Sunday, September 4, 2011

Red Rock Canyon

I would probably have preferred to visit this in the Winter.  The Red Rock Canyon is accessible via a scenic drive probably 20min West of Las Vegas and I was astonished to see people cycling the entire loop of the scenic drive in the mid-day sun.

The daily highs at this time of year are regularly above 100F (37C) and although the adage that a dry heat is more bearable is certainly true, there is a head-thumping sensation that goes with walking for long in this heat - even with a hat and plenty of water.

Bruce took me on a drive to Red Rock and then on to Mnt Charleston which is a ski area near Vegas (probably about a 40min drive away).

We started with a short side-trip to some homesteads/ranches on the Eastern side of the canyon.  These tracks of land were priced around $1 million in recent years.  The recession and housing crash has probably reduced these prices somewhat, but they are still on prime land.

A big billowing white cloud formed part of the backdrop for most of the day.  I was surprised to see thunderclouds like this, but the point of a desert isn't the absence of clouds, nor the occasional thunderstorm, just the rarity of it being widespread.

The scenic drive circles the valley surrounded by prominent rock features with bold lines of red and white rock. Along the drive are a number of parking lot pull-offs that give you access to around 19 different hikes into the mountains. The scenic drive is often referred to as the canyon, but the Red Rock Canyon itself is located in one of the hiking trails.

The first stop-off is alongside a prominent set of oval and egg-shaped rocks. They are deceptively large. Without the people in these pictures the rocks give the impression of being a lot smaller than they actually are. From the top looking down you will see a group of people standing on one of the rounded boulders just off to the right of center.

Looking back up from the bottom a round boulder split like an egg with some people standing before it.

At the second stop a beautiful outcrop of rock, again the scale is deceptive. There is a person standing on the slanted shelf on the right of the picture. He scrambled up there to photograph one of the plants.

The highest point of the scenic drive offers an outlook over the entire valley. Bruce told me that a developer had the rights to develop a large complex of houses along the slopes of the mountains directly across from this. I think those who love to ride and walk here are hoping that the recession discourages this development.

We stopped at a dry gulch. The infrequent rain brings flash floods that race into the valley through these dry riverbeds. I took a 15 image panorama of this scene to try to capture the spread of mountains and canyons that you can hike into.

Some of the cliffs inside this canyon rival Yosemite's great heights - some as high as 3000ft (over 900meters).

After the gulch we came across a family of the wild burros that live in the valley. The male was quite close to the road and didn't seem to be bothered by us.

As I crouched down to photograph him he put his ears back which warned me not to get any closer. Further off and slightly up a hill in the shade of a Joshua Tree stood the female and her foal.

After leaving the park we drove up into Mnt Charleston which was an amazing 20 degrees cooler than down in Las Vegas. This area features a few hikes and picnic areas as well as a ski resort that is a popular destination in the winter.

The drive offered some beautiful scenes of wooden lodges and churches and we stopped at a restaurant at near the top for a great American Barbecue lunch of corn, baked beans, chicken and ribs.

This side trip was a great way to escape the bustle of Las Vegas. I'd love to go back in winter with my climbing gear and a couple of climbing friends.

You can see a slide show of all the photographs from this outing here.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like an awesome day out. The landscape is very impressive.