Friday, December 27, 2013

Valley of Fire State Park, NV

Valley of Fire State Park is only a couple of miles from the north entrance of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  We took Brandon to this park when he was here at the end of October, but we return because it's such an amazingly beautiful place to explore and has since become one of our top favourite all-time southwest destinations.

A candy cane dryfall. A little off the White Dome trail, we climbed some rocks and found this rainbow of rock! What the heck?
Near the end of the White Dome trail, down in a canyon that ends in a very steep, long crevice. This photo should freak out my sisters!
An area I'll call Painted Rock (or perhaps Rainbow Rock), but which has no specific trail or designation. Accessed from Parking Lot 3, hiking about 1/4 mile down towards Wash 5. This photo taken by climbing up the ridge adjacent to Painted Rock. Looks like someone spilled some paint!
A different side view of Painted Rock.
Brad on Painted Rock. It's not a huge area, but big enough to be breathtaking.
More candy stripe rocks in Wash #3.
A Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) who joined us for lunch.
Erosion at work.
Brad taking a photo along a strangely eroded "dragon's backbone".
How does sand layer in such colours and become stone? Valley of Fire is filled with such scenes.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lake Mead National Recreation Area - still, NV

Well, we obviously like Lake Mead, because we're still here.

Redstone is an area of very red rock in the middle of the park. Similar to the Bowl of Fire which is nearby, it is a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours hiking and picnicing.
Marilyn on the hiking trail at Redstone, climbing among the nooks and crannies of this ultra-porous sandstone.
Another view of the redstone with volcanic cliffs behind and the ever-present deep blue sky.
Rogers Spring is an oasis in the desert. It is a large, warm spring measuring 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28C) the day we are here (average is around 80F year-round). There are two different types of palm trees growing here - date palms and a type of fan palm. Many fish make this pool home, as well as several soft-shell turtles, which I've only ever seen in Florida! I guess they don't know they're living in a desert!
Brad taking the "plunge". The spring exits the rocks from a hole under the water at this point.
Brad enjoying the warm water. Of course, the air is only about 55F (12C). Guess you'll be in there a while, eh Brad?
The soft-shelled turtle - we saw one large turtle and a couple of small ones, perhaps a family?
Our (free) campsite at Stewart's Point in the Lake Mead NRA is spectacular with super views of the lake. Fishermen come to the local beaches daily, although we see very few other RVers.
Our campsite at Stewart's Point. Full moon rising at sunset and a crackling fire makes for a beautiful end to the day.
Local open range cows enjoying a drink from "our beach" at sunset.
An American icon we sited not far from our trailer. He (or one of his cousins) flew by our trailer on the following day.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lake Mead National Recreation Area - still, NV

Still hanging out at Lake Mead, hiking and enjoying the mostly sunny, warm weather.  It's amazing how many things there are to do and see half an hour outside of Las Vegas, but don't tell all those gamblers because we don't want them to crowd these natural beauties!

The Northshore Summit trail takes us up 200 feet for a view of the Bowl of Fire, an area of red rock surrounded by the Muddy Mountains, Bitter Spring Valley and the Virgin Basin.
Brad, Bowl of Fire and Muddy Mountains behind him.
A long hike down Callville Wash through red clay and sandstone brings us, finally, to Callville Bay. Total distance hiked today - 7.4 miles! MILES!
Brad at a 3-foot dryfall in the wash.
A view of the red clay mounds with very colourful mountains behind them. Notice the peaks of different colours.
White gypsum that has been left on the red sand from evaporated water. Gypsum and selenite crystals are very common in this area.
Brad's after-lunch nap on the beach at Callville Bay, where fishermen and water birds are trying their luck and skill.
We find some great free camping with views of Lake Mead. The NRA campgrounds ($10/night with no hookups) and privately-owned RV parks ($30-$45/night with full hookups) don't have these views.
Grady gets to enjoy the view of Las Vegas Bay and the lake all day long.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV

Just west of Las Vegas, we spend a day at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.  Even though it's the Monday after the US Thanksgiving weekend, this park is still super crowded making parking spots at the overlooks hard to find.  Another visitor tells us that the park had to be closed on the long weekend due to over-crowding!  But it is a beautiful location set in the foothills of the Spring Mountains above Las Vegas, with red sandstone formations very popular with rock climbers and the most distinguishable fault in North America, the Keystone Fault.  We use the day to circumnavigate the 13-mile loop scenic drive, thinking we'll scout areas of interest for a longer visit next year since the park's higher elevation makes it too cold to camp at now.

The red sandstone cliffs called the Calico Hills. Turtlehead Peak, the limestone mountains in the background, seem to frame the red rock. These grey cliffs lie on the Keystone Fault - you'd have to look closely to see the uplift in the mountain on the left.
Marilyn at the Calico Hills. Visitors can scamper around these rocks, down to the wash 100-200 feet below. (Hey! My hair's the same colour as the rock!)
Climbers on the Calico Hills. The park boasts more than 2,000 climbing routes making it one of the top five climbing destinations in the US.
View of the Calico Hills area from High Point Overlook. The fog in the background is dust particles suspended in the air and trapped in the bowl where Las Vegas sits. It is actually brown when not viewed through the camera lens making it look more like smog than dust.