Valley of Fire, NV – A Cauldron Cooled

Valley of Fire State Park, Las Vegas, Nevada

Red Rock flames lick the edges of the older dolomite hills.

Arches in Atlatl Campground, Valley of Fire State Park

Arches and holes near the walk-in tent sites.

Scorpion petroglyph on the Atlatl Rock panel

Scorpion petroglyph.

Arch Rock at Valley of Fire State Park

A red rock hand forms the "okay" sign.

Red rock chaos

Chaos resulting from cosmic clashes.

The Beehives at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

One of the Beehives

The Beehives at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Elephant Rock

Red rock sandstone and dolomite mountains

A glance across 350 million years of

geological evolution.

Dolomite mountains from an ancient seabed floor

Geological look back across time.

Petrified log at Valley of Fire State Park

Petrified log.

Valley of Fire Scenic Drive

View across the valley.

Seven Sisters formation at Valley of Fire

RIbbon of road near the Seven Sisters formation.

Valley of Fire Scenic Drive

Snaking road near the east entrance.

The Cabins built by the CCC in 1935

The CCC Cabins built in 1935.

Fireplace inside one of the cabins

Cozy fireplace inside a cabin.

View out the window of one of the cabins

What a view out the window!

View out our RV window

Great views here too, plus running water and a fridge!

Dime store photo booth!

Red rock canyon walls at Petroglyph Canyon / Mouse's Tank

A thin desert scrub flourishes.

Petroglyph rock art, people holding hands

Holding hands at Mouse's Tank.

Petroglyph rock art, people holding hands and two big horn sheep

Another group of four plus two sheep.

Nature's bouquet.

Petroglyph rock art, footprints

How many toes?

Petroglyph rock art at Atlatl Rock panel

People, shapes, fat animals with short horns,

thin ones with long horns.  What does it all say?

Fire Canyon / Silica Dome overlook, Valley of Fire State Park

Fire Canyon / Silica Dome: red and white sandstone

reaches back to dolomite seabed rock.

Fire Canyon / Silica Dome overlook, Valley of Fire State Park Pink and white sandstone

Pink and white stripes burst apart.

Scenic Road to White Dome hiking trail.

Scenic Road to White Dome hiking trail.

Valley of Fire, Nevada (2)

Late September-Early Oct, 2009 - Just as Interbike

ended, Las Vegas was engulfed by a ferocious heat

wave.  We escaped up I-15 to Cedar City, Utah.

Creeping back down again a few days later when the

temps had receded, we made our way to Valley of

Fire.  We had visited this gorgeous state park two

years earlier and loved it so much we wanted to

return for more.  Born from the dark fossilized

organic remains of an ancient sea bed, the area is

dominated today by flaming orange petrified sand

dunes, making the whole park appear as if red rock

embers burn against charred hillsides.

There are red rocks everywhere you turn.  Even in the campground, where

walk-in tent campers can tuck themselves deep into the crevices of these

fantastic formations, we couldn't stop our cameras from clicking.

The face of Atlatl Rock bears a

huge panel of petroglyph rock

art placed so high up in the air

you have to climb several

stories' worth of stairs to get to

it.  I had seen it two years ago,

but wanted to check it out

again.  The foggy plexiglas

protecting much of the rock art

had thankfully been replaced.

So this time, along with the big

horn sheep, people, footprints

and shapes I recognized from

before, I also saw a scorpion.

Around the corner is Arch Rock, which looks to me a little like an enormous

hand making the "okay" sign with thumb and forefinger.

The visitors

center has some


displays, and

one describes in

detail how a

warm sea

covered most of

Nevada and parts of Utah off-and-on for 400 million years beginning

about 550 million years ago.  On the last retreat of this sea, sand began

to blow in from nearby ridges, creating huge, shifting sand dunes.

These dunes were stained red by

underground mineral-rich streams

and then, under their own weight,

compressed into rock.  Wow!  I

know I had learned all this over at

Red Rock Canyon last week, but

I still found it hard to fathom.

Over time, the tectonic plates

clashed, as the one supporting

the West Coast tried to sneak

under the one supporting the rest

of the country.  The solid dark

seabed and bright orange

sandstone were thrust about,

creating the chaotic shapes

of the park today.  Some shapes are random, but others seem to

have been created with a specific image in mind.

Coming in from the

east, you look across

350 million years of

time, from the young

200 million-year-old red

rocks to the ancient

dark dolomite of the

seabed floor that has

been thrust upwards by

violent eruptions from

the earth's core.

The park even has two areas

with petrified wood logs.

They are fenced off, so they

are a little awkward to see,

but they are definitely logs

that are wood no longer.  It is

hard to imagine the geological changes that have happened over the

vast reaches of time, as there isn't a tree anywhere in the park or in

this part of the world for many miles.  Amazingly, these logs were from

large trees.  The theory is that they floated in on the sea.

We had to scramble up a

gravel slope to see one

of the logs.  Once

up on the precipice,

we looked back

towards the valley

where the road

brought visitors

from other sights.

Maybe it's just my

love of travel, but

my favorite aspect

of this park is the

two beautifully

maintained roads

that run through it.

Both roads sweep through dramatic

turns, climbing and diving through hilly

terrain.  They run along expansive,

scruffy valleys, dodge between jagged

red walls, and loop through pink and

white domes of sandstone.

The Seven Sisters is a series of seven

towering orange monoliths that simply

refuse to fit into a single photograph,

so I contented myself with capturing

the silky road that slips past nearby.

Back in 1935, the CCC built three tiny

adjoining stone cabins.  Used by park

workers as they built the park (it was the first

Nevada state park and opened in 1936), the cabins

were later used by park visitors.  Each cabin is just a

single 9'x9' room, barely large enough for a small

bed and chair, but the setting is to die for.

There is a small door and window in each room, and a

tiny fireplace too.  It must have been incredibly rustic

accommodations for those early tourists, complete with

uneven stone floors, but it sure put them right in the

heart of the Valley of Fire experience.

What a view to wake up to -- but how did they make

their coffee??  There was no mention of how those

tourists got their meals or even how they got water.

There was a plaque, however, that described how in

1915 a soldier who had survived the Civil War fifty years

earlier perished under the shade of his open-air horse-

drawn buggy because he couldn't find water.  The Colorado River, now the dwindling Lake

Mead, is just a few minutes away by car, but less than 100 years ago this exquisite land cost

that sergeant his life.

Besides the enticing roads and views, the campground is my other

favorite feature of the Valley of Fire.  We had inspiring images of red

rocks out every window.

One morning I woke up with a bright idea -- let's get a photo of us

with the buggy in this very cool place!  I quickly set up the tripod,

trying to ignore Mark's groans about the idea.  Kids were climbing all

over the rocks around us, still in their pajamas and bare feet,

shouting to each other as they played hide-and-seek.  Their bleary-

eyed parents were stumbling about their campsites, coffee cups in

hand, as the aroma of frying bacon quickly filled the air.  It felt a little

funny, in the midst of all this action, to be taking pictures of

ourselves as if we were in a dime store photo booth.  But ya gotta

have something for mom's Christmas card!

The major sight we had missed in our

previous visit was the hike through

Petroglyph Canyon to Mouse's Tank.

Mouse was an outlaw Paiute Indian

who found a large rock bowl that

would fill with many gallons of water

when it rained.  Deeply recessed at

the far back of a canyon, this gave him

a great place to hide out.  As we

walked into the canyon, trudging

through soft sand, the rock walls

towered on either side with very

sparse sprinklings of vegetation.

The petroglyphs aren't marked.  Instead it is left

as an exercise for the hiker to find them.  Most

are 10-20 feet up in the air.  At least two show

groups of four individuals holding hands.

In these groups,

two people look

human and two

don't.  The

scientific experts

think the two non-humans might be shamans or ghostly spirits

from another world, perhaps leading the two humans towards

the afterlife.

Mark spotted

a flowering

bush growing out of a

crevice.  It looked like a

bouquet of flowers

hung on the wall.

Other petroglyphs

showed images of

hands and feet.

Looking closely, I

noticed that in one pair of feet, the right one had just four toes.  I've seen

this missing digit theme in other rock art.  Why did they do that?  Even if

the people who pecked these pictures out of the rock lived 4,000 years

ago, they knew how to count.  They never drew animals with three or

five legs.  "Maybe they just ran out of room," Mark suggested.  Or

maybe it wasn't meant to be a human footprint.

Who knows!  I really love this odd, other-wordly graffiti.  I just wish there was

an accurate petroglyph-English dictionary so we could know what it all means.

Recent rock scratches from our own culture nearby looked amateurish in


Out in Fire Canyon

- Silica Dome we

got another

glimpse of the

sandstone set

against the



Evidence of sea creatures has been found in the distant dark rock.

Here, in this canyon, some sandstone was evenly striped but had

been broken apart by tectonic crushes and uplifts.

We took our time on the scenic drives, stopping frequently to

scramble up the sandstone walls where we tried to gather the

dramatic scenes into a single photograph.  The pinks and reds and

oranges sometimes looked as if they were sliding downhill,

perched on a perilous slope.

After a few days, we got blown out of the Valley of Fire by a huge

windstorm that swept all the dust for miles around into enormous,

billowing clouds.  The campground was sandblasted for hours on end.

Shaking the dust out of our hair and wiping it out of our eyes and off

our cheeks, we slammed the doors of the truck and tore out of there

as fast as we could.  A thick wall of dust swirled around the back of the

trailer behind us as we drove off.  Onward, southbound, to Laughlin,

Nevada, where we could escape to the climate-controlled indoors until

the wind died down.




























































































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