Thanks to everybody who made suggestions for my trip. I had a blast.
I was in Vegas with my husband, who went for the snowboard/ski industry trade show. We stayed at the Luxor. He went to the trade show all day Monday. I went to Red Rocks and the Valley of Fire. He went to the trade show all day Tuesday. I went to the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort. We saw Tom Jones perform Tuesday night. And Wednesday my husband ditched the trade show and went to Red Rocks with me.
I never used to like the desert. But I think living in southern Cali has given me an appreciation for the ugly brown mountains. (I was used to the beautiful green mountains of Washington.) But going to Red Rocks and the Valley of Fire really made me love the desert.
Red Rocks is the most incredible place (above). Except for the Valley of Fire, which is even more amazing (below).
Red Rocks is about half an hour west of the Vegas strip. There’s a scenic drive you follow, which is about 13 miles long, with places to stop and hike.
There’s little Joshua trees everywhere, many of which were in a fire years ago, so they’re all black and charred. They’re starting to come back from it, though (below).
The different colors in the rocks at Red Rocks is really striking.
In the picture below, you can see two rock climbers. Gives you a sense of the scale.
A few of the hiking trails have ancient petroglyphs and petrographs on the rocks. No one knows for sure what they mean or what they were for. It makes sense to me that they’re some sort of sign about the area—”water sources here,” “good hunting grounds,” etc.
When my husband and I were hiking up around one area, the trail was very narrow at times, with big flat stones forming stairs to climb up. At one point I turned from taking a picture, and all I could see was a gigantic rock right in my way—a couple feet taller than I. I said, “We’re supposed to climb this thing?!” and my husband pointed to my right, where the trail obviously continued—around the rock, complete with a fence rail and everything. We haven’t stopped laughing about that for days now.
At one point we saw a fox, sunning himself on a rock. His eyes were squinted, and he looked like he was luxuriating in the heat of the sun.
Red Rocks is really an amazing place:
But the Valley of Fire is even more so. It’s about an hour drive from Vegas, to the Northeast. The street leading out to it is a narrow winding road. It’s so worth the trip. It’s a big National Park that includes Lake Mead, with campgrounds. You can camp right in the middle of these giant red stones:
The colors and shapes are just stunning.
There’s a hiking trail there with petroglyphs that is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. It’s in a small crevice with giant rocks on either side.
The rocks have all kinds of crevices and holes in them, some large enough to crawl into. The area used to be a hideout for a trouble-making Indian. You can just imagine him living there, hanging out by all these rocks.
About the Old Mormon Fort in Las Vegas—the first permanent settlers in the valley were LDS missionaries. I went to the fort, expecting to be greeted by missionaries, but it’s a state park, and not church-ran, as far as I could tell. There’s an old adobe building and parts of the fort still standing. Not much to look at but I found it interesting.
I want to thank those who suggested I visit the Valley of Fire, I don’t think I would’ve heard about it otherwise. It’s one of those rare places on earth that I feel an almost spiritual connection to.
I feel like I discovered a new part of myself there. I can’t wait to go back. And I never thought I’d say that of Vegas!