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