Canyons and Waves

I always have wanted to hike to Antelope Canyon in Arizona to see the rocks that look like waves – too remote and too restricted. I tried to hike in Zion National Park to the Slot Canyons, but they were filled with fast flowing water on my last visit. A week in Las Vegas allowed me to research these two geological formations on my bucket list. Since the hiking is getting harder, the desire to accomplish and check off places is getting intense. We found both formations at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada only one hour from Las Vegas on our way back to Colorado.

But first, another bucket list dream was to drive heavy machinery. I have no idea where this desire stems from, but driving an EXCAVATOR was a blast at Dig This Vegas! My husband was able to drive a Porsche for 7 labs around a 1.3 mile track with 11 turns at speeds up to 100 mph at Speed Vegas. The videos are more fun, but you can see some joy and concentration in the pictures.

What is still on your bucket list of things to do and places to see? I have hiked all 50 states by the age of 50. I rode camels in Egypt and elephants in China. My bucket list is getting pretty small. Everyone says, just make a new list. I think I will piggyback on my husband’s list. Alaska next? Scotland? American Samoa? Caribbean Islands? Belize? Safari? Life is short and experiences are great.

We arrived when the Valley of Fire (VOF) State Park opened off of I-15 through a narrow up and down road through desert to a hidden valley. The Red Rocks were impressive but after Utah, not worth too many pictures. The temperature was climbing in October to a toasty 90 degrees, and we still had a long trip ahead of us.

Walking to the wave area – there was only one wave rock – was not very difficult. It is at the end of the park road and there is plenty of parking. I had spent time researching these attractions as we had only the morning to accomplish both the Wave and the Slot Canyon. The paths are well marked if you know what to look for. You can hike a 6 mile loop or just two out and back treks which is what we did. Take water, hats, sunscreen – the heat was brutal even in October.

“Have you ever traveled to where snow is made, seen the vault where hail is stockpiled, The arsenals of hail and snow that I keep in readiness for times of trouble and battle and war? Can you find your way to where lightning is launched, or to the place from which the wind blows? Who do you suppose carves canyons for the downpours of rain, and charts the route of thunderstorms That bring water to unvisited fields, deserts no one ever lays eyes on, Drenching the useless wastelands so they’re carpeted with wildflowers and grass? And who do you think is the father of rain and dew, the mother of ice and frost? You don’t for a minute imagine these marvels of weather just happen, do you? Job 36:22-30 The Message

Back to the parking lot for the short hike to the Slot Canyon. Once again the power of the water cutting through the rocks is amazing especially in the desert. This area was a harder climb and we were rewarded with purple rocks, narrow walkways in the shade of the slot canyon. I was challenged this time by the heat, not the climb and with a heart rate averaging over 140 BPM, it was time to get the heck out of there.

Valley of Fire consists of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in gray and tan limestone mountains.  The sandstone is from the Jurassic period and is the remnant of the sand left behind by the wind after inland seas subsided and the land rose. Early man moved into southern Nevada as far back as 11,000 years ago. The most obvious evidence of occupation is the petroglyphs carved into the rocks by the Basketmaker culture about 2,500 years ago, followed later by the Early Pueblo culture. Paiutes were living in this area in 1865 when Mormons settled at nearby St. Thomas at the south end of the Moapa Valley.  Farming, ranching and mining occurred in the region along a narrow stretch of water.

Valley of Fire circa 1930

A rough road was built through this area in 1912 as part of the Arrowhead Trail, connecting Salt Lake City with Los Angeles. This road allowed people to travel through what became known as Valley of Fire.  In the 1920s the name was coined by an AAA official traveling through the park at sunset.  This person purportedly said that the entire valley looked like it was on fire; hence the name. It was also during the 1920s that the archeological richness and recreational possibilities of the area were recognized and  about 8,500 acres of federal public domain, the original Valley of Fire tract, were given to the State of Nevada.

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