How curious it is that a city of so much excess flourishes in a place of such sparseness. Just outside the borders of that city, the constant flow gives way to the oppressive stillness of the desert. The traveler encounters the sudden silence as if striking a wall. Who dreamed up that city? The brightness of its lights and sequins gives no time for the thoughtful to reflect on its inner ruin. She is like the craggy-skinned old woman who dresses her face with makeup that hides her age from no one-- not even herself. But daily, we do not tell her it is hopeless. She is content thinking that we do not know. Even the insides of those huge casinos, cities in themselves, give one the illusion of being outside. The ceilings are painted blue with white puffy clouds. Storm clouds gather over the fountain where Zeus perpetually raises his thunderbolt. Nothing here is real. It is the motion of the cities visitors revolving around the static inhabitants that powers the city. Those inhabitants paint their faces like clowns and dress in costume every day. They are slaves and prisoners, captured by roving caravans of slave traders that have brought them into that city to perform. They are gladiators.
So, I was happy to escape that place of constant movement for the slower, more quiet life of Boulder City, on the banks of Lake Mead. Our campsite looked directly out onto the lake. Though it looked close, the lake was some miles off. The perspective in the desert is not to be trusted. A slight wind was blowing up from the lake and the sunset erupted the lake into deep reds and oranges. The reddish mountains create a Martian-like landscape, and even though some of the country looks harsh and unforgiving, the life-giving waters of Lake Mead encourage the growth of a multitude of trees and flowering plants that one does not find within the borders of the desert. Waterfowl swam placidly on the lake and their was an abundance of crows. Even though there seemed to be few types of birds, the capacity of the crow to mimic other calls made it seem that a variety of birds were hidden in the bushes, just beyond view. Boulder City, too, is a quaint, slow-moving town. Its downtown area is reminiscent of those California seaside towns like Carmel-by-the-Sea and Cambria. Its clean, cobblestone streets provided an excellent escape for those who were ready to escape the mindless entertainment provided by nearby Las Vegas. The presence of trees reduced the blistering heat and businesses closed early so the shopkeepers could return home to their families.
Though Lake Mead is beautiful and calming, rumors abounded that the lake was losing water levels due to the excesses of Las Vegas, and the presence of drought. Many marinas that had once enjoyed a huge influx of travelers had had to close down due to the falling water levels. However, high snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas provided a much-needed reprieve. Still, the once-bustling resort town of Echo Bay had very nearly joined the group of Nevada ghost towns like Rhyolite. There, the hotel had been closed indefinitely. In the summer season before the shutdown, the hotel had only received two guests. I felt a kind of sadness for the death of this town, left to the care of a woman and her husband and less than ten caretakers.