Thursday, June 04, 2009

Lounging and then Hiking in Red Rock Canyon

The first day in Las Vegas was spent lounging by the pool as I attempted to recover from my jet-lag.

The pool at Tahiti Village was pretty sweet. It was large with various little coves; one with a volleyball net, one with a basketball net, and one with a beach! Actual sand that led right into the pool so it was like a mini-beach. Very cute.

Here was my view from the deckchair.

Not bad, eh?

And here's part of the pool.

Carly performing a cannon ball. Isn't she graceful?

And let's not forget the lazy river. Or the small part of it I was able to photograph. Seriously, lazy rivers are one of the best things EVER.

That afternoon we drove out to the Hoover Dam and visited a ghetto casino where I learned how to play craps AND won $200, but more on that later.

Saturday morning (Vegas Day #2) we all stumbled out of bed bright and early to go hiking in Red Rock Canyon. It was already 85 degrees by 7 in the morning, so getting an early start was imperative.

Background on Red Rock (from wiki): The conservation area is one of the easternmost parts of the Mojave Desert; the character of the sandstone layers is such that a number of year-round springs may be found in the recesses of the side canyons.

The Red Rock Area has a complex geological history, which over millions of years, helped to create the dramatic landscape that characterizes the region.

The Red Rock area was located under a deep ocean basin during the Paleozoic Era 600 million years ago. Sediments up to 9,000 feet thick were deposited, and eventually lithified. This sediment eventually formed into limestone.

Around the Mesozoic Era 250 million years ago, the earth's crust started to rise due to tectonic shifts, forcing the water out and leaving behind evaporite formations. Exposure of the former sea bed allowed some of the rocks to oxidize (literally rust) and formed the area's characteristic red and orange rock layers.

Eventually a lush plain with streams and trees developed in the area. Some of these trees were covered with mud from the streams and eventually became petrified wood. Many of these fossilized logs can still be found today at the base of the Wilson Cliffs.

By 180 million years ago, the climate continued to change and the area became a desert featuring vast expanses of huge shifting sand dunes. These dunes would pile up and were lithified, and are now called Aztec Sandstone. During a mountain building period called the Laramide orogen around 65 million years ago, the Keystone Thrust Fault developed which ran through most of North America and through the Red Rock Conservation Area. The movement of this fault forced the older grey sedimentary rock over the younger red rocks, forming the striking red line that can be seen in the mountain today.

Long story short (too late), the place is huge with these awesome red rocks where you can easily see all the eras of geological change reflected in the layers of differing colors in the rocks.

Now, when we came up with this great plan to go hiking, I made it pretty clear that I was not an experienced hiker. Easy to moderate difficulty was what we all decided on. And yeah, we started on the trail. And then the group's collective ADD kicked in, and all of a sudden everyone was wandering off the path and we ended up picking and climbing our way over large rock formations.

It was a little scary, since a fall would have been pretty disastrous, but I was able to do all of it and I was pretty darn proud of myself by the end. Everyone knew my propensity to fall over, so there was definitely a lot of "put your feet where mine are" and "you're doing great, Maggie!" but it just goes to show they cared.

The only real area of difficulty was the very end when we had to clamber up a very very steep incline to get back to the road. I'm not very good at extreme angles, so I was not only huffing and puffing by the end, but I could feel my throat closing and I was doing the gasping and wheezing dance. But after sitting down for a few minutes, I recovered. And at the end of the day, it was a great time, and I definitely hope to get out there again and try another trail!


After our hike and the scenic drive through the conservation area, we headed over to the gift shop. Because you always have to stop at the gift shop, right? I was aware of how dangerous and well, foreign, the desert was, but in the gift shop we began to hear all about the scorpions, snakes, tarantulas, and other venomous creatures that inhabit the area. It really inspires me to stay on the trail, you know? And not go wandering into the desert. Because, DAMN. Like the ocean, it is not our territory and you need to have a healthy respect for that environment.

Red Rock's Website.

1 comment:

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