Las Vegas: the strip and Valley of Fire

On the Tuesday of our trip, we had tickets for a Cirque de Soleil show in the evening, so we didn’t want to tire ourselves out too badly during the day. We decided it was a good day to stroll the strip, just out of curiosity. We were up and about early so we got started when most of the city was still asleep.

It was interesting at first to wander around and take in the sights. You could clearly tell the difference between the older hotel/casinos on one hand with dark, smoky interiors and few exits, and on the other hand the newer places with light, bright, inviting interiors and plenty of access. Then there were the novelty places, which could be of either type.

From the Forum Shops mall at Caesar's Palace.  It was nice to get a chance to walk around in even the theme-park-fake Roman architecture.  Studying Roman art from artifacts and archaeological reports doesn't give you the same sense of scale and space.

From the Forum Shops mall at Caesar’s Palace. It was nice to get a chance to walk around in even the theme-park-fake Roman architecture. Studying Roman art from artifacts and archaeological reports doesn’t give you the same sense of scale and space.

It was interesting in an anthropological sense, but by the end of the day we were both getting very worn down by the crowds, the constant noise, and the aggressiveness of it all. We went back to the hotel to introvert for a while. By dinner time we were feeling a little refreshed. We had a good dinner at our hotel’s buffet and went to the show.

This was our first Cirque experience and it was… weird. The acrobatics were impressive and they put on a good spectacle, but in the end it felt a little empty, not unlike the strip istelf. We were amazed at some of the things the performers could do, but there was no good reason why they were doing them. I guess I want my acrobatics to serve a story, not just stand on their own.

On Wednesday, we had a very different experience. We drove out after breakfast to the Valley of Fire State Park. A long drive through the desert leads up to the park, with the scenery getting wilder and rockier, but that hardly prepared us for the beauty of the valley, marked by an upthrust of deep red stone that is weathered into incredible shapes. We took a lot of pictures this day.

Our trip through the Valley of Fire and back

Our trip through the Valley of Fire and back

We drove the road through the park, stopping in several places to get out and walk short trails. There were plenty of other people there, but even so, we often got to be alone among the crags and boulders. It was a windy day, but when we could get into the shelter of the cliffs we enjoyed wonderfully warm sun.

We drove back to the city through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, another wild barren landscape. It was bizarre to see such a huge body of water in the midst of a desert. It was clearly artificial, and yet in that landscape, which is so alien to me, my entire sense of what is natural was thrown off.

The red rock emerging from the valley floor

The red rock emerging from the valley floor

Towers of rock

Towers of rock

Sculpted by the wind into wonderful shapes

Sculpted by the wind into wonderful shapes

Little hollows and meandering slopes

Little hollows and meandering slopes

This overhang was stippled with little depressions

This overhang was stippled with little depressions

Underneath the cliff above are ancient pictographs.  I'm particularly taken with the sheep and the feet.

Underneath the cliff above are ancient pictographs. I’m particularly taken with the bighorn sheep and the feet.

There are a number of arches.  This is one of the most impressive.

There are a number of arches. This is one of the most impressive.

This one, understandably, is called Piano Rock

This one, understandably, is called Piano Rock

This one could go in a sculpture park somewhere

This one could go in a sculpture park somewhere

One of the trails we walked had a long stretch of fine sand, like walking on a beach

One of the trails we walked had a long stretch of fine sand, like walking on a beach

It's not only the shapes that are amazing but also the colors.  This rock looks like layers of sherbet.

It’s not only the shapes that are amazing but also the colors. This rock looks like layers of sherbet.

Rock formation in the desert or Jawa sandcrawler?

Rock formation in the desert or Jawa sandcrawler?

On our way back to Las Vegas.  Looking across the valley, the city stands out so clearly.  It's like no other place I've ever visited.

On our way back to Las Vegas. Looking across the valley, the city stands out so clearly. It’s like no other place I’ve ever visited.

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