This trip may become several (or more) posts – it was that good, and the photos are that voluminous!
Winter is the best time to visit the southwestern deserts – during the day it’s actually comfortable, 50-60 degrees, the sun is lower in the sky, the light is pretty ‘sweet’ all day long.
In late 2008 i got a ‘bee in my bonnet’ about seeing petroglyphs – I’d seen a few in Joshua Tree, but that just whetted my appetite for more. I’d read about Valley of Fire SP north of Las Vegas, and Red Rock Canyon just west of Vegas… so here we go, hittin’ the road..
I leave SF in the AM, drive like a bat out of hell south thru the central valley, and spend the first night in Mojave CA.
I’ve always enjoyed the drive – California is such a multifaceted place landscape-wise. I leave coastal Ca, drive thru San Jose, Gilroy and then over the hills to the valley, flat as a pancake, very industrial and agricultural. At Bakersfield, you hang a left (Rte 58), and go over the Tehachapi pass, and land in high desert.
When i wake up the next day, the storms i have been running just ahead of seem to be catching up w/ me, sort of.
Great clouds, the batteries in my pentax 6×7 can only stand a few minutes outside the car before they give it up and the SLR mirror refuses to work/locks up.
Very Happy to have an old Yashica-D TLR – no batteries, nothing electronic, it’s 50+ YO, and still works come hell or high water.
I drive to Vegas ( continue on Rte 58 to Barstow, hang a left on Rte 15), get a motel room – a Motel 6 on Dean Martin Drive.. and take a quick dash out to VOF, to scope things out. I am probably one of the few people to ever visit LV and do nothing ‘Vegas’.
VOF is about 45 minutes north of LV, as you take the exit off Rte 15 you come upon a place that only happens in areas where population is sparse, services are limited, but when you do find them?… well, there’s a huge store that has everything you could want or need. I forget the name of the place, but they offer: fireworks (no cell phones or electronic devices allowed in this area, other wise your body parts may end up in orbit!) T-shirts, clothes, boots, anything you’d find in a ‘general store’, a small restaurant, and of course booze and smoke-ables of all kinds. Oh yes, and gas diesel, and oil. It’s run by the local indian tribe, so of course there are lots of native american things for sale, and one armed bandits too. I wandered for nearly an hour, just taking it all in.
VOF was fascinating – this is a landscape equal to Joshua Tree, just doesn’t get the same respect ’cause it’s only a state park.
On the way back to the motel, i took in one of the most awesome skies I have ever seen – the light bounced from the clouds cast an eerie glow on distant mountains, at sunset the undersides of a gnarly storm cloud were lit up, it lasted only a few minutes, but it was the kind of thing roadtrips are about – a unique event that burns into your memory.
Where do all the red rocks come from?
According to to a BLM publication i got, it took 600 million years for this to happen, roughly speaking it goes like this:
600 million years ago, the land that would become RRC was under the ocean, layer upon layer of deposits, and millions of years later, these deposits were pushed up and became rock. Exposure to the elements caused iron bearing minerals to oxidize, and create the red orange and tan hues. A geologist of any stature would call me a rank amateur, and be quite correct.
I spent a bit more time at Valley of Fire than at Red Rock canyon, here’s a quick look at the landscapes at both places:
These first two are Valley of Fire.
More to come…. check in again, sometime soon
Part 2 – the petroglyphs at VOF.