Monday, December 16, 2019

Las Vegas Adventure - Day 6

[Composed 11/30/2019]

If yesterday's hiking was great, today's was off the charts amazing. We did a number of short hikes in Valley of Fire State Park, and we were both blown away by the epic beauty of the place.

We used a number of blogs as a guide to where to hike in the park, including: Leave No Tracy and Earth Treks. Both are excellent resources. With that said, I think the Pink Canyon (found here) was a bit oversold, and Mouse's Tank Trail was a bit undersold--though more on that last point in a moment. Regardless, all of the scenery is jaw-dropping good.

I was excited to finally see some desert wildlife, including goats desert bighorn sheep, chipmunks white-tailed antelope ground squirrels and an impressive flock of Gambel's Quail.

The weather totally cooperated today: it was in the 50°'s but with the sun shining it was a perfect day to be walking on nearly shade-free trails. I tried to imagine how difficult a visit to this park would be when it was 110°F. Our leisurely strolls would have become death marches.

As I noted above, I think Mouse's Tank Trail is a bit underappreciated. The reason: petroglyphs! Yesterday I was excited to see a handful of 800 year old rock etchings. Today I had the chance to see dozens, if not hundreds, of them! That's because Mouse's Tank Trail is crammed full of this artwork. It's not clear how old the petroglyphs are, but there's evidence to suggest they are between 1000 and 2000 years old. As for their meaning, your guess is as good as mine. Are they an historic record, warning, advice to travelers, or 'just' art?

Some of the etchings remind me of the stick-figure-family decals people add their car windows. That's not just because these characters are typically simple, but because they tell a story with such efficiency. Whether it's a suburban with a family that includes a dancer, painter and a hockey player, or a Prius with a T-Rex chasing a fleeing family, I can quickly learn something about the driver of that car. And so it is with some of the petroglyphs. Other markings on the wall are abstract, and include funky lines and circles. I find it all amazing and I'm blown away that you can see so much of it in one location. For that reason, I suggest exploring Mouse's Tank and doing so with an open mind.

Looking at a map of the Vegas area, it's not obvious which green spaces to visit and in which order. I think we picked an optimal order when we did Red Rock Canyon yesterday and Valley of Fire today. Both give you opportunities to see amazing geology, but Valley of Fire is just a bit more dramatic in my opinion and builds nicely on what we saw yesterday.

In short, this place is amazing!

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