For spring break my roommates and I decided to book a trip for 4 days to Las Vegas. I turned 21 a few days before the break, and we all wanted to experience something a little bit different from Washington. We definitely had a lot of fun, even on budgets that didn’t allow for shows and super fancy restaurants and bars every evening. Vegas is a strange place, a (simultaneously) glamorous and tacky strip of flashing lights and casinos surrounded by beautiful desert and mountains. At one slot machine a man is losing hundreds and at another a woman is making a thousand or more. The hotels are reasonably affordable while the experiences, food, alcohol, and gambling are expensive. It was a place I enjoyed, but don't see myself returning too.
The real highlight of the trip was on Tuesday, when we hired a car and went on a mini-adventure. We’d researched into the State and National Parks near Vegas, planning to go hiking and just be in an environment wildly different from the East Coast, and settled upon Valley of Fire State Park.
Near Lake Mead and the Nevada border with Arizona, Valley of Fire is the oldest State Park in the state. About an hour and a half drive out of Vegas, we paid a $10 entrance fee and were given directions to the visitors information center. Here we came across a lovely Ranger who asked us how far we were planning on walking and told us about the great walks, two about an hour long and the third maybe 30 minutes. Each had different scenery, and a different character, and each was incredibly beautiful. In many ways the scenery and weather (it was a lovely 26 degrees Celsius, 80 Fahrenheit with not a cloud in the sky) were comforting reminders of home. Central Australia is filled with similar warm reds, oranges and golds and desert hardy plants used to the extremes a desert experiences. But it was also a different kind of scenery –the rocks have been built up over time, the remnants of ancient oceans millions of years ago, where sediments build up layer by layer creating the landscape we see today. It’s a truly mountainous area in a way the flat landscape of Central Australia just isn’t.
I guess I can probably best explain the beauty of the park with pictures rather than words.
One of the more shallow highlights of the adventure for me was that I didn’t get a sunburn! No way would that be the case hiking in the desert in Australia. On our drive home we stopped by to see the Hoover Dam, a great monument to man-made engineering and manipulation of the natural landscape and from what we gather, a dam that has been contentious ever since it open in 1945.
The whole day was a really lovely escape from our Spring Break escape.