Sunday, May 16, 2010

Valley Of Fire State Park, NV

( Side show embedded below. Click on the black border to expose the show controls, then click on the play button to view all photos..)

We awake at 5:00 am to beat the anticipated heat, and leave camp as quietly as possible for a photo expedition to Rainbow Vista.  My mind was still foggy as we pulled up and I packed my camera gear, trudging off into the cool fine red sand in hopes of drama.  The sun had not yet made its appearance over the horizon, but the light was full and deep - yielding rich photographs.  I could not find the geometry I was really looking for, as the rocks along this trail seemed sharp and broken, as opposed to the water and wind eroded forms that draw my emotion.  I was enjoying the hike however in the cool air - even wearing a light jacket.  All along the trail in the unblemished sand were signs of animal traffic from the night before.   The flowering plants made the biggest impression on me, with numerous fine blossoms protruding on long slender stems from tough desert plants.  Nothing showy, but lots of small, fine flowers, some very aromatic and already swarming with insects.  In several places active fresh mounds were formed mid-train by a colony of red ants.  A close look at these tough combatants revealed an animal almost entirely made up of mandibles or large front facing claws.  They work as a team to gnaw apart any possible food stuffs they encounter and carry it in pieces back down the hole.  As I tore off a nearby leaf and dropped it in their midst, they immediately pounded on it ripping it to bits from the outer edges in.  Returning to the car two hours later, I made a large steaming cup of fresh coffee and tried to finish the waking up process. We still had this trailhead to ourselves, and the quiet was delectable.  We sat on nearby boulders and ate our breakfast, contemplating the changing colors on the nearby rocks as the sun finally rose and warmed them after reaching above the nearby canyon walls.  The temperature was rapidly climbing and by the time we visited another petraglyph site and explored one more short side hike, the temperature was in the mid-80's and the sun was burning holes in the top of my head.  We rigged the car for driving and continued our journey eastward across the remainder of Nevada, through a corned of Utah (via the Virgin river gorge on Rt. 15) and then into Arizona on a small two-lane road heading east towards Page. Along the way the temperature rises to the mid 90's and we are happy to be inside and still (while driving of course).  Now the road is climbing onto the Kiabab plateau and doug firs appear as the road reaches 5,000 feet.  The trees are widely spaced, but this plateau seems to go on forever in every direction.  I know from the map, that 40 miles to our south it drops off precipitously into the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, and to our north it climbs up onto the Grand Staircase.  Teddy Roosevelt used to come here for the hunting as as a result of his interest, and the growing National Park movement, this area has been preserved as undeveloped and unlogged.  We are told at the ranger station that backcountry camping is not particularly advised due to the bow and arrow hunting season for Turkey - which just opened.

We camp off a forest service road near Jacob Lake, forgoing the Forest Service campsite that was right along the highway.

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