The Valley of Fire and Cirque du Soleil

Valley of Fire Travel Blog

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Our trip to Zion National Park had been cancelled, but we managed to get onto a trip to the Valley of Fire, a state park just outside Vegas. Our guide “Chance” picked us up at 6am outside the hotel, and drove us out to the park. Chance had been a professional card counter at hotels on the strip until they caught him and barred him, now he is a really good guide with excellent knowledge of geography and geology. For the drive out to the Valley of Fire he gave us these “Hints for plains travelers”, published by the Omaha Herald in 1877:


  • The best seat inside a stagecoach is the one next to the driver… you will get less than half the bumps and jars than on any other seat.
    When any old "sly Eph," who traveled thousands of miles on coaches, offers through sympathy to exchange his back or middle seat with you, don't do it.
  • Never ride in cold weather with tight boots or shoes, nor close-fitting gloves. Bathe your feet before starting in cold water, and wear loose overshoes and gloves two or three sizes too large.
  • When the driver asks you to get off and walk, do it without grumbling. He will not request it unless absolutely necessary. If a team runs away, sit still and take your chances; if you jump, nine times out of ten you will be hurt.
  • In very cold weather, abstain entirely from liquor while on the road; a man will freeze twice as quick while under its influence.
  • Don't growl at food stations; stage companies generally provide the best they can get.
    Don't keep the stage waiting; many a virtuous man has lost his character by so doing.
  • Don't smoke a strong pipe inside especially early in the morning. Spit on the leeward side of the coach. If you have anything to take in a bottle, pass it around; a man who drinks by himself in such a case is lost to all human feeling. Provide stimulants before starting; ranch whisky is not always nectar.
  • Don't swear, nor lop over on your neighbor when sleeping. Don't ask how far it is to the next station until you get there.
  • Never attempt to fire a gun or pistol while on the road, it may frighten the team; and the careless handling and cocking of the weapon makes nervous people nervous. Don't discuss politics or religion, nor point out places on the road where horrible murders have been committed.
    Ground squirrel
  • Don't linger too long at the pewter wash basin at the station. Don't grease you hair before starting or dust will stick there in sufficient quantities to make a respectable 'tater' patch. Tie a silk handkerchief around your neck to keep out dust and prevent sunburns. A little glycerin is good in case of chapped hands.
  • Don't imagine for a moment you are going on a picnic; expect annoyance, discomfort and some hardships. If you are disappointed, thank heaven.

The Valley of Fire is the oldest State Park in Nevada. The valley contains a series of sandstone formations formed from ancient solidified sand dunes, 150 million years old.

Native American petroglyphs
The sand dunes were overlaid with limestone, which has protected them. In the places were the limestone has eroded the sandstone is exposed and has formed beautiful shapes. The sharp cracks are formed by freeze-thaw of water, the organic holes by sand grains being swirled around by the wind, the horizontal lines were part of the original dune structure. When the light hit the red sandstone just right it glowed with a fire that reminded Lydia and myself of Uluru and Kata Tjuta.


We walked up to Mouse’s Tank. This formation is a natural pool, a sealed rock tank in a shadowy cleft feed by tiny trickles of water during the infrequent rains and protected from evaporation by the sun. The tank is named after a Southern Paiute Indian renegade named “Little Mouse”, who was accused of killing two prospectors in the 1890s.

He ran off and lived in the wild until he was finally cornered at Mouse’s Tank and shot. The walk up to Mouse’s Tank includes several rock faces covered in old petroglyphs. Unlike rock paintings, these petroglyphs are made by carving out the hard stained surface of the sandstone to reveal the red sandstone beneath. These carvings were from the Anasazi people who lived in the area from 300 BCE to 1150 CE.


After Mouse’s Tank we drove to another part of the park where the rock was stained with greens, yellows and blues, rather than red, with eerie ripples in the land. It was a gorgeous place. Then we went off-road four-wheel driving up to a slot canyon just outside the park, and walked through the narrow cleft carved out between the seemingly-impenetrable mountains.


Back in Vegas we had a short nap and then went out for dinner to Battista’s, a hole in the wall Italian place just off the strip, for a huge Italian meal with unlimited wine.

We then went out to see some of the hotels, starting with the Bellagio. The water fountains in front of the Bellagio are quite unexpected for Vegas – they are tasteful and elegant. The fountains play to different musicals every fifteen minutes in a show well worth watching. The fountains use 1,200 nozzles, 4,500 lights and cost $50 million to build. We ended up watching three shows, and really enjoyed them. Inside the Bellagio is just as elegant (even the pokies were toned down just a little), with a display for Chinese New Year in the foyer. We had ice-cream at the chocolatier inside, the Jean-Philippe Patisserie, which has the largest chocolate fountain in the world. The fountain was more of a cascading waterfall, with two tons of white, medium and dark chocolate pouring down over 25 glass ponds down 14 feet.


After the Bellagio we went to Treasure Island for a Cirque du Soleil show, Mystere. We had second row tickets right next to the stage, so we had the amazing experience of watching the gymnastics from every direction as they dived down from the sky above us, leapt onto the railing next to us and performed in front of us. The skill and power of the gymnastics is just amazing, the sheer physical strength and acrobatic ability required to perform their feats is just staggering.

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Ground squirrel
Ground squirrel
Native American petroglyphs
Native American petroglyphs
Valley of Fire
photo by: Adrian_Liston