Oh, 2020. You seemed so nice when we first met. You were fun for two months, then you turned ugly. Real ugly. A plague and a recession and wildfires and an election and continuing drought. Yes sir, you threw quite a bit of hurt at us! Yes you did! But we survived. And The LovedOne remained photogenic while social distancing from others kept her within camera range.
Years ago, I was working at what was then the Nevada Test Site and we briefly contemplated moving to Las Vegas, Nevada. That was before it became the massive urban sprawl it is today. But even then we were looking at places out of town, up north near Mount Charleston. I recall leaving the Vegas city limits and driving north on I-95 through actual open desert before we reached the turn-off for Charleston. Well, those days are gone. I-95 now bisects a solid sea of beige box houses (with more being built) all the way out to the turn-off.
A broken foothold, and subsequent back injury, brought last year’s hiking adventure outside Las Vegas to an abrupt – and painful – halt. Now, with my back working again, we decided to return to Nevada to finish some of the hikes we missed last year. It should be noted that none of this year’s hikes involved climbing on wet, weak sandstone. 😡
For our fourth (and last) hike in the Las Vegas area, we drove northwest out to Valley of Fire State Park. The park, being a state enterprise, was not shutdown by the federal foolishness but a local power outage had disabled the visitor center’s gift shop. So we pressed on – to a hike we’d found on the Hiking Project that started at the Mouse’s Tank Trailhead and looped around cross-country to the Silica Dome parking area, with some interesting scrambling enroute. There’s an established trail through Petroglyph Canyon to Mouse’s Tank, a depression in the sandstone that collects water. Along the way we passed four big horn sheep that were so indifferent to people that they actually “posed” for us.
Sloan Canyon, our third hike near Las Vegas, is home to the Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Site, a large collection of Native American petroglyphs. This site is within the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area just south of Henderson, Nevada. It used to require lots of gravel driving to reach it until the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) built a paved access road from Henderson and installed a visitor contact station (which was closed thanks to the shutdown ).
For our second hike near Las Vegas, we picked a short, but steep, cross-country route to the Redstone Peaks in the Pinto Valley Wilderness. This wilderness lies within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which was open despite the federal shutdown. But no fees were being collected and there were no rangers on duty if we’d needed help. We didn’t but it’s still a stupid way to run a government. 😡
Allegiant Airlines now offers direct service between Medford, Oregon and Las Vegas, Nevada. We decided to give this low-cost airline a try so we could do some hiking in the Las Vegas vicinity. Our flights were great and the tickets cheap but they charge extra for everything else, so “low-cost” can quickly lose its “low” component. Still, they replaced four days of driving with two hours of flying so we think it was worth it. This is also the quick way to reach Death Valley, another favorite hiking location.