Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for February, 2013

Casinos and Ancient Petroglyphs Make an Unusual Combination in Laughlin, Nevada

Colorado Belle CasinoMountains on the river…a spot to relax! On the banks of the beautiful Colorado River at the very southern tip of Nevada sits a lovely little town called Laughlin. Casinos are the main business in town, so many visitors try their luck at the slots or gaming tables. The Colorado Belle Casino, a 600′ replica of a 19th century Mississippi paddle-wheel riverboat, is certain to catch everyone’s attention.  However, gambling isn’t necessary to enjoy a stay in Laughlin.

When Don Laughlin, for whom the town is named, purchased the land in 1964, he opened a small casino, Riverside Resort, which had just twelve slot machines and two gaming tables. On the other side of the river in Arizona, the town of Bullhead City ran shuttle boats to the casinos as the number of them grew in Laughlin. Finally, in 1987 Don Laughlin himself provided the $3.5 million needed to build a bridge to span the river between the towns. Then business really picked up. Today, this little town is a popular gaming destination and family vacation center since it is located on the banks of the river with desert and mountains in view.  The casino strip isn’t very long with ten major casinos, but it has all the glitter of Las Vegas. The actual town of Laughlin is situated on the other side of the mountains, away from the casino activity.

Ramada ExpressA stay at the Ramada Express, now the Tropicana Express, was always a pleasant experience. Express being its name, trains were its theme, having a pool shaped like a locomotive – with a spa in the wheel, and a train that ran around the entire hotel with several stops for less walking. Their patriotic museum honored all veterans from WWII through Desert Storm and regularly showed a four, large screen tribute, “On the Wings of Eagles.”

A stop at the little Colorado River Museum displayed information about the growth of the surrounding area. An evening ride down the Colorado River on the Celebration riverboat became a shimmering experience as the lights of Laughlin casinos reflected off the water. The captain was full of information about the river’s edge and talked a hundred miles an hour.  If riverboats are not to your liking, enjoy the river’s edge on a beautiful boardwalk that is a relaxing stroll day and night.

Debbie Reynolds at RiversideNo stay in a casino town would be complete without heading to at least one show. Debbie Reynolds, a star I admired as a child, was performing at Don Laughlin’s Riverside so decided to see if I could get a ticket.  As luck would have it, they had one seat available, and it was in the front row! Afterwards, I went backstage and got an autograph and picture with Ms Reynolds.

But the Laughlin area was more than casinos.  Accessed by a well maintained dirt road, nearby Spirit Mountain took one on a walk into the past. Petroglyphs on the mountain walls and rocks gave a glimpse into the Indian heritage that ePetroglyphs near Laughlinxisted in this area many years ago.  This remote granite mountain gave one a sense of tranquility, perhaps because the ancestors of the Indians reside there to this day.

Only seven miles west of Laughlin in Christmas Tree Pass, visitors will find over 700 petroglyphs. Estimates on the original time of the glyphs have been placed from 1100-1500 AD at a time when the Mojave Indians roamed this area. While their meaning is not positively known, one possibility is that they tell the Mojave story of how the Colorado River came into existence. This is one of those places where a bottle of water and a sunhat are recommended as temperatures in the summer soar to 120 degrees.

Christmas Tree PassA long desert-mountain walk in the Indian petroglyphs concluded this week’s stay in Laughlin.  Never had I seen so many glyphs in one place, especially at the entrance of the Christmas Tree Pass. Farther up the mountainside, you could see what appeared to be the outline of an old Indian village.  Return trip expected for further exploration!

Laughlin, Nevada can be reached from I-40 taking Exit 141 to 95 North, the Needles Highway, for 23 miles. Turn right onto Bruce Woodbury Drive and after about 3 miles turn right on Casino Drive. Visitors will be greeted by Riverside Resort and the Casino Strip.

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Snow on Aspen Mountain Creates Colorado Rocky Mountain High

ColoradoA “Colorado Rocky Mountain High” surrounds you while driving through spectacular mountains, which  open to the valley where ski resort town, Aspen, is located.  This town was first built during the late 1880”s on one of the richest silver lodes in the Rockies.  Aspen was the leading silver producer in the nation in 1891 accounting for a sixth of the silver output in the United States.  However, their boom was sort lived because in 1893, the US government returned to the gold standard, pulling the plug on the basis for their silver production.

Developing ski slopes seemed a natural, next step in this fantastic mountain region. That first ski lift acquired the name of “Boat Tow”. This very primitive lift, which was constructed partially from old silver mine parts, contained an old motor, two mini hoists, and two 10-person sleds. But that was then, and this is now!

Silver Queen GondolaToday this Rocky Mountain playground of the rich and famous is one of the world’s top ski resorts.  The mountainside aspen forests, which gave the town its name, still grow in abundance. Tourism is now where its treasure can be found. The Silver Queen Gondola gives an all-day ticket for skiers, as well as onlookers, to the top of Aspen Mountain and back down. Ski lifts being my idea of fun, several trips were made during the day.

Beginning SkiersThe ride to the top of 11,212′, about two and a half miles by ski lift, took about fifteen, breathtaking minutes. The gondola held quite a crowd and of course, many were carrying their ski gear along as well. They seemed to frown upon those going along just for the ride, so tried to stay back in a corner out of their way.

Somewhere on this mountainside a shrine has been built to John Denver, composer of “Rocky Mountain High”, which is now one of the two state songs of Colorado. Aspen was one of his favorite places to ski so it seemed natural to gather a collection of photos, posters, records and even wind chimes here on the mountainside at an undisclosed location, known and discovered by only a few.

At the top was a beautiful lodge, Sundeck, with a grand fireplace where you could sit with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the snow fly by the floor-to-ceiling windows.  Watching the skiers go down the trails through glades, bumps and steeps was great fun as well.  These trails were actually named according to their difficulty, for example, starting with the most difficult to the easiest: Sunset, Pussyfoot, One Leaf, and Slow.

Skiing through the snowflakesAt the top, snow started coming down heavily so headed back down one last time before finding a place to stay for the night. Had plans on going on east that evening, but the road had been snowed in for two months so had to backtrack just a bit.  The interstate was getting snow-covered also and the lighted sign across the road said, “Chains required 10 miles ahead.”  This was one of those nights when any motel looked like a great place to stop…no matter the price!

This snowy journey continued the following day as the interstate still called for chains. So I took a quiet, slow, snow-covered back road through the mountains. It was called “Top of the Rockies” at about 10,000′ with the peaks being about 14,000′.  Arrived the next day at the  slopes at Vail Ski Resort, which had 28″ of snow on the ground.  At Vail can be found another paradise for those who enjoy the slopes, and a great museum dedicated to skiers, Colorado Ski Museum and Ski Hall of Fame, where  “Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads”. These slopes fascinated me!

However, if snow is not your passion, come back in the spring for plentiful wildflowers in the alpine meadows. These mountains are beautiful any season of the year.

From I-70 in Colorado, take exit #116 south ,Colorado Highway 82. After about 40 miles, take a right on 7th Street in Aspen, then a left on Main Street.  You will definitely be able to spot the ski slopes!

Hopewell Mound Group’s Mysterious Crop Circle

Extraterrestrial, Paranormal, or Prank? Recently the Hopewell Mound Group near Chillicothe, Ohio  became a hot spot for crop circle investigation. An unusual sight of an intricately designed crop circle was noticed from an airplane flying over the area.  Therefore, this gypsy decided it was a great time to take a road trip to learn more about the mounds, as well as the crop circle.

Hopewell Mounds Visitors' CenterHopewell Culture National Historic Park’s Visitors’ Center provides an excellent short film giving possible history and reasons for the mounds being constructed in this area.  Located in the  beautiful Scioto River Valley, easily accessible water for daily use, as well as transportation, was of great importance to that early culture.

Hopewell MoundsThese historic mounds were the ceremonial center of the Hopewell culture from 200 BC – 500 AD. A stretch of land along the North Fork of Paint Creek contains the most striking total set of Hopewell culture remains in Ohio. This enormous legacy of geometric landmarks was created by unknown inhabitants prior to the time of the American Indians living on this land. Their name actually comes from Confederate General Mordecai Hopewell, who owned the land when the mounds were first discovered back in 1840. No one actually knows what name those original builders called themselves.

Interesting similarities, shared by the five mound groups in the Hopewell Culture, make them part of a larger picture.  Each field usually has a small circle, a larger circle and a square. Each square is 27 acres and the larger circle would fit perfectly within the square. The large circles all have the same diameter and encompass 20 acres. Many of these appear to have been laid out for their astrological significance.

Hopewell Mound 25The main section is often called the “Great Enclosure”, a six foot high, rough, rectangular, earthen enclosure measuring approximately 2800′ X 1800′. Mound 25 is located within this area and was the site of early excavations in the 1800’s. This treasure trove contained shells from the Gulf Coast, copper from Lake Superior region, and obsidian from Wyoming.  It appears that when the ceremonial life of a site was finished, they built a mound much like we would put up a headstone or monument.

Hopewell Crop CirclesThe recently sighted Crop Circle seems to be located very near this enclosure, but on the other side of the treeline, in the old channel of the North Fork of Paint Creek riverbed.  Since it is on adjoining property and under study, access is not permitted at this time. Circles were first seen from an airplane on September 20, 2012 as the pilot was headed toward the Serpent Mounds. This forty-three circle pattern in standing corn is not visible from any nearby road.   Some thought this pattern resembled a “reversible electric motor” and felt it appropriate to have been drawn near high tension power lines, which are located about 330 yards away. Was there a message intended?

Hopewell Mound Group MapThis map of the Hopewell Culture Group shows its boundaries as well as the location near the upper right hand side of Mound 25. From all information received, the crop circle appeared to the right of the Mound 25 circle and across the tree line. When explored by the Independent Crop Circle Researchers’ Association,  it was determined that the cornstalks were smoothly bent in many swirled and intricate patterns at heights from 2 inches to 4 feet. No footprints were found or any evidence of stepping on plants.

One significant difference came in comparison testing of the length of growth nodes in the crop circle vs those in the untouched field. Those in the circle were elongated, an unhoaxable effect, producing accelerated growth. These effects are often brought about by high levels of radiation.

Hopewell Hiking TrailTook a relaxing walk around the entire Hopewell Mound Group using their hiking trail, which was rather muddy and slippery in spots, and ending on the Bike Trail. Felt accompanied on that walk by someone from that long ago time. Believe I passed close to the spot where the Crop Circle was located from all the clues given, but could see nothing from the ground view.

When asked about the Crop Circle at the Visitors’  Center, the answer was  “there is no tangible evidence”, but they reminded visitors that Hopewell Culture is a very spiritual place.  Guess everyone will have to reach their own conclusion. The mysteries persist! Any ideas?

Actually, this is not an easy spot to find as it’s located in the middle of south-central Ohio without any nearby interstate access.  The Hopewell Mound City Group Visitors’ Center is located at 16062  SR 104, about 1.5 miles north of US 35 just outside Chillicothe, Ohio.  The Visitors’ Center is the best place to start your tour and they have maps available for each mound group. Rangers on hand are very helpful in giving driving directions. If anyone knows the location of Crop Circle University, please respond.

Impressive Zion National Park “Treasure of the Gods”

Springdale, UtahBeautiful, Beautiful Zion  The town of Springdale, Utah rests in the shadows of Zion National Park where massive sandstone cliffs soar into the blue skies. Early Mormon settlers called these majestic stone canyons the “Natural Temples of God”.  Mormon influence can still be felt throughout the park as they named several of the rock formations.

Zion TheaterA great place to begin the day is to stop at Zion Canyon Theater and watch Treasure of the Gods, an IMAX film. Here you receive a great overview of the park and can then select some of those places you really must visit.  The film gives spectacular views of the canyon from an airplane flying over, as well as going deep within. Spectators feel they are actually viewing the canyon seated in that plane. Much centers around the Indian legacy from the 1500’s, as you experience the myth and magic of the canyon. Ancient native people called this rugged landscape home, for centuries.

There are two scenic drives here: the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and the Zion Mount Carmel Highway. This trip we are exploring along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which is a favorite route. In fact, it is so popular that now during the summer months, this road into the park is closed to regular traffic, making access to the park’s scenic beauties available only through shuttle bus service from April 1 – October 31. However, during the winter months vehicle traffic is permitted making it much more fun to explore at your leisure.The Zion Mount Carmel Highway is open to traffic all through the year.

Three PatriarchsThe Three Patriarchs are a trio of very similar mountain peaks called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  All of them are nearly 7000′ high so can be seen from many different parts of the park.  One of the shuttle’s first stops has a path that leads up a short incline for easy viewing.  The Emerald Pool is nearby and has several small waterfalls that add to the beauty of the surroundings.

The NarrowsCliffs on both sides of the road are a half mile high and end at the beautiful Temple of Sinawava, home of the Paiute Indians’ coyote spirit. Here the Virgin River travels a narrow path between the mammoth rocks. This is the perfect time to park your car, or get off the shuttle, and walk along the riverbank. This two-mile round trip Riverside Walk meanders all the way to the end of the trail, The Narrows.  To continue, you must wade, walk or sometimes swim in the river. Peeking through at the end of The Narrows you can catch a glimpse of the Temple of Sinawava.

Weeping WallAnother steep path leads to Weeping Rock where a veil of spring water seeps through the sandstone wall making it appear that the rock is crying. The steps culminate at a large eroded area with slippery floor from the tears and growing moss. Often there are hanging flowers enjoying a drink from the rocks as well. A gentle trickle of water flows through the rocks in the fall, but in the winter icicles often form. A guide remarked that this water should be quite pure as it is filtered through the sandstone rocks from the rim of the canyon on an incredible journey that takes from one thousand to four thousand years.

Great White ThroneThe Great White Throne, a highlight of Zion National Park, seems to glow in the evening light as it overlooks much of Zion Canyon. It stands out easily, even in the daytime, with a beautiful red rock background. Made of white Navajo Sandstone, the top appears glowing white while the base is red. This received its name from the Mormons, who felt this area represented the New Jerusalem, and called it The Great White Throne, a name appearing in Revelations as the seat of God for the last judgment.

Spending the evening in a small motel in Springdale was also quite a treat as it was necessary to patiently wait in the car for the elk to decide to move out of your way. They were very friendly and not the least bit afraid of cars or people. The elk enjoyed rubbing their antlers on the trees in the parking lot…and sometimes attempted using the parked cars.  This was one of those times when you could easily “reach out and touch someone’…an elk if you dared!

To visit Zion National Park from the North on I-15, exit on Hwy 20. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction where you will meet SR-9, which is the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway and is always open to vehicle traffic. 

From the South on I-15, exit 16 will take you through Hurricane and LaVerkin. Again you will take SR-9 to the entrance of Zion National Park.

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