Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Valley of Fire

The wife asked me why I've been in such a good mood today; it's because I started it off right. Today I took kiddos 1 and 2 to Valley of Fire State Park to hike two trails. The park is absolutely amazing, and a bunch of photos can't possibly do it justice, but here you go anyway.

The entrance to both trails was past this interesting-looking sentinel:

What I wouldn't give to hear the boom when the top finally slides off that thing.

Mouse's Tank:

The first trail we hiked leads to Mouse's Tank, which is two large, natural cisterns full of green water that fill up during the rare storms. I didn't get any shots of the tanks, because there was no good angle and it wouldn't have been a good shot anyway.

The tanks are named after a Pauite Indian who hid out in Valley of Fire in 1897 to hide from the law.

Kiddos 1 and 2 at the trail head. The trail is called Petroglyph Canyon.

Here's one example of why it's called Petroglyph Canyon. There are lots of Petroglyphs. These can be roughly translated as "we lived in perfect peace and harmony with nature until the White Man came and screwed everything up, just because white folks are evil." At least, that's what my Liberals Guide to Native American Cultures and Writings leads me to believe.

Kiddo #2 looks worried here, but that's actually his default facial expression. Probably comes from having such an exuberant older brother.

For most of these pictures the only manipulation I did was re-sizing and some cropping. In this one I enhanced the red and green to try to give some impression of just how stunning this place looks. The sky is a deep blue, which makes the reds and greens that much more amazing.

All the unique shapes and features are courtesy of millions of years of water erosion and soft rocks. The red color is from iron oxide in the pre-historic sand dunes that later cemented into the sandstone rocks that give Valley of Fire its name.

Kiddo #1 found this interesting little niche. It looks like another slot canyon, but dead-ends a few feet past where he is standing.

I brought Kiddo #2 into the niche and climbed the walls to get a unique angle for this shot. I like how it turned out.

White Domes:

The second hike was at the northern end of the park. The 1960s movie "The Professionals" was shot here, and some of the remains of a hacienda built for the set are still there.

Kiddo #2 negotiating a very tricky set of stone staircases. There's sand everywhere, so even where the trail is stone, it is very slippery. No one got his head busted open today, however.

Kiddo #2 with one of the massive white domes behind him. Some of the sandstone rocks have streaks of one color running through another, like all white and red, because different packets of sand cemented at differenet times.

I have such handsomme kiddos.

This part is called the Narrows, and you can see why. It looks like the final scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.


I have to get my quota of posed shots to stay in the good graces of the wife and parents, but I also tried to get some more candid shots. This one turned out perfect. I love the look of concentration on Kiddo #1's face as he makes his way down a little outcropping.

This and the next shot are just interesting rock textures that I thought would look neat in black and white. I also boosted the contrast a little. Kiddo #1 thinks Valley of Fire is full of monsters because of the horrible faces frozen into the rocks.

This shot is made all the more striking by what looks like a small child's handprint in the sandstone. I like the interplay of light and shadow here.

Finally, I have a few plant shots. It's interesting to me just how persistent plants are at growing under any conceivable circumstances. This is one of the most arid parts of the country, and when it does rain it usually causes flash floods which are no more hospitable to struggling flora than the drought. And yet they struggle into a meager existence, and even manage to look beautiful doing it. This hardy little fellow is just growing in a patch of sand.

Kiddo #1 had no idea what moss was before he saw this. The sandstone into which Mouse's Tank is carved is porous, so the water leaches through and dribbles out of a thirty-foot wall on the side opposite the trail. That creates ideal conditions for this vibrant, green moss to grow on the pink stone.

Another example of plants thriving under the harshest conditions. This one found a small piece of sand between two stones, and it grew and flowered. I wish I could get a lawn to be so persistent.

The desert around Las Vegas looks so barren and uninviting at first, but it has really grown on me. The light is so diffused (whether by heat or dust, or both, I don't yet know) so taking sharp landscapes is really hard, but that light diffusion also creates a haunting impression. In this picture, you can see what looks like a line of blue fog separating the hills from the scrub-covered valley. The mountains look like ghostly apparitions, or perhaps like rocks emerging from a vast ocean.

This picture is a detail from the previous. Driving in Las Vegas or Southern California during the late afternoon or early evening, the mountain chains turn into vanishing blue dreams, almost opaque in the dying evening. In this close-up, you can also see what looks like the blue, misty cloud separating the mountains from the earth. It is wonderful to watch and reflect while your exhausted boys fall asleep in the back of the car on the drive home.

All done for today. I should point out that the wife had a great day today, too, because the house was a lot quieter than usual. I might go hiking again on Monday because of the holiday. If I do, I'll post the pics when I can.