Fire and Rain

There has been steady, constant drizzle since I arrived at Valley of Fire State Park.   The dismal gray skies match my gloomy mood.   After so many days of perfect cobalt blue skies of Zion, it seems only fitting that I would be greeted by gray and gloom.

Feeling pretty blue over leaving Zion, I think “my days of beautiful red rock hiking are over, boo hoo!”  So it was a much needed shot in the arm to arrive to find an entire park where you can just about walk in any direction to see magnificent scenery here in Nevada’s oldest and largest state park!

Note tiny two-lane in the middle of all that glorious red rock!

Note tiny two-lane in the middle of all that glorious red rock!

IMG_3026 IMG_3028I am now on the far eastern edge of the Pacific Time Zone, and it gets dark at an absurd hour of 4:30pm!  The cloud cover is bringing out the “seasonal disorder” in me.  But the drizzle has its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages whet all the senses.  The wet drizzle packs what would otherwise be fine, loose sand beneath my boots, which makes for tiresome hiking.  The packed sand requires less effort to hike the many sandy trails here.  The rain also keeps all but the most foolhardy inside, so the trails are eerily quiet except for the squawk of an occasional bird.  The colors of the wet, freshly washed sandstone are more vivid than ever.  And the sweet, spicy, cinnabar scent of the wet creosote is oh so intoxicating.

The disadvantage?  Too much “white sky” makes for lousy photography.   You will just have to take my word for it that this place is drop-dead gorgeous, and the benefits of the rain outweigh the negatives.

"The Arch," near Arch Campground

“The Arch,” near Arch Campground

IMG_3085 IMG_3080

I only have a couple of days here as I make my way south from Virgin, UT to Phoenix.  Since I want to make the most of the hiking trails here, I opt to stay inside the park rather than the boondocking locations 20 minutes away.   The cost of the campground will be offset by over 50% by not having to pay the $10 daily entrance fee.  But more importantly, after boondocking for two weeks now, I am really ready for some nice, steamy hot, unlimited shower time!

There are two campgrounds in Valley of Fire State Park, the more developed Atlatl Campground, and the more primitive Arches Campground.   I like Arches better as the sites are a bit more remote, but since Arches has only pit toilets for the same price, I opt for Atlatl to take advantage of said steamy showers.   I am impressed with both loops, as both offer some beautifully positioned parking amidst the red rocks.

Campsite in Atlatl Campground

Campsite in Atlatl Campground

"Atlatl Rock."  The word "atlatl" is a throwing stick or dart thrower to give more force to darts or spears.

“Atlatl Rock.” The word “atlatl” is a throwing stick or dart thrower to give more force to darts or spears.

Petroglyphs and graffiti, old and new, at Atlatl Rock.

Petroglyphs and graffiti, old and new, at Atlatl Rock.

In keeping with my usual M.O., I make the Visitor’s Center my first stop to ask about the hiking.  I have some definite “must sees” in the park already, but I want to make sure I make the most of my time here.  The Park Ranger recommends making a day of combining some of the smaller hikes such as the Fire Wave, Rainbow Vista, and White Domes.   I decide to cram as many of these short hikes into one day, as I want to spend my second day hiking the “wash” as Box Canyon Mark and Bobbie have told me this is a “don’t miss.”IMG_3085

I love the "pistachio green" color sandwiched in all the red rock.

I love the “pistachio green” color sandwiched in all the red rock.

After having hiked “The Wave” in Page, Utah, I want to see the Fire Wave which I first read about on Nina’s Wheelingit blog.   This pretty little trail offers a miniature taste of the soft serve swirls that can be found in the larger Wave hike.  This is a relatively new trail, as they have blocked off previous paths down from the main road.  It does not yet appear on the color maps of the park, but can be found from the black and white brochure, which indicates the trail head right across from Parking Lot #3.   The path is well marked, but after a bit of scrambling and rambling, I discover this landmark is also easily accessible from Wash Nbr 5.  (More on that to come in the next post.)IMG_3058 IMG_3068 IMG_3069

It is drizzling rain, so I don’t see another living soul along the trail.  I wait for a while for someone to arrive so I can get some size perspective, but finally give up and resort to a self-timed photo…IMG_3070

The Fire Wave

The Fire Wave

Layers of Perspective

Layers of Perspective

Both Rainbow Vista and White Domes are short hikes, but offer great views where the colors of the rock formations vary more than Baskin Robins has flavors.   White Dome area has also served as a movie set for many films, including “The Professionals,” from which a part of the set still remains.

White Domes loop trail starts out in loose sand.

White Domes loop trail starts out in loose sand.

The side of an old hacienda, all that is left from "The Professionals" movie set.

The side of an old hacienda, all that is left from “The Professionals” movie set.

IMG_3111White Domes hike is a “mini-Disneyland-style” loop that circles through varied terrain, the bonus ride being a narrow slot canyon in the middle.  Again, it is a trail I have all to myself.  This wash leading into the slot, along with the beautiful narrow slot canyon itself, which I traverse twice, makes the slog through the loose sand worth it!IMG_3096 IMG_3098 IMG_3103

Next up….what has got to be the best hike in the park…Wash Number Five!

11 thoughts on “Fire and Rain

  1. You’re doing a great job of upholding your reputation for making my list grow. We drove through the park once and said we needed to come back but your pictures have made it a mandatory visit. Hope you’re getting your feet in some warm sand right now.

  2. Just subscribed and I was surprised I had not discovered your most excellent blog earlier since we seem to have many followers in common. Just a few I noticed: Nina and Paul, Robin and Jim, Barbaral Dewall….I’m sure there are others.

    You are such a beautiful writer. Loving the peeks into your soulful journey as much as the outer scenery. I understand how you feel, leaving behind a place you love. Even if you return, it will never offer those exact experiences again.

    I find I sometimes relish my gloomy, soggy, moods and like to hold onto them for a good long time. On those days my perfect companion is Leonard Cohen. Any one of his songs will do. I played all his albums over and over for a week straight when my dad died. I imagine if I had witnessed 9/11, like you did, I might have needed a month of Cohen, perhaps longer.

    Can it be that you’re mourning the end of time with your friends as much as Zion itself? While the park is indeed unparalled in beauty, given a chance, Valley of Fire can be almost as magical. I hope the sun comes out for at least a little bit while you’re there.

  3. You’re hitting up some of my favorite places. I think next winter we’ll need to forgo Texas and stay in the west. Thanks for taking us on your fabulous hikes. Cheers to lots of new adventures in 2015 🙂

  4. Gorgeous! Another spot Hans and I need to spend some quality time in. I think the colors are just as beautiful and vibrant without the blue sky background! AND, trails all to yourself…looks like a mighty fine stop!

  5. Isn’t this just the best place with everything at your finger tips. Even with the grey sky the rocks are still gorgeous! Wash five has the prettiest ice cream colored rock swirls. Sorry it was drizzly but how nice to have many of the trails to yourself to savor the beauty:)

  6. Beautiful and fascinating pictures. I put them up on the TV screen to enjoy them more and we both felt the same as I just described. Enjoy the new year.

  7. So beautiful. I enjoyed the park when I was there but didn’t do any hiking – I guess if I make it back I’ll have to do the short hikes, at least. Being from California I was amazed at the colors and shapes I saw in Utah, especially Zion and then Valley of Fire. Totally new landscapes for me. Be careful hiking out there alone. 🙂

    Happy New Year!

  8. John — I will definitely be back one day too. I get a sense there is much to explore off the beaten path! And no sand for Carmen San Diego. Yet, anyway. 😉

    Nina — I would have never gone looking for that Fire Wave had I not seen your post first! I will get to the Wash hike next, after a brief New Years celebration. Glad to see you guys had an equally good time in the desert!

    Frugal RV — thanks so much for your kind comments! I am a Leonard Cohen fan as well, of course it had nothing to do with the fact that he had a muse named “Suzanne” and wrote a song about her. 😉 Yes, it was a mournful time not only for the end of my favorite time of the year, but saying goodbye to like-minded friends is the hardest of all! Thanks again for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment.

    Susan — Thanks! Both our lists keep growing instead of shrinking. 😉

    Ingrid — Thanks, and same wishes to you for 2015! I hope our paths finally cross in the new year!

    BC Mark — Yes, a nice strawberry and vanilla swirl, but nothing like the entire ice cream shop you sent me to in the wash! Thanks again for that great tip!

    Lisa — it was indeed a fine stop, worthy of more time than the brief two days I spent there!

    Pam — After seeing the intense colors in the wash, I actually enjoyed hiking in the rain, not something I could say about many destinations!

    Allen — It always makes me laugh (and blush! haha!) to think of my photos on your TV screen. Happy New Year to you and Deede, and thanks for all your support during 2014!

    Barbara — I agree with you, I am continually amazed by the “exotic beauty” of that part of our country. Hope to see you and Katie again in 2015! Happy New Year!

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