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Day 168 – Nevada 93, May 14, 2011

I awoke about 30 minutes before I heard the Reveille sounding at the nearby Air Force base signaling the 6 am wake up call.  It briefly reminded me of summer camp – my only experience with a bugle call.  After a morning of errands including a doctor’s visit (see Thought of the Day), a stop at the Verizon store to address problems with my air card, and a stop at Camper World to address a propane tank challenge, we finally visited Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to the west of Las Vegas.  I used to wonder why anyone would want to live in Las Vegas, but aside from the gambling and shows, the area does offer some fine scenery and recreational areas.

A 13-mile, one-way horseshoe loop leads visitors past stunning sandstone cliffs to countless turnouts and an assortment of hiking trails from easy to strenuous.  Having been in sub-65 degree weather for most of the last six months, I chose the moderate ¾ of a mile Lost Creek – Children’s Discovery Trail to navigate in the beating, yet in my opinion welcome, sun.  Petey, on the other hand, would have welcomed the shade.

The rocky trail wound past different plant life to a seasonal waterfall.  Lizards

drip, drip

scampered across our path as we skipped over the rocks where we met two guys who said the waterfall isn’t far away.  Oh, I thought to myself, I figured it would be dry by mid-May.  With my hopes set high, we turned the corner, ducked under some boulders to a shaded area where I heard some water trickling.  I turned a circle before I noticed the waterfall.  It will probably be dry tomorrow – not quite Yosemite!

In addition to the display of hues in the sandstone cliffs, patches of orange and yellow wildflowers sometimes interspersed with purple, pink, and white blooms bedecked the desert floor presenting a kaleidoscope of colors.  While I enjoyed the landscape, the highlight was to spot four bighorn sheep.  I had been keeping my eyes peeled for the cliff side dwellers on several of my recent drives.  I was so delighted to see them, and I have to thank fellow tourists for gawking out the car window, I may have missed them again.  They sure blend into the environment!

The thought of returning to the Wal-Mart parking lot in the late afternoon sun was simply unappealing, so I directed VANilla to the northeastern suburbs of Las Vegas where we visited the Valley of Fire State Park.  As we entered the park, the landscape was somewhat dull – small hills covered in sage brush.  What have I done, I thought?  That sure was a long drive to end the day in this park.  A few miles later, basically a valley of fire stood before me.  Rust colored sandstone peaks tinted with streaks cream and tan peppered the area.

Since the $10 entry fee was somewhat steep for the short period of time I planned to be there, I asked the park attendant for the “can’t miss” highlights.  He suggested White Domes.  VANilla climbed the 8-mile winding road until we reached the parking area, where Petey and I trudged along a very sandy 1.25 mile loop trail.  The path led us around numerous multihued rock formations and past a stone wall that appeared to be rather old.  The ruin was actually built in 1965 for the movie “The Professionals”.  According to the sign, over 45 commercial photo shoots take place in the park every year.  A few other noteworthy movies that have been filmed at the park are “Electric Horseman” and “Star Trek Generations”.

Upon finishing up our hike at a snail’s pace, we made a few more stops at attractions we had passed as we hurried to White Domes – Rainbow Vista, Mouse’s Tank, and Beehives.

Rainbow Vista’s name says it all.  An overlook allows visitors to gaze into the valley outlined with a rock rainbow.  An artist would need 64 shades of earth tones to paint the view.

Mouse’s Tank was named for a renegade who used the area as a hideout in the 1890’s.  The tank is a natural basin in the rock that collects rainwater that sometimes remains for months in the dry climate.  Personally, I didn’t find the stagnant pool of water that fascinating, but the petrogplyphs carved into the rocks lining the trail were spectacular – some of the most well-preserved I’ve seen on my six month, 30,000 mile journey.

Another interesting sight on the trail was one particular wildflower.  The seed pods looked like popcorn and felt somewhat like paper mache.  Some of the pods concealed a dark purple flower which reflected a violet tint on the outer casing.  I’ve never seen anything like it, and Petey still hasn’t.  He was still huffing and puffing from our last jaunt, so I let him rest in VANilla.

Our final stop before leaving the park was at the beehives, also aptly named.  Over the years, the wind, rain, heat and cold shaped a large sand deposit into rocks that look like beehives.

We returned to North Las Vegas to spend another night in the Wal-Mart parking lot to take advantage of cell phone and air card service.  I plan on visiting Hoover Dam in the morning before making my way toward the Grand Canyon.  ETB

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