Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hiking Las Vegas

Copyright © 2015
By Ralph F. Couey

Granted, most people go to Vegas for one thing.  Okay, maybe two.  But of the millions of visitors that arrive at McCarron International each year, I'm willing to bet that very few of them think about spending their vacation tramping through the desert.  We've been often enough now that we felt we could spend some time outside The Strip and Fremont Street -- way, way out -- wouldn't leave us with the feeling that we misspent our vacation.

We hiked three different days in the Red Rock National Conservation Area, about 18 miles west of Vegas proper.  The weather was uncommonly gorgeous (read: cool) for late May, and while vigorous, the effort of hiking was rewarded with views of the beauty hiding in the desert.

The first day we were there, we hiked the Muffins trail.  This trail is named for a collection of sedimentary rocks that somehow ended up atop Blue Diamond Hill.  It was a tough climb for us, my wife 60 and myself within a few days of that landmark, but after about two hours of taking the wrong trails (the area is strewn with mountain bike trails) and some hard slogging, we finally reached the summit, from where we had a grand view of the Las Vegas valley.

 Our goal.

 And the view.
 On the way down, after all that hard work on the ascent, 
here comes a trail-running young buck who put us to shame.
 Spring, and the cactus blossoms were in full show mode.

 Some of the rocks were of a vibrant red sandstone.


 The second hike was a short jaunt along lost creek 
to a seasonal waterfall.  
For this one, we took with us our daughter 
and two young grandchildren.

Elena, our National Geographic girl.

 The trail dead-ended in a box canyon where the remains of
a seasonal waterfall still trickled down.  If you look carefully
you can see the water droplets sparkling in the sun.

 The third hike was another short one for the kids, up to 
the Keystone Thrust Fault.

 The last full day we were there, we took the hour or so 
drive up north to the Valley of Fire, 
so named for the abundant red sandstone.

 Arch rock.
 For me, this, one of the so-called "Seven Sisters", 
reminded me of that giant space slug that tried to devour 
the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars V.
Whatever else you might think it resembles,
 please keep it to yourself.

 In 1915, a Civil War veteran named Sergeant John J. Clark 
was travelingfrom Bakersfield, California to Salt Lake City, Utah 
when he ran out of water. After a fruitless search,
 he crawled under his buckboard and died of thirst.
He and his horse were found several days later.

The west is never short on awe-inspiring vistas.