Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valley of Fire Expedition

Valley of Fire ( ) is Nevada's largest and oldest state park, having been dedicated for that purpose since 1935. It gets it name from the fact that when the desert sun is reflecting on the colored bluffs, they often appear to be on fire.

It is known for its striking red sandstone formations, against the stark beauty of the Mojave Desert.

The great thing about this park is that it is open every day (except December 25), all year round! Even though outdoor activities in the park are most enjoyable during the cooler months of the year, driving through the beauty of its majestic landscape can be enjoyed comfortably even on the hottest days of summer (provided your vehicle has air conditioning!)

The park has a beautifully designed visitor's center that blends in harmoniously with the tall red sandstone cliff behind it. At the visitor's center, you will find extensive informational displays, videos, restrooms, and a well-stocked gift shop.

Not surprisingly, photography is a very popular activity in the park. Often, a tourist will find man made "props" at a tourist destination, that they can put their head through for a photograph. However, this red sandstone photo "prop" has been made naturally by erosion of the soft rock, and can be found adjacent to the parking lot of the visitor center.

There are some well-marked nature trails adjacent to the visitor center, and help explain the fact that Valley of Fire State Park was voted as the "Best Park/Nature Area" in southern Nevada, by Nevada Magazine.

Sandstone is the official "State Rock" of Nevada, and its prevalence and beauty make it easy to understand why.

The erosion of the sandstone, which occurs at a faster rate than many other types of rock in the landscape, can make for some very interesting configurations, that even Fred Flintstone would find fascinating!

In well traveled areas, such as this dry creek bed that has been turned into a hiking trail, the erosion and constant foot traffic has ground the sandstone down into a fine reddish, pink powdery sand.

The trail I am on in this photograph is called "The Mouse's Tank", and has a colorful history going back over a century.

Before I visited Valley of Fire, my mind would conjure up images of Utah's Arches National Park, whenever I heard the phrase "rock arch". However, Valley of Fire has them as well, so now I can add their images to my memory bank!

Valley of Fire State Park also has numerous petroglyphs spread across many of its bluff faces. These were done by ancient humans thousands of years ago. A petroglyph is created by removing part of a rock surface by carving it away. Then additional carving is done to represent a message that the carver wanted to convey. These petroglyphs were easily visible from the Mouse's Tank hiking trail, and reminded me of how little children hold hands in a line to play "Red Rover"!

Because of its soft, crumbly composition, sandstone is not generally a good place to do technical rock climbing. However, the many cracks, holes, and inclines make "bouldering" a fun activity for anyone who wants to explore the terrain on their hands and knees (which is exactly what these folks are doing!). Serious technical climbers can inquire at the visitor center to find out areas in the park that would be more suitable for their sport.

Our group shouted out for this climber to give us the "Victory Salute" from her perch high above us.

Later, that same climber was seen shouting out the "Victory Salute" instructions to her friend who had climbed to the very summit of the rock formation. She is shown in this picture, taking his photo on top of the mountain. Our group was fortunate to get to visit on a day where there was not a cloud anywhere, and the white appearance of the full moon was all that one could see in the sky above us.

As our group was driving through the park, we spotted a big horn sheep grazing beside the highway. The desert big horn sheep is the official "State Animal" of Nevada.

I was beginning to think that this was a specimen of the state animal that had been placed along the highway by a taxidermist, because of the way it did not run away when our vehicle stopped so that we could all get a photograph! However, I finally saw a muscle twitch, so I decided it really was alive; perhaps the animal is desensitized to the steady stream of vehicles beside its grazing ground!

This lovely vehicle from Lewis Stages ( ) was the mode of transportation I used for the four days of traveling I did in Southern Nevada. Its large, clean windows made taking the scenic drive through Valley of Fire extremely comfortable and enjoyable. Our driver, named Oscar, saw to it that our viewing areas were spotless, which is what you want, when you are doing a "Windshield Tour" on what was voted "best scenic drive" in southern Nevada by readers of Nevada Magazine!

Nevada holds the title of "Most Mountainous State" in the 48 contiguous states of the USA. When I found that out, I realized that even though my boots are worn and dusty, Scripture promises that "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news..." ( Isaiah 52:7 ) So put on YOUR hiking boots, and explore all that there is to see in the great outdoors, all within an hour of the famous Las Vegas, Nevada! To learn more, log on to . Miles of smiles! Tricia

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