It’s nice to be back in lush, green Wisconsin after spending several days on vacation in Nevada and Arizona. I had a good time and enjoyed seeing some much different landscapes. Ironically I hit Las Vegas on the hottest days of the season. It was record high territory up around 110 to 112 degrees. At night, the temperature never dropped below 85 while I was there. Oh it was a dry heat, but still overwhelming in my opinion. I could see how you could be in a world of hurt in a hurry if you were trapped out in the hot desert without water or shade.
Besides air conditioning, I found it interesting some of the other coping mechanisms they use. Various spots, where one might spend standing in line waiting outside of buildings, had misters. It definitely cooled it a few degrees in those areas through evaporation and offered some relief. We watched the fountain show outside the Bellagio Hotel. The spraying fountains also had a noticeable cooling effect which made me want to linger there a bit longer. Many of the buildings and homes were white or a light tan color to absorb less of the sun’s heat. And of course there are a lot of swimming pools. Out at Grand Canyon west rim the visitor center had some large permanent shades installed outside to sit under to eat lunch and rest. They were high enough up to allow a decent breeze to blow under as well. I saw a road construction worker with a wet towel stuffed under his hard hat and draped down his neck. That’s pretty clever.
On our bus tour to the Grand Canyon, we drove by Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. The tour guide pointed out that the lake level is about 100 feet below what it used to be. It was interesting to see the color line on the canyon walls to where the water used to be. The calcium in the water had turned the walls white up to the level where the water used to be. It is a sobering thing to think about how many millions of people rely on the water in that lake. I did not realize it was originally built for the people of Los Angels and San Diego. Las Vegas began using it later on.
Seeing the vast miles of sand, rock, and dry barren mountains speckled with scrubby brush and cactus was really something for me. Living in Wisconsin, I guess it’s easy to take for granted lush green trees, grass, and crops everywhere you look. We saw some rough looking cattle out grazing. Apparently it takes about 6 acres out there to support just one cow, since there is so very little nutritional vegetation. I must say we did go by some very beautiful joshua tree stands. It’s pretty cool to think they can live up to 4000 years. They are some tough critters for sure as they survive on just the 3 inches of precipitation the area averages per year.
I saw a few dust devils swirling out in the desert as well, below some weak high based showers that popped up in the afternoons. Seeing the desert firsthand, I’m left with a greater sense of amazement at all the variety of climates this Earth has. I don’t think I would ever feel comfortable living in that area permanently. I suppose that is how hot desert residents would feel coming up to Wisconsin in the winter. They probably can’t understand how we deal with the discomfort and harshness of it for such extended periods of time.
Well maybe my next trip I’ll have to go to northern Alaska or the North Pole to check out a truly polar location. How about you? Have you gone to places where the climate is so different that it changed your perspective on your home or life?
This post was written by Tony Schumacher on August 29, 2011