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Friday, April 29, 2016

Target Practice, Anyone?

Toward the end of our drive through the Spring Mountains, we pulled off to eat our lunch.     As usual, I needed to walk around to see what I could find.

The shell casings   (is that the correct term???)  below grabbed my attention right away.

A couple feet away, I found these.     Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

A few more feet and I found this collection...........

Followed by a fairly new pair of jeans.................     At this point I'm looking around to be sure there are no other people in sight - especially anyone with a weapon.       Did the owner of these jeans run so fast they fell off him???

Let's play it safe and go back to flowers - enough drama!

Look at the number of buds on this plant.     Fantastic.

Don't know if I'm late or early for these blooms....

Fairwell to the Spring Mountains - except as a distant view from Vegas!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Spring Mountains Drive

The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is just a half hour from our rental condo in Las Vegas.      Just before this area we explored Mt. Charleston with it's ski lifts and a few residential areas as well as the Nuwuvi Seven Stones and the Cold War Memorials.

Between the desert and the mountains, we have spring blooms for several months.

The Joshua Trees are done blooming, but are still beautiful to see.

I never tire of these cactus blooms.     I'm always looking for the most prolific bloomers.

What's your favorite color of desert bloom?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Silent Heroes of the Cold War

The cold war was not only the longest war in American history, it also posed the greatest danger  our country and the world ever faced.      That America emerged victorious was due largely in part to those who worked in secret.

The inspiration for this National Memorial started November 17, 1955 when USAF 9068, a military   aircraft, took off from Burbank, CA bound for the Nevada base known as Area 51.     It carried a crew assigned to test a new spy plane, the U-2.  The aircraft crashed on Mt Charleston outside Las Vegas during a blizzard. The full story of the fourteen men aboard and the men who died attempting a rescue remained classified for over 40 years.

Steve Ririe was inspired after he discovered the debris while hiking on Mt Charleston in 1998 and wondered who had died in the wreckage.     After following a trail of records from the military and CIA, he sought and obtained a declassified investigation report that launched his odyssey to find the families of the men who were killed.    He got the government to declassify more documents about the crash and secret mission they were on so that he could share that information with the families who had been kept totally in the dark for 45 years.

In August 2001 he hiked to the crash site with family members of the deceased and with permission of the U.S. Forest Service, recovered the propeller of the plane.     The propeller blades were bent as they plowed through a snow-covered ridge atop Mt. Charleston.

The USAF 9068 Memorial flanks the Silent Heroes of the Cold War National Memorial.

The Memorial's are for those who worked at Area 51, the CIA, the former Nevada Test Site (now called the Nevada National Security Site) and elsewhere in the nation's nuclear weapons complex.

"It is for the people who kept the nuclear missiles in the silos and kept the Cold War from going hot" Ririe said.

The formal dedication was on May 29th, 2015.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Nuwuvi Seven Stones

We recently visited the Spring Mountains just outside Las Vegas.  

One unique area at the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway is the Seven Stones Plaza that celebrates indigenous people - seven Southern Paiute tribes known collectively as Nuwuvi   (meaning the people).      This spot celebrates their long standing ancestral relationship with their creation place in these mountains.

The plaza's center stone (above) represents Nuvagantu, which is a point in the Spring Mountains landscape.  

The seven stones surrounding the center stone symbolize each southern Paiute tribe.     The meandering rainwater channels depict the rivers and trails on the landscape and reinforce the never-ending connections between each tribe and the center of the world (or center stone).

There is also a small and very beautiful amphitheater.      

According to tribal elders, Nuwuvi have been a part of this landscape since the beginning of time.

I'll have more pictures of this area and the mountains in the days to come.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ethel M's Chocolates

Ethel M's Chocolates is a Vegas favorite on the strip, but most people don't realize that there is an Ethel M's Chocolate Factory and 4-acre Cactus Garden a couple miles away.   Both ventures are open daily to the public and are free.  

The factory tour is disappointing, at best, but you do get  a couple pieces of very good chocolate to sample.      The interesting thing you go away with, however, is what this lady did for the world of chocolate.      A very good hint is her last name - Mars.     Yes, Ethel M's small venture evolved to produce not only dozens of varieties of superb chocolates, but also some of the world's more famous candies:    M&M's, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, Snickers and Mars Bars.

The M&M's in their shop remind me of Jelly Belly's - every flavor under the sun.    I sampled Strawberry Shortcake  (in a yummy pink coating).     The flavor was spot on.      Unfortunately, we hadn't brought a cooler and we were not heading back to the condo for a few hours.     Remember, it's 88 degrees today.     To hot to leave chocolate in the car, even M&M's!     I may have to head back before we leave.......

I checked out their website to find they sell something like 25 colors of M&M's, but I didn't find anything about the flavored ones.     Perhaps they are experiments ?

The gardens are in the early stages of full bloom.     It's much later this year than last.    Mary Ann says it's almost 2 months behind last year.     Another reason to return.......

These are called Purple Pancake Cactus.       I would say it's well named.

It was fun spending a couple hours with Mary Ann and Gene.     We are both in camera club back home and enjoy getting together a couple times during the winter months out here.

Over 300 species of plants can be found on the grounds. Half are cacti and succulents largely native to the American Southwest, and the rest are desert trees and shrubs from the Southwestern United States, Australia, and South America. All of these plants were chosen both for the beauty of their floral displays and their ability to adapt to the climate of Southern Nevada. The types of rock used are Utah Bali Hai chocolate and Arizona moss rock (from the Grand Canyon region).

There's only two blooms right now, but I'm told in a good year the entire plant will be covered.

My favorite flowering plant was this one.    It really stood out in the garden.

RJ volunteered to give the height some perspective by standing next to it.    (Yes, he's carrying my handbag again)      Imagine how beautiful this will be when the blooms open all the way to the top.

I think another visit is in the offing - chocolate and more flowers are calling..................