08 May 2008

Leaving Las Vegas

I am a firm believer that birthdays are special days and should be all about the person whose birthday it is and what they want to do. I used to stretch it out to a Birthweek or a Birthmonth, but GLH has put his foot down about special treatment for more than a day.

And sometimes he starts glancing at his watch in order to determine how much more Special Birthday Consideration he is required to give me.

But I digress...

So when it is my birthday, it is all about me!

By the time my birthday rolled around on Saturday I had gotten tired of the whole Casino Scene and determined there would be minimal casino time spent that day.

It had to be minimal instead of non-existent because it is actually impossible to stay in Las Vegas and not have to at least pass through a casino. Heck, the gas stations and pharmacies had slot machines in them. Even at the airport there are rows of slot machines ready to go any time of the day or night. You literally cannot get away from the gambling!

So to have minimal casino time I decided we would actually leave Las Vegas for the day, returning in the evening for my Special Birthday Dinner at Alizé, described in the previous blog post.

We briefly discussed driving to the Grand Canyon, but it is a 3-4 hour drive and we had both seen it before. So we settled on a couple of places closer to Las Vegas itself.

We began at Red Rock Canyon, a mere 20 miles west of the Las Vegas strip. But a whole different world all it's own. I kept expecting Roy Rogers or John Wayne to come over one of the hills on a horse. (Please note the Joshua Tree in the foreground, which many have heard of because of the album by U2.)

The red sandstone was formed during the age of the dinosaurs over 150 million years ago when the area was an enormous, ever-shifting sand dune. As the sands shifted, the bottom layers were compressed into rock and were gradually built up over time. As the land came together at fault lines, parts were pushed up to form the multi-colored layers of sandstone you see today. The red is caused by the iron in the sand rusting with time.

You can hike, bike, climb or ride a horse through the canyon. We chose to drive along the scenic route. 'Cause it's the desert and it's darn hot and sunny. (Have I ever mentioned I'm not a fan of hot and sunny?) But we were very glad to have seen it!

We next crossed back through Las Vegas via the interstate and drove 50 miles east of the Las Vegas Strip to the Valley of Fire National Park.

Whoa! This one blew us away. Unfortunately, my photos cannot do justice to the vast, sweeping landscape that makes you feel as if you have landed on Mars or some other planet which does not look anything like Earth!

Made in the same manner as the Red Rock Canyon, but here the fault lines created a much more dramatic landscape.

The pre-historic people who lived in what is now known as Nevada considered the Valley of Fire (named because of the red sandstone, of course) to be Sacred Ground. You can still see the many petroglyphs they created throughout the park, even though their occupation of the area ended about 1150 AD. Here's a petroglyph of a fish:

What was perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of this National Park is how close it was to millions of visitors to Las Vegas, but it was practically empty. Look at our rental car, sitting alone in one of the of the parking lots with a fantastic overlook.

If you come to Las Vegas, do not fail to come here! It could even have been done in a quick trip of 3 hours or less. Take a break from the Flashy Lights of Las Vegas and go see something truly amazing!

While driving through the Valley of Fire area we repeatedly saw small statues such as the ones pictured above. They were everywhere, some more elaborate than others. They look kind of like little people. We have no idea what they signify? Anyone else know?


Greg said...

Those statues were probably cairns marking a path.

Global Librarian said...

You are probably right.

Although I have to admit I was hoping for some kind of an interesting, spiritual significance that traces its roots back to the prehistoric people who once lived here.

Practicality wins again. Sigh.

Danie said...

Hi! I just came across your blog. I'm a Canadian expat in India. In Canada, we know these as Inukshuks.

When we were in Egypt a few weeks ago, I saw someone make an Inukshuk and take a photo of it with the pyramids in the background.

Danie said...

PS...Happy Birthday :)

Anonymous said...

These creations are scattered alongside the roads adjacent to lava fields in Hawaii. High school types build them there. They also paint stones white and place them in patterns as a form of grafitti on the jet black lava. I wish people could enjoy the view without building this c**p!

TC said...

Generally hikers will leave piles of rocks to designate where a trail is in effort to reduce the number of people wandering off trail and essentially ruining the wildlife. It is in keeping with the principles in "Leave No Trace." In South Korea, however, a person will stack rocks/stones/pebbles as they pray to ease the path their prayers must take to get to heaven.