My friend John and I just completed our Spring road trip. We decided months ago that we would visit some places in Nevada. The first day we met in Mesquite, NV, about an hour north of Las Vegas. We both stopped at Red Rock Canyon just east of Vegas, before going on to Mesquite but we did not see each other. John came over from Barstow, CA where he had spent the night after leaving home and I came over from Kingman, AZ.
After checking in at the Virgin River Hotel and Casino in Mesquite, I went to John's room and we sat around for awhile just shooting the bull about photography and how little we know about women.
Valley of Fire, Nevada
The next morning we left for the Valley of Fire State Park deciding to meet at the visitor center. As it turned out we actually met at the eastern entrance. John had already been there for awhile and was just sitting around. We watched this guy struggling with shooting photos using a tripod. After a few minutes, I went across the road, wandered around the rock formations and snapping images here and there. John took off for the visitors center. After returning to my truck, I spoke briefly with the guy shooting with the tripod. He had a heavy accent (it sounded Eastern European) so I asked him where he was from. He responded that he was from New York City so I asked him about his accent and he told me he was from Europe. Guess that he did not want to tell me his country of origin.
Heading down to the visitor center I noticed that John's Forerunner was parked across the road from Seven Sisters, a group of giant boulders that serves as picnic and day-use areas. It looked like a good place to shoot some images, so I parked behind John, went across the road and started shooting. Later, John and I hooked up at one of the picnic tables and we both went in different directions to shoot some more. We later met at the picnic table and set down to shoot the bull again. Soon, we noticed a small chipmunk scurrying around not far from us. A few minutes later, there were five or more of the little critters. The bravest of them would come within a couple of feet of us. It was evident he was wanting us to feed him. Unfortunately, other people had fed them so they thought we'd do the same.
Next, we were off to the visitor center. John bypassed the turn off and had to turn around. This enabled me to park in the last spot directly in front of the visitor center while John had to park in the lower level. Sometimes things just turn out good. The visitor center sits at the base of a colorful hill and there are some good shots to be had there. I took a few but John spent more time shooting than I did. Later, we sat on a bench, re-shot the bull and talked about our next destination in the park. We do a lot of sitting around and relaxing on our road trips.
The Loop was our next stop in the park. A dirt road loops around a cool area of small red rock formations, small arches and small caves that are formed because of erosion. John and I then split up to shoot whatever we wanted. There were only a couple of people in the area when we arrived. I spoke to the woman, who was Swiss and was speaking French without a French accent. We parted when her husband called her over to where he was standing. It was fun climbing in some of the small caves and taking pictures. The hard part was extracting our 60 some year old bodies out of the tight positions. We were at the loop for quite some time until it started getting hot and the sun was rising too high in the sky to get a decent shot. There were also a lot of people in the area by that time, climbing over the rocks and generally getting in the way. We then headed out for the Paiute Moapa truck stop, casino and fireworks store at the intersection of I15 and the road leading to the west entrance to the Valley of Fire. Of course we stopped there for a chat and also a cold drink.
After a short breather at the truck stop, we hit the road for Beatty, NV. John left just before I did and soon left me in the dust as we got on the Interstate. The route to Beatty required me to skirt the northern limits of Las Vegas on I215. The traffic on 215 was pretty heavy but after merging onto US Hwy 95, it thinned out. Hwy 95 is an interesting road. As it heads north from Vegas it goes thru some interesting desert country, however the stretch between Vegas and Beatty is rather boring and featureless, especially if you drive it when the sun is high in the sky and the hills and mountains look flat with not much detail. Hwy 95 is also dotted with several brothels as it makes its way between Vegas and Hawthorne, NV. Sometimes the brothels are found in the most desolate areas you can imagine. But there are a lot of trucks and lonely travelers on 95. I guess the occupants keep the brothels in business.
John and I met up at the Motel 6 in Beatty. Later that evening we took a short trip over to Rhyolite, a famous ghost town on the way to Death Valley.
Titus Canyon in Death Valley
The next day we headed out for Death Valley and the Titus Canyon Trail (TCT). The TCT is a dirt road about 25 miles in length. It is a one-way road from east to west. The first part of the trail ascends the alluvial plain up to the Grapevine Mountains. It then crosses a couple more mountain ranges before descending into the ghost town of Leadfield, NV and then into a narrow canyon. The road is quite good, although narrow in a couple of area as it passes through Titus Canyon. Four wheel drive is not needed if the conditions are good (no rain for awhile) but the trip should not be attempted by a low clearance vehicle. We were in my truck but I would not be averse to driving the road in my Honda CRV. It is a beautiful drive which passes thru some mountainous areas with really nice vistas at the peaks of the mountaintops.
Our next stop in Death Valley was the Racetrack Playa where the mysterious "moving rocks" are to be found. Racetrack Road is an unmaintained road with terrible conditions. It is about 24 miles one-way to the Playa. After nine miles of a rocky, wash-boarded road, John and I gave up, turned around and headed back to Beatty. We were just not having any fun.