February 17th, 2008 – by: Adrian_Liston
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.
keep the stage waiting; many a virtuous man has lost his character by so
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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
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.