Monday, November 6, 2017

Las Vegas Contrasts

Leaving Lee Vining, CA we had a long taxing drive on a series of small highways to Beatty, NV. The first portion, Highway 120 east, took us through unique forested volcanic lands with terrific scenery but quite a lot of ups and downs. Then a combination of tiny route 6 to 264 to 266 became rather featureless desert terrain that ended with several miles of dips before our final leg on highway 95 to Beatty. This was a difficult drive for Rosie, curvy mountain roads topped off with dips make for a sick kitty.

Beatty was just a quick overnight at Beatty RV Park where we'd stayed in late April. Then it was a relatively short drive into Vegas where we spent six nights at Las Vegas RV Resort, a block from Boulder Highway and Sam's Town Casino. Not a bad park for an urban RV park. The deluxe sites have decent separation and road noise is not too bad.

Clark County Wetlands Park is an unexpected oasis of green near the RV park. It was convenient for some easy walking when the temps were in the low 80's and we didn't feel like driving far to hike.

An average of 180 million gallons of water a day passes through the nature preserve on its way to Lake Mead, mostly originating from the water treatment facilities located along Las Vegas Wash. The excellent onsite Nature Center does a great job of explaining the history and environmental impact of these wetlands.

An unexpected delight in the harsh desert and urban center of Las Vegas.

Hans and I are morning people, rarely staying out late at night, but when Hans noticed there would be a night of live surf music at the Double Down Saloon during our stay we worked it into the schedule. It was a fun night at a cool dive bar with Thee Swank Bastards (Las Vegas), The Boss Martians (from Seattle) and the Messer Chups (all the way from Russia).

We walked around vibrant Fremont Street before heading to the bar and discovered the hip East Fremont district
and its wonderful neon.

The Messer Chups at the Double Down Saloon.

Hans has been fascinated by drag racing since he was a teenager and any time we'll be near a city with a drag strip he'll check the race calendar. He got lucky with our stop in Vegas. He managed to convince me I should see drag racing at least once and scored some reasonably priced tickets on Craigslist for a NHRA national event with many top fuel nitro and funny cars racing.

Several rows of semi's lined up create the pits.
Here is a funny car chassis with its body sitting off to the side.

The pits are open to all attendees and it's fascinating to watch the crews at work.

The semi's are super functional, with elevated storage for transporting the race cars.

We had fantastic seats. Ear protection is a necessity!

I found drag racing to be exhilarating and exhausting! The thunderous vibrations as the cars pass by is intense, shaking you to the core. The smell of nitro fuel gets in to your pores...we thought we could smell it for an entire day after the event. I wore earplugs almost the entire six or so hours we were there because we were blasted with sound constantly.

After days of urban experiences (including staying in an urban RV park) we were more than ready to get out in nature. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a colorful outdoor lovers haven on the western edge of Las Vegas. Within minutes of the glitter and grime of the big city we found ourselves breathing a sigh of relief as our feet propelled us into canyons free of man made objects and sounds (and, being a Monday, almost free of people too).

Early morning clouds provide a cool contrast to the bright red Calico Hills.

Morning sun peeks through the clouds to throw golden light across the hills.

Big valley views.

We hiked the White Rock/La Madre Spring Loop and found a little bit of fall color in the washes.

Our critter sighting of the day, a small Great Basin Gopher Snake.

Wonderful swirly colors in this rock.

Ancient hand prints.

The canyon we hiked through held a forest of pinyon pine and juniper.

Colorful layers seen from the scenic drive.

We met up with John and Pam on our last full day for a hike in Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. Petroglyph Canyon Trail was a great way to catch up with these two whom we last saw on the Oregon coast this past summer, and will see again in San Diego in a few weeks.

After a bit of a slog up a sandy/gravely wash we had to climb up several pour overs.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of petroglyphs on both sides of the canyon.

This one was hard to photograph because it was high above us, but it held some very interesting designs.
There seemed to be petroglyphs from different periods throughout the canyon.

Unfortunately this was the only kind of bighorns we saw on this hike.

Pam and John.

Looking back into Sloan Canyon Preserve, a harsh desert environment.

From here, we continue south for more desert adventures...


  1. Red Rock Canyon is gorgeous! You captured some good light and got some great photos. I don't know if drag racing would be my thing but good for you Lisa for giving it a try!

    1. We were really fortunate to have some clouds that morning!

  2. It was great to meet up again and do a fun new hike. I figure we'll go back again and spent time climbing up through the rocks to see all petroglyphs on both sides...maybe a cloudy day! Red Rock Canyon gives us some more trails to explore since we've only hiked it once. It is unbelievable how much hiking there is in that area around Vegas. See you soon in San Diego!

  3. Looks like you found a nice balance between urban and nature. We loved Red Rock Canyon but hadn't heard of Sloan Canyon. Looks like a fun area to explore.

    1. If you are willing to drive there is a decent amount of hiking around Vegas.

  4. Red Rock Canyon is so beautiful! Your photos are wonderful -- that second one with the band of red is especially stunning. I'm sure you had a great time with Pam and John. :-) I like city experiences, but it always feels soooo good to get back out into nature and regain my sanity.

  5. It's amazing how loud those dragsters are, Lisa! I stood next to one when I was in high school while the owner was tuning it up. The clock on the wall was dancing from the compression. I think my ears are still ringing from it!

    1. I hear you! It is crazy loud, shakes you to the core!

  6. Glad you let Hans talk you into a drag race. It took Casey about 5 years to talk me into it but once I went I was hooked. It’s one of those things that is hard to describe, you just have to experience it! You guys are having lots of fun on your trip south. Good for you! Three more weeks until we leave the cloudy, rainy, PNW, not that we’re counting the days or anything. Wishing you continued safe travels and great adventures!

    1. I really iffy about going...not a fan of loud or of crowds. Bit I did enjoy it!

      Sounds like you made it back from TX ok. I bet you can't wait to get out of there! Safe travels to you too!

  7. It is good to mix it up sometimes. Low the handprints.

  8. Oh My, Steve loves to witness drag racing and took me to a few before RV life. We even flew to Indy 500 in Indiana, it is a different kind of experience and yes exciting and exhilarating.
    I saw that Red Canyon Sign on our way to Valley of Fire, maybe one day we will check that out. I love that huge swirly colorful rock. That area actually reminds me of southern Utah!
    We will be in SD, at Santee Lakes for the first two weeks in December, then as Hans suggested we will be at Sweetwater Summit after that. Hope to catch up with you both then.

    1. We'll be at Mission Bay so we will definitely have to meet up!

  9. I LOVE any kind of racing...we followed NASCAR or years and I enjoyed every race we attended. Red Rock is a wonderful place to your early morning colors! You all will have a great time in San Diego this winter!

    P.S. Poor Rosie! Sally is the same way! We had to take a detour coming to Medina. It was a dirt/gravel/ and deep pitted road...well, not really a road...for about 10 miles!

    1. 10 miles of dirt road with the RV is not my idea of fun!

  10. There's so much more to Las Vegas than the strip - had no idea about the wetlands! Beautiful pics of the red rock. Love the gorgeous snake!!