In Western Nevada, Rocks Star

Hee hee. You see what I did there?

I knew you would.

We explored so many places during our winter holiday stay in the Las Vegas area, that I could spend hours and hours writing up long descriptions and posting dozens of photos of each. But then I wouldn’t have enough time to explore new places.

Thus, I’ve decided to combine just a few lines of text and the “best of” photos into this single essay, so that you end up with just the true rock stars.

Ha! Did it again. Done now.

With great thanks for the Apple Maps app, I can show you where I’m talking about. We stayed for a month in Pahrump, there at the blue dot, which is where you’ll find Cathedral Canyon.
Other places we explored, from top L to R:
Purple pin = Rhyolite Ghost Town
Yellow semi-circle = Death Valley National Park
Blue circle = Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
Red Pin = Red Rock Canyon
Orange Circle = Valley of Fire State Park
We also spent a day investigating the “cave condos” in Shoshone, CA, which involved even more rocks, and which I wrote about here.

Cathedral Canyon: It was built as an outdoor religious shrine in the 1970’s, and fell into decline after the owner’s death in 1994. There was once a waterfall, a suspension bridge, stained glass windows, and um… the statue of Jesus still had a head, and way fewer bullet holes.

Looking down into Cathedral Canyon from the top of what used to be a staircase, but is now just a steep, gravelly path down the canyon wall.
My guess is that this alcove once held a religious statue or perhaps a stained glass window? Even in this detailed history and personal account, I couldn’t find an explanation.
A small (and regrettably vandalized) replica of Christ the Redeemer of the Andes
A waterfall once flowed here, at the very end of the canyon.

Rhyolite Ghost Town: The place lasted less than 15 years, following the rise and fall of the gold rush in the early 1900’s, with a peak population of about 8,000 in 1908. Very few buildings remain.

We climbed up to an old mine shaft on a hill east of the city, and looked down, trying to imagine what used to be…
The remains of the Porter Brothers’ store
Hard to believe that this was once a 3-story bank building with marble floors, electric lights, and… customers.
Rhyolite was a mining town, so I’m sure you can guess the two letters on the sign that are hidden behind that wall?

Death Valley National Park: We tried to hit all the stops on this “If you only have one day” guide, but couldn’t quite pull it off. The place is huge, but at least on the day before Christmas, it was not crowded. Word of caution: Don’t rely on cell phone service to map you around the park. There isn’t any. Pick up an old-fashioned paper guidebook and map before you go!

Standing beneath Natural Bridge
Artist’s Palette is created by various types of mineral deposits in the rock.
The view from Red Cathedral, at the end of the Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail
We stood in Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. I’ve circled the sign marking sea level, 282 feet above us. Coincidentally, Tim stood at the highest point in North America (Mount Whitney, 14505 feet) less than 5 months before.

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge: There was water here along with the rocks! The refuge harbors species of plants and animals that exist nowhere else on earth. I’m sure it’s lovely when the vegetation is blooming in the springtime, but we found something appealing in its raw winter beauty too. Bonus: admission is free.

Winter beauty in the desert, looking from the Crystal Boardwalk toward the Visitor Center
That’s a pupfish. These “ambassadors” of the park are less than 1″ long, native to the area, and endangered. You can see them in the creeks and pools…
… like this one. The water is so clear, you can see the bottom of the pool, 15 feet below.
The Point of Rocks Boardwalk is supposed to be the best location for spotting the park’s bighorn sheep, but they hid from us that day.

Red Rock Canyon: This national conservation area just outside Las Vegas was extra enjoyable because we got to hike it with our friends Lisa & Dan of Always On Liberty, who happened to be staying at the same RV park as we were.

Tim, Dan, and Lisa making their way back to the Keystone Thrust trailhead
Tim taking in the wide open spaces surrounding the Calico Hills
Four happy hikers and RV’ing friends: Dan, Tim, Emily and Lisa
A rock cairn at an overlook on the Keystone Thrust Trail

Valley of Fire: This state park 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas was also extra enjoyable, because we got to hike it with an old friend of mine from high school, who I hadn’t seen in 30 years! Tim and I visited the Grand Canyon just a couple months ago, and I have to tell you: I like Valley of Fire better. It’s just as spectacular, but far more accessible.

Formations along the White Domes Trail
View from the Mouse’s Tank Trail
Prehistoric petroglyphs along Mouse’s Tank Trail
That’s my friend, Chet, of Speed Shift TV. Last time we stood in the same place, we were younger than my kids are now!

Although wintertime in western Nevada was quite a bit colder than we were expecting, with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees during the day, and down into the 30’s overnight with a couple of hard freezes, we thought it was a great time to visit. The hiking and exploring is no doubt brutal in the triple-digit temperatures of summer!

(Author’s note: a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.)

2 thoughts on “In Western Nevada, Rocks Star

  1. Love this! We went to the Valley of Fire a few years ago! We stopped in a little town, I think it was a Native American Museum (tiny), and the woman told us about it. Lost those photos, so happy to see a few of yours! You are livin’ the life! Love, Michele

    1. Glad to fill in a few memories! We really liked this park and would love to go back and tent camp there for a few nights.

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