Sunday, October 5
“You’re welcome, enjoy your day!”
It’s 8:45 am and Julie and I are at work. The work that supposedly ended on the 3rd. This morning the plan was to stop in right at open and pass the store key back to our boss, pick up two yogurt parfait, and then hit the road. We arrived at 8:20 or so, hoping to surprise Jill by getting the store ready to open so she’d be set to go right when she arrived at 8:30, but 8:30 has come and gone and she hasn’t showed up… and the campers were waiting to come in.
As it turns out, Jill, was pretty sick overnight and is running late. Soon enough things are sorted out and Julie and I pick up our breakfasts and are on the road, if a bit later than expected. Next stop: Valley of Fire!
Zion is already getting busy as we pull up to the pay station, at least Cas is small enough that I don’t need to shell out the extra $15 fee to get through the tunnel – just one more point to add to the list of reasons why I love my small RV.
Miraculously, as we’re driving through the park, there is no one at the pull-out for the arch just past the tunnel. I quickly slide in and get a halfway decent shot of Cas inside Zion proper. It’s been a great summer and I’ll miss the red cliffs and cool waters here, but the road is calling and I must go.
I retrace my path I followed to pick Julie up from the airport. Through the town of Hurricane, onto I15 (now fully repaired, yay!) through a corner of Arizona and into Nevada. The turnoff for Valley of Fire is before Las Vegas though, about four hours of driving while towing which is a pretty short drive day for me.
Valley of Fire State Park is surrounded by muddy gray brown cliffs with very sparse vegetation. Even now in October the daytime highs are in the upper 80’s to low 90’s, it’s definitely not the kind of place you want to spend time outdoors in the summer. So what makes this valley in the middle of the desert worth visiting? The geological formations! Down in the valley the muddy cliffs give way to fantastically shaped jutting rocks in a plethora of colors. There’s red, white, gray, yellow, pink, and purple, sometimes all mixed together in the same canyon. It’s a feast for the eyes, and the oldest and largest site in the Nevada State Park system.
And despite how gorgeous it is, it really isn’t a busy park. The entrance fee is $10 per car per day, and the two campgrounds are only $10 a night for a dry site or Atlatl Campground has some at $20 a night if you want electric and water (both campgrounds are first come first served). All sites have a sheltered picnic table and grill, and there are flush toilets and heated showers available at both campgrounds. I pull into Atlatl Campground around 12:30 pm and snag one with electric. Since we’re traveling with a cat, keeping the A/C going while we’re out exploring is very important with daytime temps this warm.
After a record breaking unhitching time (so much to see, so little time!) Julie and I make a stop in the nearby town of Overton for gas and supplies and then it’s back to the park to do some hiking.
First stop is Mouse’s Tank, a 1.4 mile roundtrip hike through a canyon to a natural rock aquifer that holds rainwater long after the clouds have passed. There’s a story behind the name: Mouse was a northern Paiute outlaw who hid out in the park for a season, surviving on the water from the aquifer while evading local authorities. This trail also one of the best places to see petroglyphs in the park, pictures carved into the dark surfaces of the rock by an ancient nomadic people long since lost to time.
The Fire Wave is the geological feature seen on the front of the park map you get at the pay stations at either entrance, and it came highly recommended by both the campground host and by other bloggers who’ve visited Valley of Fire. The hike is maybe a mile and a half across the desert each way and takes a couple hours, but is beautiful. We went in the evening not long before sundown to get the best lighting, and several others had the same idea so there was some waiting to get good shots, but it was still worth it.
This evening, Julie and I are sitting out in our camp chairs and eating supper while a full moon illuminates the red sandstone cliffs around us. The heat of the day has dropped comfortably into the 70’s, the air is calm. It’s a hard life, but someone has to live it.
Monday, October 6
We have until noon to vacate our site, so there’s still some time for hiking!
As far as I can recall, I have never seen petrified wood before, and there’s a small loop trail just across the way from the campground that features several logs of petrified wood.
They look, well, rather like old wood. It isn’t until you peer closer that the grain doesn’t quite look right for wood. These logs are from an ancient pine forest that got washed down into the valley and then covered by silt and buried. Minerals from an ancient lake slowly turned the wood to stone overtime. Pretty cool stuff.
After that’s done, we drive all the way to the end of the road to do the 1 mile White Dome Trail, which winds through a slot canyon and past some of the most colorful rocks in the park. It takes a long time to hike because it’s hard for me to put down my camera.
I would have been happy to spend more time at Valley of Fire, but we’re due in at Lake Mead tonight. On the way back to the campground to hook up we make one last stop at Atlatl Rock, a short climb up a stairs to more petroglyphs. The rock is cemented into place, otherwise erosion would have took it long ago, and I wonder how many other works of art have been lost to time out here.
Phew! It’s been a lot of walking in the sunshine and in the heat, but no one can say I made poor use of my limited time here! Now it’s time to drive to Lake Mead, catch you all there…
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Time to play catchup now that I have internet again! Responses to e-mails and comments will be coming, and posts will be more frequent for the next week or so while I get caught up, and then will resume a more regular pace.
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