Red Rock flames lick the edges of the older dolomite hills.
Arches and holes near the walk-in tent sites.
A red rock hand forms the "okay" sign.
Chaos resulting from cosmic clashes.
One of the Beehives
A glance across 350 million years of
Geological look back across time.
View across the valley.
RIbbon of road near the Seven Sisters formation.
Snaking road near the east entrance.
The CCC Cabins built in 1935.
Cozy fireplace inside a cabin.
What a view out the window!
Great views here too, plus running water and a fridge!
Dime store photo booth!
A thin desert scrub flourishes.
Holding hands at Mouse's Tank.
Another group of four plus two sheep.
How many toes?
People, shapes, fat animals with short horns,
thin ones with long horns. What does it all say?
Fire Canyon / Silica Dome: red and white sandstone
reaches back to dolomite seabed rock.
Pink and white stripes burst apart.
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.
center has some
one describes in
detail how a
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
from other sights.
Maybe it's just my
love of travel, but
my favorite aspect
of this park is the
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
think the two non-humans might be shamans or ghostly spirits
from another world, perhaps leading the two humans towards
bush growing out of a
crevice. It looked like a
bouquet of flowers
hung on the wall.
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
glimpse of 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.