Deserts are known for their minimal water, fiery temperatures and vast open spaces. Most people believe they are best seen while travelling at 70 plus miles per hour on a modern freeway with the air conditioning cranked up high. It’s unfortunate.
Deserts can be places of rare beauty. Mountains and rock formations burst into riotous colors at sunrise and sunset. Spring rains bring carpets of wildflowers. Even the open spaces have a unique appeal. At times you feel you can see forever.
Deserts also have a fascinating story to tell. Ancient petroglyphs whisper of human occupation dating back thousands of years. Geology is up front and personal– what you see is what you get. And plants and animals demonstrate the amazing ability of nature to adapt, and even thrive, under extreme conditions.
Over the next three weeks I’ll be blogging about three desert areas that Peggy and I recently visited: the Valley of Fire, Red Rock Canyon and Death Valley. All three are an easy day trip outside of Las Vegas, Nevada and all three are definitely worth a visit. Spring and fall are the best times to go.
First up: Valley of Fire.
Located 58 miles northeast of Las Vegas off of I-15, the Valley of Fire’s main attraction is erosion-carved red sandstone that owes its existence to massive sand dunes that covered the region some 150 million years ago, back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth.
The first ‘tourists’ to visit the area were the Anasazi, who apparently dropped in on a regular basis between 300 BC and 1150 AD. Limited water discouraged permanent settlement but they left behind numerous petroglyphs, which I will feature in another blog.
Hollywood, too, has discovered the Valley of Fire. Portions of several movies have been filmed in the area including Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Star Trek Generations, where Captain Kirk fell to his death– until he was reborn as a slightly pudgy spokesperson for Priceline. “Beam me up, Scotty.”
The Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest state park. The best way to experience it (beyond going there) is through photos. Enjoy.
Next blog: More great scenery from the Valley of Fire State Park.