“I used to have nightmares about it. In my mind, the water would come up in a wave." ~ Verna Heller
I never intended this blog on life post series to have the phrase, "things to do in Vegas besides gamble" in the title, but it just sort of worked its way in. Contrary to popular belief, there's more to life than gambling, drinking and driving fancy cars around. If that's your thing though, more power to you. As long as it brings you great joy and happiness!
For the outdoorsy type, hiking Lake Mead can bring your senses back to center. There are numerous trails to choose from, but on this particular day I kept it simple and chose the St. Thomas trail. An abandoned ghost town near Las Vegas, St. Thomas was once a community of 500 people, until they were forced to leave in the 1930's, due to the construction of the Hoover Dam and the rising flood waters from the Colorado River. To learn more about the origins of this settlement, click on the link provided here: Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
When thinking about things to do at Lake Mead, the St. Thomas trail should be on your list. The hike is a two mile loop, with the opportunity to extend it a bit further down to the Muddy River via an unmaintained horse trail. The trail begins with a descent downwards, to where a thriving community once lived. My first impression of seeing the haunted landscape, was of old tree stumps still anchored into the former lake bed. As you make your way further along the trail, you'll eventually enter the beginnings of the town. A post apocalyptic view of tree lined streets awaits you, as concrete structures become visible. Along the way, keep your eyes open for broken glass and other remnants of a period loss to the theory of "doing it for the greater good!" Where have we heard that term used before? I digress!!
It was hard to decipher whether the broken glass I was finding was from then or now, so I speculated that the rounded and washed pieces were from the former town and the jagged and clear pieces were from teenagers just finding a place to release. If you kept your eyes open, you could make your way off the trail and find some rusted pieces of objects that were once of substance to something. I think my most memorable find, was a piece of a broken plate tucked between the sage brush by the once elegant Gentry Hotel. Along with that, I was able to find some glass shards and crumbled brick pieces. All were neatly placed amongst a shrine towards the back of the former hotel.
My favorite memory of the exploration, was a photograph that I took sitting upon the steps of the St. Thomas School. An old shot of the students from 1912, depicted an image that I was playing out 110 years later. Oddly enough I could feel their presence, as Valley of Fire state park loomed in the distance. Where does the time go? Nearby I noticed an unmaintained trail, which had been used by horses and what seemed like ATV vehicle's in the past. I decided to follow my senses and it would lead me down to the Muddy river, which was once used as a water source by the tight-knit community.
Once back on the trail, I continued my exploration of the St. Thomas ghost town near Vegas. I'd pass a few more structures including the aforementioned Gentry Hotel, the Gentry General Store and the Gentry house. All of them sitting broken and ruined, frozen in time. These foundations and concrete formations all re-appeared, as the water levels in Lake Mead rapidly receded over the on-coming years. In 1945, 1963, and 2012 reunions of former residents and family members took place.
If you're looking to do things outside of Las Vegas, add the St. Thomas trail to your itinerary along with a visit to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. You may just surprise yourself in finding that what happens in Vegas (or just outside of Vegas), you'll actually want to share.
To peep the first part of this series, click my blog post entitled Lake Mead Echo Bay: HERE
To peep the second part of this series, click my blog post entitled Hiking Valley of Fire: HERE
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