We spent the weekend between Christmas and New Years visiting Valley of Fire State Park, located near Las Vegas. While the East Coast was bombarded with snow and freezing temperatures, we explored a red rock wonderland beneath pleasant blue skies. The purpose of this little getaway was to celebrate our 12th anniversary. I have always sort of regretted getting married on Dec. 30 because it is hard to fit in an extra thing to celebrate during the holidays and the weather usually is lousy. Now that we live in Nevada, we have a perfect winter destination only 4 hours away.
We stayed in Henderson to save money so the drive to the park was a little over an hour from our hotel. It was a scenic drive through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area to get to Valley of Fire. We got little glimpses of the lake and I really wanted to check it out, but we were already short on time and visiting the state park was our priority. As it was, we ended up hiking fewer miles than I had planned, due to a late start and the shorter daylight hours of winter.
Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park (and I would venture to say the most visited.) We loved walking among the red sandstone formations, but we definitely did not have the place to ourselves. I expected the crowds as it was a holiday weekend, the weather was in the 60’s and it was near a large city, but it still took away from the experience. The parking lots and trails were crowded and I yearned to experience this awesome landscape with a bit more solitude, but that is probably rarely an option here.
The Mouse’s Tank trail took us through a little canyon surrounded by red sandstone walls. It was short and mostly flat so we decided to leave our backpack full of water in the car and just head out. However, it took us longer than we expected since the trail surface was composed of soft sand, requiring a bit more effort. I sure was glad we weren’t walking it during the heat of summer.
The canyon was pretty full of people, which was not much fun, but seeing where groups of people congregated made it easy to spot the many petroglyphs along the way.
It was late afternoon by the time we hiked the Fire Wave trail. The winter sun, low in the sky, reflected off the red rocks, making them ablaze with color. In every direction we were surrounded by glowing, rich red sandstone in an array of shapes and designs. The sight was pretty awe- inspiring. It was evident how the park got its name.
We walked a couple yards off the busy trail to take the family picture below. Matt was busy preparing the camera while I was acting as a place holder for the picture. After a couple minutes I turned my head and saw a bighorn sheep, not that far away, staring right at me, probably wondering what these weird people are up to. (The camera was already occupied so we didn’t get a picture.) It was pretty cool to be able to have a private, memorable experience in the otherwise crowded park. I wonder how many dozens of people walked right by without ever noticing the creature was there.
Even though we didn’t end up spending a ton of time there and we had to share it with too many people, Valley of Fire was still a pretty special spot to celebrate our anniversary and to say farewell to 2017.
I hope in this new year, you are able to set aside some time to spend out in nature and fully experience the pure joy and wonder of God’s handiwork. Happy New Year!
“Then here’s a hail to each flaming dawn,
And here’s a cheer to the night that’s gone,
And may I go a roaming on,
Until the day I die.”
~Anonymous (carved into a rock on Mount Katahdin, Maine)