Other Desert Perspectives, Las Vegas
We booked everything from home, via the Internet. Plane, hotel, and extras. Among the extras we booked a horse riding excursion in the desert, which was amazing.
The excursion was scheduled at sunset; they came to pick us up in the hotel. Driving to destination took about 45 minutes, in direction NW Vegas.
We arrived at this place, hidden among red rocky hills. Cowboys were doing their own business, working, taking care of the horses. It really had a genuine feeling of being in a place not built for tourists; those people spend most of their days there, living a kind of life that's light years far from our regualr day life.
The neon lights of the strip, the cocktails, the shows, everything seemed something from the past.
We went horse riding in the desert. Don't worry, if me and my wife did it, anybody can. Eevn though I happened to have the craziest horse of the group (gave me a couple of problems in the beginning, but nothing too bad), I enjoyed the trip like I would have never imagined.
It's tough to describe the feeling of freedom I felt when riding on my horse on the rocky terrain at sunset. The red stones around us took an even weirder color.
The movies with John Wayne, an idol of mine when I was a kid, came to my mind and I was surprised about how happy I was feeling. But I did not waste time thinking too much about it, and let the little boy inside take charge of the situation and just enjoyed the ride.
We came back at around 9 p.m.. Dark. In the distance we could see the lights of Vegas. But up above our heads, there was a beautiful black sky filled with stars. Considering I am also a amateur astronomer, I was almost in heaven.
When we got back at the home, they cooked the meal, which was included in the fare. A nice barbecued chicken with roasted potatoes and vegetables. After dinner a group of us went outside with the lead guide of the group. We sat in circle on bales of hay, while the cowboy told us about the desert...
One of the best things I have ever done.
If you are up for about a 1.5 hour drive and enjoy crazy, surreal experiences, I HIGHLY suggest you make a pilgrimage out to Amargosa Valley just northwest of LV, to Marta Becketts theater, the Amargosa Opera House. She is an amazing older woman who bought an abondoned complex of buildings in Death Valley Junction and turned it into her lifelong dream. She does a 2- person performance of various musical pantomime in the theater where she has painted her own audience floor to ceiling (she is an accomplished artist and many of her works are displayed in the motel attached to the theater). I'm actually not into musicals or theater but this is an experience you will NEVER forget, believe you me. I could go on and on but check out this article about her from Smithsonian magazine: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian/issues96/jan96/theplayers_jpg.html
My wife and I were married in Death Valley at the Furnace Creek Inn which is only another 45 mins. down the road (Death Valley National Park). I highly recommend that you stay the night at the Longstreet Casino http://www.longstreetinn.com/, just 6 miles north of DV Junction (we have stayed at Marta's motel, but it's a little reminiscent of a certain Hitchcock motel and the beds aren't too comfy, esp. for the $50- plus price tag. It's not too far of a drive to the Park, and the hotels at DV National Park are at best incredibly expensive (in the cool months), or at least not worth the price for the small, lame motel-esque rooms). The Longstreet has super swank rooms, some with fireplaces for $50-80, and the food in the cafe is really quite good.
I'm not a big fan of the 'strip' in Las Vegas so when I went with my husband who was on business I looked for things away from that area. About 50 miles north of the city is the one of the most beautiful places I have been. It's the Valley of Fire State Park. It's very easy to get to since it's easily marked off the interstate and your eyes will be amazed at what nature has created. There is Rainbow Vista where the rocks are purple, pink, etc..., the beehive rocks, the Seven Sister Rocks, the White Domes, and so much more. I went on a short hike at the White Dome section and there is even a small portion of a old movie set still there but at one point on my left was desert with red rock mountain in the distance and on my immediate right were walls of rainbow colored stone. There was no sound, no tourists, and just peace and I felt like the only person on the face of the earth. If you go, bring some water because there is no vendor there to buy from (they do have a outside faucet to fill them up at the visitor's center) and if you plan to walk the trails, wear, at least, some tennis shoes (not flip flops like one poor man I saw). It's well worth the drive and will make the strip look gaudy and tacky in comparison.
When going to the Hoover Dam, make sure to take the scenic route going to Lake Mead. This route is taken in the middle of the city in Boulder. If you are driving, make sure to be alert on checking the road signs because when you missed the sign in Boulder City, you have to turn around.
The scenic route is actually a better route because the roads snake through the top of a hill overlooking Lake Mead. The lookout is close to the road and just slow down and park your car on the side. Be careful when crossing the road...
Mojave National Preserve is an undiscovered treasure in Vegas' backyard. We have made one trip out there and will be back to continue to explore. The largest Joshua Tree forest I've ever seen is located here. If you love desert photography, be sure to bring your camera.
I-15 south, cross into California. Exit Nipton exit and turn left. approx 3 miles on right turn onto Ivanpath. First right is Morning Star Mine Road. This will take you into Cima and on to Kelso. Will also be taking you though a huge Joshua Tree forest. Visitors center in Kelso to get maps, etc.
Short, sandy hike will reward you with some great view of 1000 year old petroglyphs. Words can't describe the feeling of spirit and history that lives here.
To reach here from Vegas, go S. on 95 (WATCH YOUR SPEED IN SEARCHLIGHT... GO THE SPEEDLIMIT!!!) . At 163 and turn east. Continue another few miles till you see the sign for Christmas Tree Pass, and then turn left. Dirt road, accessable by most vehicles. Approx 2 miles you'll see parking on the left. (between searchligh and 163 you'll pass a sign for Christmas Tree Pass, unless you have 4 wheel, dont' use this turn)
There are a few good private websites, search using Grapevine Canyon NV.
Once you head into Arizona from the Hoover Dam there is nothing but desert and I mean nothing.. Well there was this delightful little gift shop across from a propane company but that was about it ..the lady who owned the gift shop just wanted to make sure we were going to buy something before we used her facility because out in the desert they have to bring water in by truck..600 feet down is just too deep to dig a well.. way to expensive..and water as you can imagine is a commodity in the Arizona desert... In July the temperature reaches around 120 degees F and as a lady at convenience store said when it is this hot people are downright mean.. .. I got out of our air conditioned vehicle just to compare the heat here as opposed to the humid heat in Florida.. 120 degees is hot.. Dry or wet.. I didn't stay out long.
Rent a car and do your own sightseeing. If you go on a bus, you are limited to the amount of time you can spend at an attraction.
You can drive to RED ROCK
Valley of fire
and the grand canyon.
How about a drive to Lake Havasau City to see the London Bridge and then return to Vegas via the famous RT 66.
Drive to laughlin and primm.
How about death valley.
Tours to the grand canyon can cost you upwards of 200.
If your looking for a little quiet meditation time, or someplace to jog away from the exhaust fumes, visit the wetlands park. The Nature Preserve features two miles of concrete walking trails, graveled secondary trails, a bird viewing blind, and ponds. The trails are well marked, and the park is open from dawn till dusk. You will need a car to get here, but for the unique side of las vegas, its well worth an hour or two of your time.
About 90 miles south of 'Vegas you'll find Grapevine Canyon. An out of the way and little visited location to look at Native American rock 'paintings'.
From the parking area it's about a 1/3 mile walk to the area of 'rock art'. Just a little further past this are the grapevines.
You'll want to bring plenty of water. It was 95 degrees the mid-October day we visited.
Out of 'Vegas you take US-95 south past Searchlight, NV. If you've got an SUV, you can take a left at 'Christmas Tree Pass'. about 13 miles along on this dirt road is the turn-out for Grapevine Canyon.
For those without an SUV, keep going past Searchlight for the road to Laughlin, NV-163. Make your left here, and then take a left onto 'Christmas Tree Pass'. From here it's just a couple miles to the turn-out.
There are some great junkyards north of Nellis AFB on the north side of town. I had a great adventure one day looking for a tire rim. Nothing rusts here to speak of, and the yards are full of old neon casino signs and vintage autos waiting to be restored. The ground is supposedly very slightly radioactive. The junkyard man will allude to everything he might (or might not) know about space aliens, but the gummint has sworn him to secrecy.
Tecopa Hot Springs: Another picture of the actual bathing buildings (but don't judge a book by its cover...). The guys are to the left and the gals are to the right. The gals are lucky enough to have smooth river rock on the bottom to massage their tired tootsies and also have an open roof to view the stars at night. (the guys are relegated to a plain concrete bunker but can sit outside in a private courtyard to cool off in between dunks).
this place is a real gem in the desert, only here can you see a wild wild west show pet a donkey, and eat the best hamburger you ever had... bonnie springs. once in red rock head over towards blue diamond and it's on your right hand side. they have a wild west show that i have never seen, but hear it when i come there. they have a petting zoo that has a wide variety of stinky animals ( i love animals, these animal truly stink you will see ) they have a buffalo, goats, lama's, and some lynx cats.. gotta see it. the only reason i would drive 35 minutes from where i live to eat is to go to bonnie springs, they have the " BONNIE BURGER" this is a meat lovers burger, it truly is worth the drive!!!!
It pains me to know people who have lived in Vegas for years have either 1, never been to Southern Utah and seen any of the National Parks there, or 2, never been to the Tecopa Hot Springs. It is a fantastic, truly surreal experience, and being only 90 miles from LV (on Hwy 127 going toward Death Valley), it is really something you shouldn't miss. The place consists of two concrete block buildings at the base of a tiny hill where natural mineral hot springs have flowed for millenia (ok, a long time). It is operated by Inyo County as is EXTREMELY clean and sanitary. It is a Mecca for transient retirees (snowbirds) who migrate from Arizona to spend days or weeks soaking arthritic bones and sore muscles in the magic water. The people who go here are all super friendly and talkative (sometimes a bit too much considering you are completely naked while in the baths). I'm not a nudist or exhibitionist and was very uncomfortable with the whole idea (it is required by the health code to be nude and to take a shower first), but got very used to it quickly after feeling the incredibly soothing water. Unfortunately there aren't any decent hotels around and I would recommend staying in Shoshone or at the Longstreet Casino at Death Valley Junction if you are passing through toward DV. Drop those drawers and I guarantee you'll never regret (or forget) this experience! There are also a couple "iffy" motels here, including the Tecopa Springs Resort, but I would recommend camping.
Las Vegas grows by the week. Thousands of new homes are being built - rent a car and take a ride through the new suburbs. This place is growing like a virus. Plus golf courses are springing up .... plus new casinos that offer water shows .... HOW LONG?