A WALK IN THE GRAVEL
About halfway up Sawmill Canyon Road, I stopped in the shade of a piñon tree and leaned on my trekking poles to rest. As Peter caught up to me I said, “I know why Jim (Boone) doesn’t list this hike” (on his canonical website, birdandhike.com). “Why?” my husband asked. “Because it’s so stinking unpleasant,” I complained.
To be honest, I used a stronger word than “stinking.” That’s how unpleasant it was. Like walking uphill in cat litter. For five miles. In 90 degrees.
Worse, on our third attempt, we failed to find the supposed Sawmill Spring, which has now attained unicorn or punctual-cable-guy status in our two-person backpacking club. Thanks, Jim.
Still, I love this route for a short getaway, and here’s why: Because, apparently, no one else does. Which means that once we — finally! — got out of the gravel wash and well into the ponderosa pines, we could relax, find a needle-covered flat spot to pitch our tent, and be completely, luxuriously alone.
After taking off our hiking boots, cooling off and eating dinner, we were able to appreciate the multicolored wildflowers all around, the sawmill remnants (“Look! This must have been the outhouse!) strewn among the pines. I leaned against a log and read as the sun set behind John’s Peak. My husband lounged in the tent, lulled by the sounds of forest busy-work. With no neighbor dogs barking through their fences or party-house renters frolicking in their pools, we were asleep by 8 p.m.
And the walk down the wash the following morning was much more pleasant, too. — Heidi Kyser
A TINY PLACE (TO SING) IN CHINATOWN
It’s a Saturday night, around 8:30 p.m. and you want to go out with your friends. You don’t want to go to the Strip — it’s too packed with crazy, drunk tourists who are on party mode for 48 hours. You want to go somewhere low-key. You love to sing, but you will have a panic attack if you sing in front of people, so you check out Space BBQ & Karaoke (702-888-3217), located in Chinatown. You are led to a small private room — if you bring more than four people you’ll probably be struck with claustrophobia. It has a colorful, wool-pleated bench, a flat-screen TV, a small screen from which to pick songs, two black stools, a wooden table to put your strawberry passion fruit boba slush, which you bought across the street, on, and a stuffed shark and a stuffed unicorn decorating the walls. On the small screen, all of the songs are in Japanese, and it takes a moment to figure out how to switch it to English. Once you pick out a song, you come to life. You don’t need to look at the screen to know the throwback 2000 lyrics — you know it by heart. There is no one to give you crap for sounding like a cat that got its tail ripped off. No one is there to laugh at you for dancing like your limbs are made of wood. The soundproof walls don’t disturb the people out in the restaurant, who are eating marinated duck neck while listening to the petite Asian woman wearing a black dress sing angelically. You are free from the judgmental eyes of the world. You and your friends are jamming out to Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, and Akon. You have the carefree spirit of a child, and that pure exuberance is just what you need. Before you know it, it’s 12:02 a.m., and you still grinning even as you approach the bar in the back to pay $100 for three and half hours of karaoke. The wall behind the bar has a neon sign that reads Space. — Desiree Sheck