Hiking Valley of Fire State Park, Day One

We were up bright and early on Friday morning...our first full day in Valley of Fire State Park. The first stop on our day's adventure was to complete the scenic drive around our campground that started at the Atlatl Rock. The landscape was filled with interesting rock formations. The first we came to was the Natural Arch. Keep in mind that arches are formed by wind, while a natural bridge is formed by water.

There were arches everywhere in the park. It would have been hard to look in any direction without seeing several. The scenic drive was only a couple of miles long, and then we turned onto Mouse Tank Road, driving past the visitor's center and on to our first hike, the Fire Wave Hike. When we read about this hike, we got very excited. We've always wanted to visit The Wave in Coyote Buttes, but it's a bit of a hassle to go there. One needs a permit and reservations. We subscribe to the Photograph America Newsletters written by professional photographer Robert Hitchman. It would be hard to count the places we've "discovered" via his newsletters. In any case, his newsletter about the Valley of Fire mentioned the Fire Wave and said it was every bit as beautiful as the Coyote Buttes version. Since we'll probably never see the latter, we were pretty excited to do the former.

The signage in the park was in pretty poor condition. Many features were not marked at all, and often the signs that were present were weathered to the point of being unreadable. This is undoubtedly a funding problem, and it makes me sad. This is a popular hike, and so the signage was pretty good.

From the parking lot, the hike rounds this monolith, and already the colors of the landscape were starting to show. Here, you can see the mounds of green. The green color comes from copper.

Most of the pictures were not very interesting because it's hard to capture the scale of these landscapes. I have quite a few pictures of flowers and critters, but I'll save those for a separate post. As we approached the Fire Wave formation itself, the landscape became more interesting. That's Mike up ahead to give you some idea of the size. Look off in the distance, and you can see some bands of purple. 

In this next image, you can appreciate the many bands of color swirling through the rock. These are layers of sediment that have been buried and then raised up through tectonic action or uncovered via forces of erosion.

As you crest the butte, you look down on the Fire Wave. 

Here's a panorama of the area. Remember to click on the image to make it larger.

The Fire Wave Trail was an in and out hike about 1.25 miles round trip. After that, we drove up the road a little ways to the White Domes Loop. I've marked this sign to show you that there were very limited "windows" of cell phone coverage in the park, marked with the little cell phone icon. 

We kept our phones in airplane mode much of the time, but when we knew there was coverage, we quickly scanned for messages or emails...not that we're so busy these days, but you know how it is.

The White Domes Loop began with a steep stone "staircase". I was using a single hiking pole, and I was very glad I had it along on all these trails. My knees didn't give me too much trouble, but I do have a little problem with stability when I'm going downhill or stepping over rocks. Just after reaching the bottom of the valley, we came upon this sign.

It referred to this man-made structure. It was kind of fun to see it.

What we really wanted to see, however, was this slot canyon known as The Narrows. The slot canyons have always fascinated me, and this one did not disappoint.

The rock faces are all pock-marked like Swiss cheese, wherever you look. Indeed, when walking on the sheets of red rock, they have an almost hollow feel, and while they are solid and sturdy enough, you can still tell that the rock is not solid through and through.

This section had a cool moist feeling, as if moisture were leaking from the surface, although we didn't find any actual water.

It was hot and the sun was brutal, and so when we finished this hike, we headed back to the trailer for lunch and a nap. After that, we decided we could do just one more short hike. This one was out to Mouse's Tank. It's named for a renegade Paiute, named "Little Mouse" who hid in these canyons and was known to visit this and other pools (known as "tanks") to obtain water. Local folklore says that Little Mouse was hunted down by a posse and shot to death when he refused to surrender for the alleged crime of killing some settlers in the 1890's. 

Mouse's Tank was something of a disappointment, but the real reason we wanted to walk this trail was to see the Petroglyph Canyon. There were petroglyphs all along the way.

And that was enough hiking for one day. We went back to the trailer and enjoyed the setting sun. None of these hikes were particularly long, but with the heat and bright sunshine, we definitely felt as if we'd gotten our exercise. Just waiting for us to get back, Smitty was exhausted.

When Smitty's exhausted, Sadie's exhausted too.

Okay, so I have another day of hiking to tell you about, and I haven't even started with the critters and every blooming thing. More later.

14 comments from clever and witty friends:

Quilting Babcia said...

Canyon formations and petroglyphs have always been fascinating to me. So fun seeing your photos.

WoolenSails said...

That area is so beautiful, love the rock formations and the coloring.
It looks like the kitties are enjoying themselves too.


quiltzyx said...

Beautiful colors and so many interesting formations. Thanks for bearing the heat and sharing with us.
The petroglyphs are so incredibly cool, especially the one with the rotary cutter!

claudia said...

Wow what a beautiful place! I have some prints from canyons like those in the Narrows. So pretty!
I finally found and bought my RV!!! I pick it up tomorrow. It's a 1991 Toyota Dolphin, 21 feet long. It fits me perfectly! My maiden voyage will be with my daughter, her boyfriend, his sister and BIL. They travel out to Forks. So it will be a short shake down trip with lots of support!

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Wonderful photos! Even a picture of looking over a deep drop sets my 'teeter' - why I don't hike near these.

liniecat said...

Remarkable rock formations, wonderful to see yourself I'm sure, thanks for sharing.
Nature beats us in every way and is truly fascinating.
The petroglyphs are amazing, before bog standard graffiti and BANKSY there were others! lol

Dana Gaffney said...

The colors in that rock is really beautiful I'm glad you found out about that park.

Vicki in MN said...

You were able to capture some amazing sights, thanks for sharing!

piecefulwendy said...

You took some fun hikes and shared some really nice photos! I've not heard of this park, so thanks for the heads up. It looks like it would be worth the visit. The kitties look pretty mellow just hangin' at the camper!

Debbie said...

Hiking exhausts me......lol. Thanks for taking us along.

gpc said...

Beautiful -- I've added it to my fantasy wish list, although just thinking about hiking in the heat makes me as tired as Sadie and Smitty seem to be.

QuiltShopGal said...

What a beautiful place absolutely perfect for hiking. I'm impressed with the stunning views and so many Petroglyph. I can see why it tired out Sadie and Smitty. Thanks for sharing.


Brown Family said...

Breath taking beauty! Do they ever have warnings about snakes? That would be my worry!

Kate said...

Wow, beautiful spots. Those formations are just breath taking.