Monday, November 12, 2012

Back So Soon...

Well, Levi and I arrived back home last night from our Valley of Fire Weekend.  We were pretty exhausted after unpacking items from the trailer and cleaning up around the house, but our adventures were fresh in our minds!

It was pretty much non-stop Friday thru Sunday so I wasn't able to get any blogging in, but we both took loads of pictures to share! Here's a glimpse of our trip.

Levi and I took the day off of work to load the trailer, get it prepped for take off (fill up water tank and generator), and take one last walk through the house for anything we may have forgotten (which we did and found out once we got to the park).  Around noon we were off to Overton, Nevada (Destination: Valley of Fire). Brewy, our loyal pooch, came as well.  

Our timing was pretty good and we made it to the west entrance of the park at around 1:30ish. Traffic was smooth sailing the whole way.  The entrance fee is typically $10 a day but we got a $2 discount since we live in Nevada.  

The park ranger at the entrance booth handed us a park brochure and a flyer of events that would be happening that weekend (bonus!) Events for the weekend included a "Campfire/ Marshmallow Roast" and two guided trail tours.

Less than two miles into the park and we were at our campsite, Ataltl Rock.  There are two campsites located next to each other on the south west corner of the park, Ataltl Rock and Arch Rock.  Ataltl Rock accommodates RVs with water and electrical hook-ups ($20 a night).  The general campgrounds are $10 a night. There are two dump stations located just outside of the campgrounds.  All campsites came with a patio set, firepits/grills, and easy access to a water faucet.

The pricing was a bit confusing for us.  The campgrounds are self pay.  Besides paying the nightly charge, if you plan to stay additional nights, you must add the entrance fee for the park each additional night.  If you are a Nevada residence, though, don't forget your daily $2 discount.....ugh! 

We were confused and ended up over paying but when we realized our mistake we had already deposited our money in the locked pay box. After finding and consulting with the camp host, we simply wrote a note to the park ranger (who collects the fees each day, as opposed to the camp host) explaining our overpaying mistake.  A park ranger, sure enough, came to our camp site the next day and refunded our money:) 

Anyways, I digress.  Levi and I were very impressed by the campground (both actually)!  They were nestled in a small group of sandstone mountains.  Each campsite was extremely spacious....40 foot RVs could easily fit in each slot.  I believe there were about 15-20 RV sites out of 72 total camp sites. Privacy between sites was either by a natural formation (rocks), some type of plant, or empty space, but there was at least five or more yards in between. 

It took us a little over an hour to get the trailer leveled, outside furniture and supplies near the campfire ring, and everything set up inside the trailer.  We had about an hour before the marshmallow roast started so we hopped in the truck and headed to the Visitor's Center up the road after lunch.

The Visitor's Center had all sorts of exhibits on the geology, flora/fauna life, and wildlife, native tribes that populated the area.  It was a school field trip all over again!  They had a little gift shop where we bought cactus candy and a more detailed map of the park.

Back at camp, we gathered around the fire with other campers making s'mores.  Levi and I got to talking to other RVers about traveling and our pets.  Everyone wanted to pet Brewy.  Poor girl was scared out of her mind.  She has anxiety around other people and animals and will hide behind Levi or me or just look away as others pet her coat.  

The park ranger who was hosting the campfire talk spoke a bit about the park and told us a story about one particular trail known as Mouse's Tank.  It was named after a renegade native who in the 1890s hid out in the trail area while law enforcement searched for and eventually killed because he had murdered several of his own tribesmen and other settlers of the area.  

Levi and I thought the fireside talk was a great activity; so did the other campers.  We said good night and headed back to the campsite where we started a fire and made some quesadillas. The temperature dropped from the mid 50s to the upper 30s so the warmth of the fire felt good! We went back in the trailer a few hours later and fell asleep watching a movie on the labtop.

Saturday was non-stop exploring!  We got up and ate some egg tacos before heading out to our first hike, the Fire Wave Hike.  This hike was one of the tours hosted by the park for the weekend.  To get to this hike, you need to travel up towards and past the Visitor's Center.  You'll travel through a gorgeous gauntlet of sandstone rock formations and a couple of trail heads before making it to Parking Lot #3.

Originally I thought this hike was a part of the White Domes trail, but it is actually a separate trail located across the street from the trailhead of White Domes.  This trail was created because of a unique rock formation discovered by a German photographer. The rock formation includes a combination of segmented sandstone and silica (white sandy mineral).  The picture below shows this unique formation.  It is located at the end of the trail.  

Levi, Brewy, and I sat atop this eating some snacks.  It was so beautiful with all the vibrant colors!  We've never seen anything like this. We headed back, taking more pictures along the way.

We stopped by the trailer to get some warm cothes and eat a small lunch before heading out again.  We stopped by a number of places in the park.  These are some of our discoveries:)
Ataltl Rock: this site has a number of petroglyphs visible at the top of the staircase.  All of the park rangers said the same thing: if someone says they know what a drawing means, they are lying because no one knows.

Petrified (fossilized) wood is found in the park, specifically two locations designated in the park.  One trail was located across the street from our campground.  This trail is only 1/2 a mile long and features about 5 large, caged petrified logs.It is amazing how detailed these fossils appear.

These cabins were built in the 1930s and served as inns for people to stay in as they visited the park.

We were unable to visit the Silica Domes (where part of the Star Trek: Next Generation movie was filmed).  The trail was under construction, along with Fire Canyon.  Instead, we read from our map we purchased at the gift shop that the scene where Captain Kirk was killed  after falling from the bridge was located in the new Arrowhead Trail.  The bridge is almost halfway down this 1.2 mile trail.  The bridge is shown below. No sign of Captain Kirk's remains.

After passing the bridge, we came across this cool rock formation entitled: Elephant Rock.

We saw more of these formations driving back to camp, more specifically in around Arch Rock campground.

This one is called Natural Arch.

This formation is known as the piano.

This is one of a few rock formations called the beehive.

It was quite amazing to see what years of weathering caused these structures to form into.  Brewy wasn't the only one tuckered out by the time we made it back to the trailer to make some fajitas and rice.  And boy was the food GOOD!! We also got to use the showers at the campsite.  The water was hot and each shower was it's own room as opposed to several stalls in one space.  

We ended up taking off Sunday, but not before taking one final guided tour. This one was Mouse's Tank.  The trail winds through a canyon and includes several areas of petroglyphs.  The hike comes to an end at the famous water tanks where Mouse, the Paiute Native spent months hiding from the authorities.  

We packed and headed out the eastern entrance toward Lake Mead.  We took the long, scenic route alongside the lake, hoping to find other marinas we could dine at for lunch.  No such luck at Echo Bay Marina and Callville Bay Marina.  There were no restaurants at Echo Bay and the one restaurant at Callville didn't have outside eating for Brewy.  We ended up at our favorite place....Las Vegas Marina.  We dined outside overlooking the lake and boats and talked about someday owning a houseboat:) 

We had a restful, eye-opening weekend and we can't wait for our next road trip!!!

Side Story
The weekend before this, Levi and I headed out to Searchlight to take a tour of the Eldorado Mines.  This is another hidden gem around Vegas.  We didn't take the trailer.  We just took a little road trip down to this location to see what we could see.  Turns out a family purchased 40+ acres of land close to the Colorado River and discovered they were living (literally) on top of a gold mine, the largest and oldest gold mine in Nevada to be exact.  We took a guided tour of the mine and explored the property. 

The owners of the land rent kayaks and host parties besides the mine tour.  Scenes from movies have been filmed on the property and the site is a haven for photographers with the many antique buildings and vehicles, besides the great desert landscape. Pricing for events and activities is very reasonable.  The tour was only $12.50 per person.  The staff is extremely friendly and very knowledgeable about the property and its history. 

Levi wanted to explore more of the mine than what was allotted in the tour.  I was impressed by the hard work and determination the family had to fix up a rundown piece of land and make it into a booming business!  Below is the main building where people check-in before tours and other activities. The very bottom picture is the inside of the mine.  

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