Dehydrated? Know What Color Your Pee Is

Yes, I know… Las Vegas has dry heat.  However, hot is hot, and with dry heat, you can dehydrate faster than you realize.  Dehydration can kill you… So, knowing what color your urine can save your life!


Its summer in Las Vegas. That means it’s going to be hot outside. Real Hot! If you plan to walk the Las Vegas Strip or take a hike in one of our National Parks in this heat, it’s important to know what color your pee is. Seriously.  I’m betting you are wondering why I said that.   Glad you asked…

The color of your urine will tell you (or the rescuers) just how dehydrated you are.  If you didn’t know, Las Vegas is located smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and in the summertime, it gets really hot, really fast.  Not only do we have high heat, but we also have very low humidity levels.  That can mean you can become dehydrated faster than you realize.  Knowing the color of your urine can help you determine your level of hydration.

In other words: Stay Hydrated!

Want to go for a hike?  Hike in the early hours of the day. Dress in layers and wear breathable (cotton) clothing. Take water. Lots of water with you.  Take more water than you think you will need in case you are delayed, trapped, or need to help a fellow hiker who did not prepare for the elements. As well, drink a sports drink to help balance out the electrolytes.  Plus, you need to carry a salty snack with you.

cooling towels for hiking in the desert

Keep Wet, Keep Cool

In the summer, in the canyons or on a tour, I am always carrying several Cooling Towels.  Keep them wet, wrap them around your neck.  As well, don’t be afraid to share with others who may not have been as prepared as you are.  Cooling towels will help keep your body temperature under control. They are cheap and so easy to carry with you.

Water, Water, and More Water

camelbak will keep you wet with water

Carry Water with you. I recommend you get a  Camelbaks/water bladders. It’s like a backpack but filled with water. If you need to use plastic bottles (eek!) don’t forget to carry them out with you when empty.  “Pack out what you pack in” . Take the trash you created with you.  Want some brownie points?? Be a good steward of the lands and pick up some of the trash left by others. It will make you feel good and help keep our parks a little cleaner.

National Park Water Stations

Bottle Filling Stations

On some of the more popular trails in the National Parks, they are installing refill stations.  If your trail or park has one, please use it!  This helps keep the amount of litter down.  I often travel with a refillable water bottle.  It’s become my best friend when riding around town or out walking the trails.  My Favorite Water Bottle is the Thermoflask

Pack Out What You Pack In!

Let me repeat myself.  If you are going to carry disposable bottles of water (and other packaged goods) into the National Parks with you, take them back out with you.  My absolute pet peeve when hiking is finding trash,  or watching others who empty a plastic water bottle and leave it on the trail or in a tree.  Why do that?  Why can’t you use it and take it back out with you??  You brought it in full. You can carry it out empty!

The best part is that now it’s not full, which means it will be smaller when you pack it out compared to when you packed it in. So take it out with you!!  When I see some idiot liter the trails, I just want to bury their lazy ass in the desert!! SO don’t do it!!

So What Color is Your Pee?

So now we get to the reason for this post.  The important part of safe hiking and hydration.  When outside in the heat for any reason;  you need to know your health status. Are you nearing the point of dehydration?  Are you past the safety point?  To know that answer, you need to check the color of your pee. It’s that simple!

How Hydrated Are You?

Image Courtesy of NPS

Health Tip:  If you are feeling the need to drink water, you are already dehydrated and need to stop, get into the shade and drink water. Drink a sports drink to help balance out the lost electrolytes. Enjoy a salty snack and just relax.

Don’t ruin a wonderful trip to the beautiful desert. Don’t make your next stop a trip to the emergency room.  Save a Park Ranger some time and not need to be rescued.  Stay aware, stay healthy, and stay focused.  Know what color your pee is and keep it bright and pure by drinking plenty of water!!

(Originally posted Jul 19, 2019)

Scotty’s Castle Update

Scotty’s Castle, that mysterious structure out in Death Valley National Park, was almost wiped out of existence in a 2015 Flash Flood. Where this part of Death Valley would normally get maybe four inches of rain per year, it had 2.7 inches of rain in less than five hours!


In February, I was able to be part of a small group of people to go out and visit the castle.  To get an update on the recovery and the restoration of the Castle.  This is a short report on what I learned on the tour of the historic landmark.

Scotty’s Castle is Still Here

Scotty's Castle Pool empty

Shortly after the flash floods of 2015 devastated Death Valley and almost ended the existence of this landmark, the National Park Service teamed up with Death Valley Natural History Museum and together, they have worked diligently to clean up, protect, and restore the castle, its belongings, and its surroundings.  This is not a normal project for the National Park Service. But then again, Scotty’s Castle is not your typical attraction for a National park!

Scotty’s Castle was built out in the remote parts of Death Valley in the 1920s and early 1930s. It was never fully completed.  But it had been occupied in one form or another until the 1980’s when it was sold to the National Park Service. The National Park Service took over the tours of the house and grounds and have done so up until the floods.

Working with Death Valley Natural History Association, the National Park Service has been able to go into the castle and see what is all in of the buildings. To see what damage was done by the floodwaters.  To get crews in to clean up some of the outer buildings that had up to four feet of mud inside them and to assess what was salvageable and what was not.

Using public feedback on what else to do with the castle, it was decided to restore the grounds in order to restart the tours inside the castle.  That meant making the grounds look as close to the original settings as they could.  Like in the tours, the year 1936 is the destination. To make the castle look as it did the last time Mr & Mrs. Johson and Death Valley Scotty was there together. Almost anything else that was added to the castle after that has been removed.


Mr. Johnson’s Castle

Unlike my last update tour of the castle, this tour we were not allowed to enter the actual castle. We were kept to the outside. This gave our National Park Ranger/Guide an opportunity to do a different type of tour.  One I had never experienced before in all the Death Valley and Scotty’s Castle tours I have done. And I have done a lot of them!!

She gave us the tour focusing on Mr. Albert Johnson. The wealthy businessman who Death Valley Scotty befriended and who was the actual man who designed and built the castle.   Mr. Johnson had a degree in civil engineering and had placed the castle in a spot that would protect the structure from flooding.  Yes, he planned for a flood to hit Death Valley!

To look at the castle, its structures surrounding the castle, and the recovery and restoration of the castle through the lens of Mr. Johnson, gave the tour a different feel and focus.  It was still entertaining for those who were not really Death valley geeks while giving a couple of the Death Valley geeks like yours truly, on the tour, some well-placed niblets of unique information.

Scottys Castle tour guide

So Why is it Not open?

They originally thought it would be opened back up by 2020. However, that was never set in stone. There were a lot of unknowns.  After acquiring the property, the National Park never was able to get a solid assessment of what was all inside the castle or the other buildings and exactly what was needed to preserve and protect it all. So now that the castle was closed, even the road going to the castle was washed away,  the National Park Service had a rare opportunity to go inside the castle and see exactly what was there and to do an inventory.

When they were first building the castle, the Johnson’s went all over the world to collect pieces of furniture, artwork, and even craftsman to work on the castle.  So now with it closed, the Park Service has been able to go in and actually see what all was there. To see what eighty years of Death Valley weather could do to priceless artifacts. They inventoried everything as they removed them to be stored in a secured, climate-controlled facility.

As they were removing flood debris that included up to four feet of mud in some of the offices and outer buildings, they also knew they had this rare opportunity to get other maintenance issues fixed.  Including problems that existed even before the Park Service took over. A chance to inspect and repair as much as they could without interruption of crowds.


It’s Being Done Right

This is not an easy process or a cheap one.  But it needed to be done.  It also had to be done in the proper way as to not alter too much the historic structures or the landmark itself.

Besides removing the tons of mud, removing all the debris, rebuilding the road, and stabilizing the buildings, they also started to work on making a complete inventory of the castle’s belongings.  Since the castle was without any utilities to protect the inside of the buildings from the Death Valley weather extremes, they need to act fast to catalog all the precious and historic artifacts inside as they were moved to a secure climate-controlled off-site storage location.

With everything else going on, they also had to start to make plans for how to prevent this from happening in the future. Again, without making significant changes to the historical integrity of the grounds.  Not an easy task!

They did and they are continuing to do it. But they are getting closer to the day where they can open it all back up to the public, including the tours!

Welcome to 1936!

The one thing we were told to observe was what wasn’t there.  When they were doing the tours, the tour guides were dressed and they talked as if it were 1936. That was the last year all the principal characters of the castle were there.  Anything added to the castle after that year was ignored by the guide as if it didn’t exist. Well, now the plan is to make it look like it did in 1936 by removing as much as they can of anything added to the grounds after that date.  Making it more realistic.

A Sincere Thank You

For all the grief I give the National Park Services for all the bonehead decisions they make. I need to pause here and give my sincere gratitude and my thankfulness that in this instance, the National Park Service, working with the Death Valley Natural History Association, Is Doing The Right Thing!  They are taking their time and getting it all done and doing it the proper way so that it will serve and preserve the castle for tourists for decades to come.



Look for the new opening dates of the castle to be somewhere between late 2022 or early 2023.


What National Parks are Open Around Las Vegas?

Las Vegas today is more than just a tourist destination. Las Vegas is becoming popular for tourists as a hub.  People like to come here not just for gambling and entertainment, but for further explorations and adventures.  What I mean is that you can come to Las Vegas. Make this your base camp. Then go exploring.

Think about it. You get to come here, stay in a first-rate hotel with all the amenities you could ever want.  Then by day, you get to play trepid explorers. Leaving civilization behind for a couple of hours. In the daylight, you see some of the most wonderful wonders of nature. Go see a different National Park each day.

After a day of exploring, you get to come back to modern civilization. shower off the dirt and spend the night enjoying the sights, sounds, and tastes of what Las Vegas can offer.  After a little rest, get up the next day and do it all over again.

It’s like having the best of two worlds on one vacation!
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However, as with Las Vegas and COVID 19, the National Parks have been on shutdown as well.  As again, like Las Vegas, they are now starting to show signs of reopening as well. With limited options.  Like Las Vegas, each day brings a new opportunity to add a little more to the visitor’s adventure.  Here is an updated list of the National Parks closest to Las Vegas and what’s opening and when.

Lake Mead is Open

What Parks Are Open Around Las Vegas??


Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada: Boulder Entrance Station, Lake Mead Parkway Entrance Station, Lake Mead Boulevard Entrance Station, Northshore Entrance Station, Cottonwood Cove Entrance Station. Annual passes required for the following locations in Arizona: Willow Beach, Temple Bar, Katherine Landing. Parking lots, launch ramps, overlooks, beaches, and picnic areas will reopen. Boats that are slipped at the marinas may leave their slips to recreate. Those within the trailer village or on live-aboard vessels may stay the night

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Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: The main park road and all viewpoints to Rainbow Point, restrooms at Sunset Point, Farview and Rainbow Points are open, and trails within the Bryce Amphitheater area. The park visitor center is open, though the museum and theater remain closed. Mossy Cave area is open, though construction may close some areas temporarily. Entrance fees are being charged. On  June 7 the Sunset Campground reopened to the public for camping by reservation only. The North Campground currently is closed for paving. All lodging and food services also are closed. Effective no later than July 1, hiking of backcountry trails and permits for backcountry camping at sites along these trails will again be permitted—park backcountry trails include the Riggs Spring Loop, the Under-the-Rim Trail, and Under-the-Rim connecting trails. Shuttle service has resumed, with buses running at 15-minute intervals with a limit of 20 riders per shuttle. The Park staff has free masks and hand sanitizer available for passengers, those who ride the shuttles must enter and exit the buses from the rear doors so as to protect shuttle drivers, and bus interior surfaces are disinfected after each hour-long circuit.

  • Fee booths are currently open and collecting fees / inspecting park passes

Death Valley National Park is opening

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park, California/Nevada: Day-use areas along CA Hwy 190 including Zabriskie Point Lookout, Mesquite Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells, and Emigrant Canyon will be reopened including restroom facilities.

Visitors should be prepared that restrooms may be periodically closed for cleaning following CDC guidelines. These are temporary closures and the restrooms will reopen as soon as cleaning is complete each day; this is for the safety of visitors, not their inconvenience.

  • Park Fees Are NOT being collected at this time


Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: The South Rim’s south entrance opens every day from 4 a.m. until 2 p.m for day use with limited commercial services. The entrance will close at 2 p.m. and visitors already inside the park can remain for day use access until sunset. The following areas will be open:

  • Tuweep will be open for day-use access.
  • Day hiking on inner canyon trails and existing backcountry permits for hikers camping overnight will be honored. No new overnight camping permits for the inner canyon will be issued.

Beginning June 5, the following areas be opened:

  • South Rim’s south entrance will be open 24/7, and Mather Campground will open for existing reservations only.
  • The North Rim will be open for day use. The campground is closed for construction until July 1.

Beginning June 14, the park will initiate a phased reopening of Colorado River commercial, noncommercial and administrative trips until further notice.

The park lodges operated by Xanterra are opening on a rolling basis; it started on June 5 with the opening of Maswik Lodge, followed by June 10 opening of El Tovar and Kachina, and the June 15 opening of Bright Angel Lodge and Thunderbird Lodge. Yavapai Lodge, operated by Delaware North, opens Friday, June 12.

The Grand Canyon Railway and the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel will open and the train will run on June 15.  Visit for updated and current information on both the hotel and the train (

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Red Rock National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon  During this reopening phase, the Scenic Drive is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Late exit and overnight permits will not be issued until further notice. Parking is only permitted in parking lots and not along the Scenic Drive. When the parking lots are full and the area hits capacity, the gates will be temporarily closed until the area drops below capacity.

  • Fee booths are currently open and collecting fees / inspecting park passes


Zion National Park

Zion National Park, Utah: Zion Canyon reopened Wednesday, May 13, but without shuttles. Once private vehicles take up all parking spots, the canyon will be closed to traffic until vehicles leave. Zion Lodge opened May 21 with limited services, Watchman Campground is open via reservations at, visitor center closed, climbing, canyoneering, and overnight backpacking are prohibited at this time, and the Angels Landing chain section is closed. The Kolob Canyons area of the park also remains closed.

  • The collection of entrance fees has been temporarily suspended at Zion National Park. This is being done to help limit the exposure of park staff and visitors to COVID-19.


Note: All of this could change at any time, please check each park’s webpage and their social media for updates.



Death Valley Begins to Reopen

Death Valley National Park sign
Death Valley National Park sits in the State of California and is following the guidelines for reopening set by that state. Currently, they are entering into phase 3.1. and that means the limited opening of public facilities.

Death Valley National Park begins to reopen this weekend.  Beginning Friday, June 12th!   Day use areas along CA Hwy 190 including Zabriskie Point Lookout, Mesquite Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells, and Emigrant Canyon will be reopened including restroom facilities.

Visitors should be prepared that restrooms may be periodically closed for cleaning following CDC guidelines. These are temporary closures and the restrooms will reopen as soon as cleaning is complete each day; this is for the safety of visitors, not their inconvenience.

The Furnace Creek Visitor Center is still closed, but the outdoor restroom facilities are open. Backcountry areas and camping remain closed until further notice.

Death Valley National Park is also in the process of launching a direct phone number to answer visitor questions. These calls will be directed to the desk of a live Ranger.
So, what about fuel, stores, lodging, and dining, you ask? The Park has a dedicated page listing what services concessions are being offered. Scroll down the page to Resorts: Fuel and Amenities.

  • No Park Fees are being collected at this time
  • Note: The Ranch at Death Valley should be reopening on the 18th.


(Special Thanks to Death Valley Natural History Association for this update)
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Talking with a Park Ranger About Lake Mead [Video]


With all the recent media talk about the lack of water in Lake Mead, I thought it was time to go talk to someone about Lake Mead and let people know the other side of the story about the big lake we created when we built Hoover Dam.  Why is it there? is it a National Park?  Why was it needing protection and what can tourists do out there?

Just as a reminder, not far from the shining lights of the Las Vegas Strip sits one of the most popular National Recreation Areas in America. Lake Mead National Recreation Area (LMNRA). Lake Mead is the 16th largest manmade lake in the world as well as the first in America to be designated as a recreational area.  It may be a lake, but there is more than just a small puddle of water out there to go see!

LMNRA Public Affairs Officer Christie Vanover agreed to meet with me and talk a little about our famous lake.  It just happened to be a very windy day when we met at Lake Mead Over Look!  What makes Lake Mead special, what does it offer the tourists and just what is it really?  Plus she hinted at what awaits the tourist at the other, newest National Monument in Nevada: Tule Springs Fossil Bed National Monument.

So Lake Mead was created by the plugging up of the Colorado River when we built Hoover Dam.  As the lake filled up, it submerged a lot of “cultural Artifacts” from the construction of the dam.  Trains, equipment, shanty towns where some of the workers lived, cold war spy planes, etc. A popular place for divers!  It’s also a great fishing spot, fun for boating as well as swimming and jet skiing.  But the lake is just a small park of the area.

Lake Mead

The area surrounding Lake Mead was established as the Boulder Dam Recreation Area in 1936. In 1964, the area was expanded to include Lake Mohave and its surrounding area and became the first National Recreation Area to be designated as such by the U.S. Congress.

When people hear the words “Lake Mead”, they think just about the body of water. Not realizing that the actual park is 3 times more land than water.  The area surrounding the actual lake is popular for hiking, camping and wildlife viewing. At the north end, it connects with Valley Fire State Park as well as into the Grand Canyon

Christie Vanover and her bubbly personality, as well as her genuine love for the area, has made her the perfect face for Lake Mead on social media.  She has started to make twitter videos promoting the recreational opportunities within the lake  (Lake Mead on Twitter) Plus her favorite Vegas movie is Con-Air, so I like her!



Links to Tours in Lake Mead