Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vegas 4: Red Rock Canyon

It's surely a sign of major change in my life that, faced with a couple of unstructured days in Sin City, the two solo activities I'd seek out would both favor Nature over Culture. (Granted, I'd already seen the Strip and the Liberace Museum on an earlier trip many years ago, and besides, most everything was a half-hour drive from our spasinotel.) I've already written about one of my field trips; the other was a mere five minutes from the hocaspino, and shared its name.

After about 72 hours of noisy slot machines, smoke-filled casinos, interchangeable suburban housing developments, and motivational speakers (at the convention that had brought us to town in the first place), I was eager to head for the hills and get away from the crowds. People, people, everywhere! Envisioning solitude and a chance to contemplate my meager existence in the face of desert nothingness and the majesty of the mountains, I packed my journal, a book to read, and some water (despite the fact that I had to return the rental car and meet my husband back in the catelspa in 2 1/2 hours). So it came as a bit of a shock to discover that, first, the city of Las Vegas extends right up to the very edge of this National Conservation Area--past which they are not supposed to build--and, second, the Canyon itself, on a sunny day, can get as crowded as a shopping mall parking lot the week before Christmas. The following scene was unavoidable at almost every single turnoff along the 13-mile scenic drive:

Enough cynicism. What's everybody staring at, photographing, videotaping, and snacking in front of? Why, this, of course:

and this:

and this:

The composition of that third image is intentional, because (inspired in part by Fran Sorin's writing) I've been paying more attention lately to the way plants actually grow in the wild, especially the spacing between them. Not having much previous up-close experience of a desert, I was interested as much in the vegetation between the road and the horizon as in the mountains themselves, spectacular as the latter were:

Time did not permit me any hiking (and I'm not much of a hiker to begin with, though I appreciated the temporary visitor center's annotations of 19 trails, rating them from easy to strenuous), but I did manage to get personal with a succulent or two:

I wish there'd been more time, and fewer people, but then this is pretty much the way it goes when I hit the road. I may harbor fantasies of trekking through the mountains, but deep down I remain perfectly content to view the whole thing through a car window with some appropriately moody classical music playing, particularly when the visitor guide warns

Watch where you put your hands and feet. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, or venomous spiders may be sheltered behind boulders or under rocks and shrubs. Do not touch, collect, or try to kill these animals.

Let the record show: there are no such warnings in the Liberace Museum, though I imagine Lee faced many a rattlesnake in his time. On the other hand, the chances of getting slapped with a palimony suit in the Canyon are slim to none.

(PS. Slightly different set of photos, with value-added Unhelpful Captions, here.)


Jim/ArtofGardening said...

I had no idea you had a gardening blog. I stumbled upon it! I'm so excited to have another in Buffalo, finally. That makes three. In my endeavors to make Buffalo a garden "destination," I've tried getting other gardeners to start blogging. I mean, Austin has like 3,000 of 'em. And they only have two seasons - green and brown.

I will add your blog address to the Garden Walk site, my blog and to the Garden Walk emails, when appropriate.

Oh, by the way, you don't know me, I don't think. I believe we did meet once, through Elizabeth, but she was probably drinking. And if she was, we were.

Ron said...

Jim, thanks for stumbling upon my new blog! As history teaches us, stumbling often follows drinking.

I kinda feel like the time we met was at a delightful party at your own home during GW 2 summers (or so) back. But I could be wrong--in any case, I certainly know of your blog and have heard of your work with GW. Thanks for helping to spread the word about this humble effort. Here's hoping more Buffalonians take up your call to start writing when not digging in the dirt.

John said...

Red Rock Canyon is beautiful. There has been much local opposition to development encroaching upon the area. Next time you're in town consider visiting Valley of Fire as well.

Jim/ArtofGardening said...

It's all becoming clearer. Yes, it was at my house. The Garden Walk media party. It was a whirlwind of an evening (day, weekend, month, year).

I don't remember much, other than meeting Tom Toles, which was the highlight for me. And having all the Garden Ranters in one place. And a neighbor trying to pick up the bartender I hired. Well, all that and what I remember of meeting you, of course.