Valley of Fire State Park - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

December 11, 2020

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park is the oldest state park in Nevada.  A red sandstone wonderland, it’s a place that would reward many visits in different conditions.  It’s allegedly phenomenal at sunset when the sandstone glows so dramatically that it appears on fire.

We’ve never visited the park and in fact didn’t even know it existed until scoping out what else is in the vicinity of Boulder City.  Once we read about it we knew we had to go, but were torn about how to visit it.  The main consideration is its remote situation, nearly an hour and a half from here.  There is a motel in Overton, ten miles from the park, but in the end we couldn’t justify paying $125 for a night there when we already had one here, so we just drove out for the day.  The best way to visit of course would be to stay over at on of the park campgrounds, but we’re not set up for that.

Our plan was to bicycle through the park, but it’s cold enough today that we didn’t want to get too early a start.  We left home at 8:30 and arrived at the park at 10 after a dramatic drive north along the west side of Lake Mead.  To me it looks like this would be a fine cycling route - there’s very little traffic and a modest shoulder; but today, the day after that catastrophic accident near here, the idea of biking on a highway feels unappealing.

It’s still quite chilly when we arrive at the visitor’s center.  We ask about bicycling in the park but are advised against it because the roads are narrow, steep and unshouldered.  Taking it all in, we decided to scrap the cycling and see the park on foot instead.  Which was the right choice - it’s really a place to be explored on foot, rather than just gliding past the roadside sights.

We took three fairly short hikes: to the Fire Canyon overlook; a short walk from a roadside parking area where we stopped for lunch; and the Fire Wave hike.  They were all fine, but the Fire Wave was over the top.  At the most striking spots we would stand in awe, walk fifty feet to a slightly different perspective, and be amazed again.

We didn’t have the best conditions for our visit.  It was overcast most of the day, and from the few minutes of that the sun broke through we could see that it would be even more spectacular with better lighting.  And being here at sunset I’m sure must be a sight to behold.

So, no biking today.  Just a photo gallery, to remind us to make our way back here some day and to tempt you to do the same.

The short, spectacular White Domes Scenic Byway - the primary road through the park.
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The start of the walk to the Fire Canyon Overlook.
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Jen GrumbyThat little blue jacket looks like a wildflower against those towering red rocks.
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1 month ago
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Fire Canyon, from the overlook.
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There were plenty of interesting plants along the hike, but we’ll let this elegant one represent them.
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Bill ShaneyfeltCould not find a good match for this one.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltHow disappointing! I was sure you would know. It’s really an attractive plant, and was fairly common here.
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1 month ago
Bill ShaneyfeltYeah, I looked for near an hour this morning. I looked again for about half an hour this evening, and there is a definite maybe that has emerged... Narrowleaf sandpaper plant. Still not sure, but here's a link to photos.

https://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?enlarge=0000+0000+0903+0127
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltThat’s it! It makes me mad at myself for not mentioning this to you - it feels like sandpaper when you rub it. I mentioned it to Rachael at the time. Congratulations!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltI spoke too fast. I think I found it, listed on a plant checklist for Valley of Fire: Utah Mortonia (https://www.birdandhike.com/Veg/Species/Shrubs/Morton_uta/_Mor_uta.htm). The sandpaper plant isn’t on th3 checklist, which seemed odd sisnce it was reasonably common. This plant too feels like sandpaper from its description.
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1 month ago
Bill ShaneyfeltYou nailed it! Perfect match. I checked "Utah Mortonia" the "go to" wildflower search website and got zero. But plugging in with google image search, it is perfect! Good job!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltThanks! It was lucky, bumping into it by accident. Google image search? I didn’t know that was a thing. I’ll have to look it up.
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1 month ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Scott AndersonI usually go the route of putting descriptors in google search, such as in this case "southern Nevada desert shrubs" and then click "images," which pops up lots of thumbnails, and I scroll through looking for something similar. When I find one that looks similar, I click on it for a full image and compare. Sometimes the image site also has information, and if a scientific name, I will put that into image search to see if it confirms the ID. Then I can switch from "image" to "all" and look at one or more of the sites listed for more information.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltOh. I do that too. I thought maybe there was a Google equivalent to Picture This.
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1 month ago
Well, there’s this menace too - a silver cholla, I think.
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Bill ShaneyfeltAgreed
https://swbiodiversity.org/seinet/taxa/index.php?taxon=67#
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1 month ago
This and all the following photos but the final one are from the Fire Wave section of the park.
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Bruce LellmanWhat an amazing place this is!
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Jen GrumbySpectacular!
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Jen GrumbyArt in progress.
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Bruce LellmanI was at first worried that you had fallen and Rachael thought this was a funny photo that should be included.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanRachael would never be so cruel and insensitive. I, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t pass up the opportunity for a photo with a good story attached. For example: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/iberia2013/utrera/#3213_1765372_g4iipG_image
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyAs Mr. Carney chuckled to the missus one merry night.
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1 month ago
Suzanne GibsonNew shoes not helping you stay upright?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonNo, th3 shoes are great. I’ve been looking for an excuse to show them off like this. Actually though, I was inspired by Victa Calvo’s comment on this photo: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/Winterlude2020/cana-road/#22609_xitocagf8wiyw2kggpxid39dnyp
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonBut, of course, there is that "humorous" photo of you crawling through sand back on page 14.
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Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanI’d forgotten about that humiliating picture that she found so funny. I’ll have to reconsider.
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1 month ago
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The view across Las Vegas Wash, on the drive home.
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Bill StoneGreat photos! It's a dramatically gorgeous park. I think this is the most spectacular scenery -- at least in terms of color -- I've ever photographed on a bicycle ride.

http://bike365.org/bike/20200209/
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill StoneGreat photos yourself, as I knew already since I saw them myself but had forgotten. You’re right in your assessment. We’ve never seen any place like this. It even outshines Artist Drive in Death Valley, I think.
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonTo Bill StoneI’m impressed you bicycled on that road in Valley of Fire. It looked scary! Your photos are great!
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1 month ago
Bill StoneTo Rachael AndersonI biked a bit from the visitor center, but quickly decided the road was a little too dicey for me, so came up with Plan B. I drove all the way to the end and started pedaling back toward the visitor center from there. Much less traffic. Even so, I only made it about two miles before I turned around, because I kept hopping off the bike to point the camera at unbelievable colors and textures. The park made my eyeballs pop out.
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonVery wise of you! What an amazing place! I’ve never seen so many different colors.
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Bruce LellmanI want to go here someday! Thank you for enlightening me.
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Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanIt’s quite a place, alright. Maybe the most colorful rock formations we’ve seen anywhere.
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