The Valley of Fire

After being derailed with mechanical problems for a few days, the extremely uneventful drive between Mammoth Lakes and Las Vegas was a welcome change. When I say uneventful I mean that there was really nothing of significance in between, and thank goodness there were no further problems either! There were some pretty mountain vistas early on, but I’d been traveling amongst pretty mountains for some time so didn’t feel any urgency to stop. There were a few very small towns, one of which gouged me so badly for gas that I only put enough in the tank to assure my arrival in Vegas where my trusty little “Gas Buddy” app said I could get it much cheaper.

The most memorable tidbit from the drive was along a stretch of Hwy-95 not too far north of Vegas where I glanced out the side window at the vast arid landscape and spotted a US Forest Service sign… but not a single tree. It brought to mind the proverbial “Can’t see the forest for the trees” saying, and I couldn’t help but chuckle as I thought to myself, “In this case, I can’t see the forest OR the trees!”

I had one good reason for a quick stop in Vegas and it had nothing to do with gambling. I’m constantly swapping lenses on my camera and invariably end up with dust on my sensor from time to time. I make a concentrated effort to protect body and lenses during the swap, but a little dust can’t always be avoided, especially when I’m working in a windy location. For whatever reason, several recent efforts at cleaning the sensor only made it worse, so I gave up until I could get it to a professional and made myself crazy cleaning dust spots off my images for a few weeks in the mean time.

I lucked when I found B&C Camera not too far off my route. Their friendly staff had me in-and-out in less than an hour with a perfectly clean sensor.

I squeezed out of town just ahead of rush hour traffic and headed north toward Valley of Fire State Park where I was to meet up with my friend and fellow travel blogger Mike Shubic. The sun set long before I exited I-15 making it a slow trek out the long, windy, unlit road to the park. I learned very early on my journey to plan on arriving at any new destination before dark. This not only makes it much easier to find and settle into a site, but also allows me to get the “lay of the land” so to speak… a feel for who and what is around me.

That’s the plan anyway, but it doesn’t always happen. I knew stopping to get my sensor cleaned would detain me, but in this case it was worth it. That particular night I was fortunate that Mike arrived ahead of me while there was still some daylight. There are two campgrounds in this park. The reservable one was full and the other was first-come-first-serve.

Mike was able to secure our two sites and was there to greet me (and guide me) when I arrived. This was extremely helpful because the place was virtually unlit. Anyone who’s had to back one of these “big-rigs”… on a tight turn… into a narrow campsite… amongst obstacles… in the darkest of dark can attest to the challenge. After unhooking “Zippy” (my tow car), even with Mike there to help, I walked around with a flashlight and got mental picture of the distances and obstacles before backing “The Beast” into my site.

Once settled we decided we were both too hungry and tired from our travels to mess with fixing a gourmet meal and settled on the pre-made Trader Joe’s enchiladas Mike picked up on his way through Vegas. The rest of the evening was focused on catching up on each other’s travel adventures.

A little history might be in order here… Mike and I first met virtually through our blogging, We met in person for the first time very briefly when we realized we were about to cross paths in Kentucky (Through Kentucky to Ohio’s Hocking Hills), and when we found ourselves nearing one another again a month or so later we made a point of reconnecting at a campground on Lake Champlain so we could discover a bit of the northeast corner of New York together. (New York-Lake Champlain, Ausable Chasm…) After two days of sharing boundless positive energy we went our separate ways knowing we’d meet again. And now… months later we were camped again in the same campground… which I had yet to see.

Blah, blah, blah… all these words and still no images! :-)

Shortly after sunrise I opened the door as Mike was walking across the drive toward my rig and handed him a cup of coffee. When I stepped out I was astounded by what I saw. It was so dark when I arrived that I had no idea the campsites were almost completely surrounded by rock walls. I could have been surrounded by barren dessert and I would not have been surprised. Twenty minutes later we set out with the girls to explore a bit on foot.

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Arch Rock campground in Valley of Fire State Park

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A short while later we lucked the dogs in my motorhome and hopped in Mike’s truck to explore more of this tremendous park. We drove out to Rainbow Vista, White Domes and Fire Canyon…

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Mike hiking at White Domes

Mike on the trail at White Domes

Colors and textures in the stone

Colors and textures in the stone

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Tarantula crossing the road

Tarantula crossing the road

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Loved this roadway through Valley of Fire

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Valley of Fire

Fire Canyon

We then headed to Echo Bay on Lake Mead. I think we were both a bit surprised to see very little activity at or near the lake. The area seemed almost deserted other than a few boaters and one couple we visited with who were out seeing the sights like we were.

Lake Mead from Echo Bay

Lake Mead from Echo Bay

The following day I was finally traveling to my long-awaited destination of Zion National Park, but before I left we set out to see a bit more of the park before I departed. As we drove up the road toward the visitors center hoping for a better vantage point for a shot of the distant hills in the early morning light I spotted a pair of Big Horn Sheep. Mike and I both slipped quietly out of the car and slowly circled in opposite directions at a safe distance around them. This kind of wildlife encounter is always a thrill for me.

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Big Horn Sheep, Valley of Fire State Park

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Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Natural Arch

Valley of Fire State Park

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Our last stop was the ancient Indian petroglyphs at Atlatl Rock. The first thing I noticed as we approached was the shadow caused by a rock outcrop… which to me looked like an Indian in some sort of headdress. As I photographed the scene I kept going back to the Indian… who in my mind became a storyteller. Notice the petroglyphs are inside of his head, and coming out of his mouth! I chuckled as I told Mike he must have been one of the first travel bloggers!

Atlatl Rock petroglyphs

Atlatl Rock petroglyphs

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Thirty minutes later I had everything battened down, slides in, jacks up, Zippy hitched and dogs loaded. Mike and I said goodbye knowing that we’d meet-up once again down the road somewhere. I headed up the highway feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. I was finally… after years of waiting… going to experience Zion National Park in person!!

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A few reminders-

My 2014 Journey In Focus Wall Calendars are still available at the pre-print discount pricing until the “discount button” goes away (which will be any day now). Info and purchase link can be found here… 2014 Journey In Focus Calendar- The Best of My Second Year on the Road.

Also, I LOVE hearing from my readers. I really do. It’s part of what keeps me rolling. I get a lot of direct contact (email) which I don’t discourage, but unless there’s a reason to keep it “just between us” I’d love it… I encourage it… I actually benefit by it… when you leave your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of the posts. I try to respond promptly to all who comment there!

And remember that you can subscribe to email notifications so you’ll know when I post something. Although inconsistent for a host of reasons, my post average 4-5 a month at mosts, so you won’t be overwhelmed with an “incoming barrage” of notifications from me, and your contact info will NOT… I repeat NOT be sold by me to anyone, because quite frankly I HATE THAT!

Oh, and did I mention what a great holiday gift my calendar is for any travel and/or photography enthusiast? :-)

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5 thoughts on “The Valley of Fire

  1. Pingback: [Video] Valley of Fire State Park | Valley of Fire in Nevada | Mike's Road Trip

  2. That was such an awesome weekend. So grateful to have spent it with someone who had as much enthusiasm for the beauty as I did. Wonderful recap!

    This is also funny…I too published my “Valley of Fire” post today, along with a video. http://www.mikesroadtrip.com/valley-of-fire

    Looks like we’re both in the San Diego area at the same time now…hope we can hook up. I’m heading out this afternoon for a hot air balloon ride with my sister. Enjoy the wonderful winter weather. :-)

  3. That is an incredible place to shoot– I did a 1998 Ultimate Motor home shoot there in July in a part of the land that was closed due to excessive heat 137 degrees. Most memorable were the “Moon Flowers” that bloomed over night to catch whatever moisture was available.. I will go back some day..TgH

    • Sounds amazing! I had never heard of Moon Flowers! And yes… it was a spectacular place. Not a planned destination for me… just happened to be between me and Zion and looked like a good/interesting stopping point. Loved it!

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