Journey with Raven • Valley of Fire
We got off the plane, hurried to the car rental lot – and as soon as we possibly could – headed out of Las Vegas.
While there are several ways to get to Valley of Fire State Park, the way I like the best is SR 167. Last December we swung by Hoover Dam, so that meant we followed 167 pretty much its entire length. We didn't plan on visiting the dam this time around, so we took SR 147 from North Las Vegas. Either way, the road sets the pace for the rest of the trip: no garish neon, no power lines, few cars, and wonderful scenery.
The reason I like SR 167 is that it starts out mundane enough -- sandy desert with occasional glimpses of Lake Mead -- but gradually the landscape changes from familiar to odd, and eventually, to otherworldly. It isn't too long before you come across gashes of blood-red rock jutting out from scabby ridges of volcanic black rock. Eerie. Fascinating. Wonderful.
As you drive, the gashes and rifts of red rock become more common, and by the time you reach the east entrance of Valley of Fire
Moreover, the wind and water have sculpted the sandstone into bizarre shapes. One hundred fifty million years ago (so the brochure goes) this was an expanse of sand dunes. Over time, the dunes were covered, and some minerals seeped down to
Whether one finds the geology interesting or not, it's incredible to see the artistry 150 million years of time has produced.
At the hill just inside the east entrance of the park is Elephant Rock. The brochure made the hike seem like it was a ways away,
We had only been on the road for an hour, but we were already impatient, so we spent some time exploring the area around the east entrance.
By the way, the east entrance is a beautiful place to watch the sun come up. It is during sunrise and sunset that the rock achieves its most fiery colors, and gives the park its name. When we were here last December, we watched as the landscape went from muted pre-dawn brown, to crimson, and finally to brilliant orange as the sun's first rays caressed the stone.
A mile or so into the park we came to the Seven Sisters, seven ridges of sandstone erupting from the valley floor. As is common with sandstone, long parallel cracks formed over the years,
Many people, I'm told, only see that part of Valley of Fire that lays along the main road, State Route 169. Those people don't know what they're missing! One of the greatest treats
We backtracked to the paved road, and then headed out to White Domes. If Silica Dome represents the stark contrast between fire and ice, The trail through White Domes is what I'd call "Broken Rainbow Trail." Though the landmark is called "White", in reality, the rock here is almost everything but.
Color. Texture. Form. This place is an incredible combination of all of these elements. It's incredible to think that this part of the world has been around for millions of years, and yet it seems so surreal, so other-worldly.
It seems that every time I come here I seem to go through several rolls of film. It's just that kind of place. Around every bend there seems to be something else to see.
Well, enough waxing nostalgic; Valley of Fire is definitely going to be on my itinerary the next time I swing by Las Vegas again. It's a mere sixty miles away (and quite frankly, I much prefer the fire to neon!)
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