Much of the country is currently experiencing frigid weather, but Kelly and I have managed to essentially dodge the dangerously brutal cold. In fact, wandering around Joshua Tree National Park today, she and I momentarily forgot the Polar Vortex was even a thing.
In a move that can only be described as being highly uncharacteristic, last week Kelly and I made a snap decision to leave the soothing vast emptiness of Death Valley National Park and visit its evil twin – Las Vegas – for a few days.
We made the decision knowing that during the stay I would have a chance to meet-up with former colleagues attending a conference while also making time to visit family. Coupled with a few other to-do’s while in the area, these “up-sides” became justifications Kel and I anchored to as we ventured into the city known for showcasing much of the urban trappings we otherwise loath.
And yes … we did spend an evening on the strip dining and walking – not gambling – through casinos.
Valley of Fire State Park is located about an hour from the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas strip, but scenically the park may as well sit atop another planet. This being our second visit to VOF we knew what to expect. The park is not particiually large and ambitious hikers can easily traverse most of the trails in two or three days.
As an escape from the Vegas circus this place is just about perfect … even more so if you camp in the (cheaper) non-hook-up sites.
Despite the government partial shutdown closing many areas of Death Valley National Park, Kelly and I did manage to find a few places that remain open and accessible for hiking.
The Mesquite Sand Dunes and Mosaic Canyon we’re easily accessed from our campground and brought us two contrasting experiences.
I’ve never been the off-roadding truck/Jeep type. Rather, I’ve always viewed my truck strictly as a ultitlity – something that carries me and my belongings safely from somewhere to somewhere else. Definately not a vehicle for pleasure.
This view of mine changed somewhat the other day when my buddy Gus convinced a few of us to go explore Death Valley’s Titus Canyon with him. It turns out, driving the trail was was pretty fun and I can see how people get hooked driving and exploring deep into a canyon. The canyon is absolutely stunning and my stock truck did just fine on the trails.
Kelly had a miserable time – way too much bouncing around he her.
The entire time I kept thinking to myself I would have much rather experienced the canyon from my mountain bike – doing so would have really been fun.
And, while the above photos Gus took are great, just image how cool they could have been had he captured me on my bike.
Anyone visiting Death Valley can expect to see military jets training overhead.
Those willing to hike to the top of Star Wars Canyon will be rewarded with the incredible vantage of viewing the planes from above as they descend into the canyon, rolling and twisting as they pass.
My friends and I sat at this point for hours watching.
Today Kelly and I are traveling with two other couples to Death Valley.
But first, we stopped at a Las Vegas BassProShop parking lot (next to a casino obviously) to regroup while Kelly visits a nearby hair salon and our buddy awaits his wife to fly into town.
Tonight, we sleep in the desert.
I really need to be more consistent in reading the trail descriptions before pointing my bike towards the mountains on trails I’ve never ridden.
The final “big” climb I loaded onto my Garmin was essentially unridable, resulting in a miserable two mile hike-a-bike slog 1,300ft to the summit pass.
Fortunately, the back side of the mountain rewarded me with an ear-to-ear grin-inducing 1,700ft descent back to camp.