Desert Days

Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I never realized how diverse the desert really is. I pictured it being quite flat, with a few sandy hills, vast, and very desolate. As it turns out, this oversimplifies the landscape (you could have told me otherwise - some of you probably did - but I wouldn't have believed it until I'd seen for myself! Sorry, Mickey!). But maybe my fellow non-desert-dwellers will take my word that the desert includes a variety of features, such as mountains, sand dunes, basins, rocks, and all kinds of flora and fauna, and it's definitely worth a visit (although maybe not during the summer, unless 200 degree surface temperature is your thing). And while parts of the desert do feel somewhat desolate, there is beauty to be found as well, and a vastness that makes you feel minuscule in the most existential kind of way, I'm sure.

Also, I've already misspelled desert several times while writing this post. That extra "s" gets me every time. Freudian slip, perhaps?

About a week ago, Shane and I drove from San Francisco to meet friends in Las Vegas (our friend, Mary, was running the marathon - she rocks!). In addition to exploring Vegas, Shane and I spent time in the Mojave National Preserve, Valley of Fire State Park, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and Death Valley National Park. All four areas were extremely beautiful and very different from anything I've experienced on the east coast.

So here is some of the desert for you, starting with the Mojave National Preserve. Hope you enjoy!

The trees in the photo above are Joshua trees, which grow only in the Mojave Desert (the desert as a whole, that is - not just this particular preserve).

I'm relatively sure that the next three photos were all taken on the same hike, the Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Trail, and completely sure that the fourth one was.

Does anyone else see the witch's face in the rock above?

Photo credit for the two photos directly above goes to Shane (nice job, Shane!)

Above: The Bert Smith Rock House off the Rock Springs Trail

The next batch is from Valley of Fire State Park:

Above: Shane, Abe, and Mary on the Atlatl Rock Trail

Above: Petroglyphs on Atlatl Rock

Above photo credit: Shane

Above: Bighorn Sheep

A few days later, Shane and I headed out to Red Rock Canyon, or so I thought at the time, but according to my the info on these photos (I'm realizing right now), we were actually technically in Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, but that seems to be located in Red Rock Canyon? Hmm. I don't have a ton of photos from this day, but we enjoyed a lovely breakfast at Bonnie Springs Ranch, so here are some photos from the ranch (the actual food was eaten before I thought to snap a picture):

Above: the view from our breakfast table (photo credit: Shane)

Above photo credit: Shane

After breakfast, we were ready for the big leagues Death Valley National Park. In case you were wondering, Death Valley is huge! The size of Connecticut, apparently (and I don't doubt it!). We spent about two days there and only saw a fraction of what the .park has to offer. Here are some highlights:

The 3 photos above from Artist's Drive, a scenic 9-mile route. The mountains were beautiful!

Above: Natural Bridge Canyon Trail

The photo directly above was taken by Shane from the top of a mountain that we hiked up. The view features the Stratosphere in Las Vegas.

The above photo is the view from Zabriskie Point. The hike from the parking lot is short but steep and offers an incredible view!

Happy trails! <3

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