September 30, 2015 – I am just back from 24 hours on the ground in Las Vegas. The reason for my trip was to check out the exhibits at PackExpo. I have made it a goal that anytime I travel for business to find a way to get some “me” time in nature. I was very successful today, though I am weary at the moment as I type this after taking the red-eye home.
I am not a Vegas fan in its normal guise, as I do not gamble, barely drink, and am not any good at idle chit chat. I am becoming a Vegas fan for what lies just outside the glitz and glamour of the strip. Nature presents its own marvels in the desert that for my tastes far outshine what man has made. My last excursion outside the city was to Valley of Fire state park north of town. This trip, I did not have much time, and I explored the beautiful Red Rock Canyon. Red Rock Canyon is just 20 minutes from the strip yet is a different world – perhaps what you might imagine a trip to Mars to be like. It is a national conservation area managed by the Bureau for Land Management, and includes a roughly 15 mile scenic drive from which countless trails lead away.
As I mentioned, I had a show to attend (about 10 miles of walking in itself), so I had to get an early start. Having crawled out of the hotel room bed at 5AM (5 hours after crawling into bed!), I was out to the trails in Red Rock just after 6 for a sunrise hike on the Pine Creek Canyon. I was a bit late for sunrise, though it was still very low in the sky, and I could not help but stop to take pictures along the drive back to the trail.
The Pine Creek trail was a great morning hike. Not too strenuous and the weather was absolutely beautiful. A bit hot by the end of it and I am glad I brought that second liter of water! I am not certain I made it to the end, but I kept hiking until there was no more trail. Being alone in the desert without a map or guidebook, I turned back once the obvious trail ended. Based on the mileage on the signs, if I did not do the whole trail, I did at least 90%. Most importantly, I had an amazing hike and felt energized and ready to attack the day. Overall, the hike was about 2.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 300 feet.
After my hike it was back to the hotel to shower and hustle to the show to meet my coworkers. Six hours of walking the show (over 10 miles) and a Bellagio buffet later, I found myself with an unexpected extra 2.5 hours. What to do? Head back to Red Rock for sunset! I made it with about an hour of daylight left, and while I did not make it to any great sunset vistas, I had an invigorating time nonetheless. Without a guidebook, I asked the gate attendant where I should go, given I had only two hours until the gate closed. He suggested the Calico Tanks trail at the Sandstone Quarry trailhead.
It was a fun trail to hike, with lots of climbing over boulders and up small cliffs. The surroundings were spectacular and the late day sun really brought out the beautiful colors and shapes in the stone. This trail I know for certain I did not finish, as once I made it to the end of a canyon with no apparent exit, I turned back. On my return hike, I ran into a group of three hikers who I talked to and confirmed I did not make it to the end. Oh, well. I was running out of time and did not want to hike near others, so I kept hiking back to the trailhead. I am guessing I hiked about 2 miles, just a bit short of what it should have been. I would later be very happy I made the choice to turn back.
I am glad I was not on the trail when this happened…
What happened next was probably the highlight of my day. I did not see a wolf or the milky way, but I did make a turn down a dirt road to find a very short trail that I hiked in the dark. The .15 mile hike to White Rock Spring started in the dusk and ended in the dark. The night was cooling and there was a stiff yet gentle breeze. The wind was the only sound to be heard, and no other signs of mankind could be seen or heard. After seeing the spring, I turn back and hiked about 100 yards before being mesmerized by the stars. I found a spot on the trail that was flat and rock free, and just laid down for about 30 minutes, watched the stars, and breathed the cool, dry, allergen free air. My everyday life does not give me much opportunity to just immerse myself in nature, and I am thankful for that opportunity. It felt great!
After 30 minutes I had to go as the park was closing and I had a red-eye to catch. I drove the last 8 miles of the road with my lights off and soaked in the views of the night time desert. A great end to my day.