes out of our room at a bit after 9.  Our neighbor from the room next door is outside taking a smoke break, and we briefly chat with him before we ride off, answering questions about why we have such odd looking rides.

The eastern half of the River Mountains Loop is quite different than the west, less mountainous and at a lower elevation.  The trail steadily drops a thousand feet from Boulder City over the first six miles, finally leveling off by the western shore of Lake Mead.  From there it curves northward and loosely follows the perimeter of the lake for the next twelve miles before turning west along the Las Vegas Wash.

Quite different from the other side of the loop, but just as fine a riding experience in its own way.  The loop is definitely worth a detour, if not a journey. 

Following the standard game plan, Rocky races off the front as soon as I pull out the camera.
Heart 3 Comment 2
Ron SuchanekRachael's always been shy of the paparazzi. I remember one time she punched Sean Penn in the mouth.
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonTo Ron SuchanekDarn, I was hoping no one would find out about that!
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1 month ago
Creosote is one of the dominant plant species here.
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I’ve never noticed this before, but these little tufted balls are the seed pods of the creosote bush. Cute!
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Bill ShaneyfeltHave you mashed the leaves and sniffed them? A pleasantly unusual aroma that dominates the petrichor after a desert rain.

The wood is considered by some as the densest in the world. I like it for carving tiny things because of its wonderful golden color that is fade resistant and it takes such a fine polish. Unfortunately, if it gets wet before being sealed, the yellow color washes out.
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1 month ago
A rare flat section of the River Mountains Loop Trail, as it parallels Lakeshore Road.
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On the River Mountains Loop Trail.
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Looking across Las Vegas Bay.
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Looking across Las Vegas Bay.
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This section of the trail cuts through low ridges of alluvial deposits.
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Roadside cuts expose deep layers of sand and course gravel.
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Along the River Mountains Loop Trail.
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North of Las Vegas Bay. Looks like a painted desert.
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The terrain gets hillier toward the north end of the loop. Behind our hard-at-work Team Videographer you can see the trail bending to the left as it follows the gap formed by Las Vegas Wash. We’re only two or three miles here from the course of yesterday’s ride.
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Along the River Mountains Loop Trail. One of the delights of the loop is the scenic diversity. This stretch is quite different from anything we saw yesterday.
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On our return ride, we turn off to the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail, the dirt road that follows the right of way of the train line that was built to shuttle supplies from Las Vegas for the building of Hoover Dam.  We rode this short trail to the dam last time we were here, and I’ll refer you to the post from our first tour for more background.  Riding or walking this short trail is an unmissable experience if you’re in the area, in my opinion.  

The trail gets a bit confusing as it nears the dam, offering at least two different routes.  We took the longer and more gradual choice this time (at least as it appeared on the map), and were surprised when it ended at the top of a steep, narrow zigzag ramp that was a challenge to descend.  This ramp ends at the top platform of a huge four floor parking garage, today almost totally empty.  Below that, finally, we come to the level of the access road to the dam.  The other option, at least as we remember it now, was much better.

Biking toward Hoover Dam on the Historic Railroad Trail. An unmissable experience if you’re in the region.
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One of the six tunnels on the Historic Railroad Trail.
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On the Historic Railroad Trail.
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There’s a lot to contemplate here.
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One of the small islets on Lake Mead.
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I don’t like this. I really don’t like this, says Rocky.
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On the roadway across Hoover Dam. Is it a motorcycle? Is it a car? Is it an autocycle? The Polaris Slingshot, a motorized three wheeler that’s hard to classify.
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Bob DistelbergI've seen one of these around town here. Very strange looking, but it does look like it would be fun.
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1 month ago
Bill ShaneyfeltI occasionally see one here as well.
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1 month ago
The new Hoover Dam Bridge, opened in 2010, replaced the narrow top of the dam as the route across the Colorado River for Highway 93.
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Bill ShaneyfeltWhen we lived in Kingman for 2 months back in Nov/Dec '70, we drove across the old bridge every other week getting groceries from the much cheaper 'Vegas stores. All about the same now. Kingman having grown substantially.
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1 month ago
The Bike Friday reflects on Hoover dam. Two masterpieces of engineering, on vastly different scales.
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Leaving the dam, we stick to the pavement rather than the trail, taking the Hoover Dam access road that was once part of Highway 93.  This was unintentional, and not really recommended.  We were trying to avoid climbing back up through the parking garage and up that zigzag ramp.  We managed that, but failed to find our way back to the trail again so we stuck to the pavement for the next five miles before dropping back down to the lake and rejoining the river Mountains Loop.  The road is reasonably  quiet today, but from our previous experience I know it can be an uncomfortable ride at times.

On the map, there are a few places where it seems like you could cross over to the trail from this road.   At one point just above the dam there is a short connecting dirt road, but it’s barricaded by a gate signed stating that public access is forbidden.  We ignored that sign last time, because the traffic was bad enough that we decided to risk some embarrassment.  Today though, with the road so quiet, it seems the wrong choice to me.  I talk Rachael into continuing on the highway with the assurance that there was another, much better access not far ahead.

I’m quite good at making pronouncements with assurance when in fact I have no idea what I’m talking about.  My idea was to take the short spur to a scenic overview (labeled Lake Mead Scenic Overview on the map) and then connect to the trail immediately adjacent to it.  Don’t be fooled though - unless your map is 3-D, it won’t reveal that the trail is immediately adjacent, but 100’ straight down, passing beneath our feet through one of the tunnels.  Definitely a nice view though.

A fine view across Lake Mead, definitely; but a poor spot to access the trail unless you’ve got wings or a very long rope.
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Eventually we arrive at the turnoff to a real access, and drop down to the trail.  A six mile climb back to Boulder City later, we roll up to our room.  The neighbor’s curtain is open, and we’re startled when the smoker from this morning and a second guest immediately rush out and express great relief to see that we’re alive and well.  They tell us the shocking news of the tragic accident that occurred this morning (see the previous post), and have been fearing all day that we had been among the victims.  They had obviously been discussing it a lot - in the background I hear a small child exclaim ‘Thank Heavens’!  Indeed.

The team videographer agonizes over the music selection for today’s ride.
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Bruce LellmanI've always felt it to be cozier when we could have our bikes inside our rooms with us.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanGlad you approve, especially since I took this photo partly to bring you some peace of mind.
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1 month ago

Video sound track: Wonderland, by Spencer Brewer

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Ride stats today: 44 miles, 3,500’; for the tour: 717 miles, 27,200’

Today's ride: 44 miles (71 km)
Total: 715 miles (1,151 km)

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Bob DistelbergThe scenery from yesterday and today is pretty amazing. And you guys have been doing an impressive amount of climbing the last two days.
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1 month ago
Bill StoneYou make me want to go back and pedal the River Mountains loop again!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bob DistelbergWe have been putting in some more climbing lately, but we’ve got a ways to go. We’ve really lost our climbing legs somewhere. It’s hard to believe now that we averaged 4,000 feet per day for a month straight when we biked the French Alps five years ago. Those days are long gone!
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1 month ago