9 Days in the Desert: Canyons, Fossils, Petroglyphs, Phone Booths, Red Rocks, Las Vegas, and More
Dave and I regularly head for the desert over Thanksgiving week. Aside from the crowds, it is a great time to visit due to the mild weather. This year’s trip was a mishmash of a lot of places: Rainbow Basin, Mojave National Preserve, Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire, and Death Valley. Rather than throw everything into one photo album, I tried to break it down by area or hike. Trip report and photos after the jump.
Click links for photo album.
- Rainbow Basin, Saturday Nov 18:
We left the Bay Area on Friday and drove all the way to Barstow. Just outside of Barstow is Rainbow Basin, a small BLM area of scenic rocks and canyons. We set up a late camp at the nearly deserted Owl Canyon Campground and had a short fire and snack before heading to bed. In the morning we did the short loop drive to oogle the scenery, then drove the few miles over to Calico Ghost town.
- Calico Ghost Town, Saturday Nov 18:
Calico is a commercialized and rebuilt old silver mining town. Some buildings are original, but most have been converted into shops, restaurants, and even a Mystery Spot. If you have ever been to Bodie, imagine the Mouse taking it over and you have Calico. It did allow me the opportunity to discover that Dave had never been to a Mystery Spot, so I made us pay the $1 entry so he could experience its wonders. It was an amusing trip to kill a few hours before we tried to find a sports bar to watch the UM/OSU game. (*sniff*)
- Mojave National Preserve, Sunday Nov 19: After the game, we drove over to Mojave National Preserve to meet the Southern California 4×4 Geocachers for a campout at Mid Hills Campground. We had a great time socializing around the fire with the group, and I’m glad we stopped by. On Sunday morning we checked out the newly renovated Kelso Depot, the old train station in the middle or the park, and then drove down the Aiken Mine Road, a semi-rough dirt road that runs through the lava field and cinder cones in the park. We stopped at a lava tube, saw a cinder mine, and finished our visit by paying our respects to the missing Mojave Phone Booth (a fascinating story).
- Las Vegas, Sunday November 19 – Thursday November 23:
After Mojave we drove over to Las Vegas. We stayed on the strip, at the Monte Carlo, and spent our days on visits to the nearby parks and our nights wandering the strip, eating, and catching shows. Highlights include: an amazing wood fired mushroom pizza at Wolfgang Puck, visitng several brepub/casinos, dinner across from the Bellagio at Mon Ami Gabi while we watched the fountains go again and again, and seeing the Amazing Johnathan at the Sahara.
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Monday November 20:
Red Rock is easily accessible from Las Vegas, and offers a lot to do to keep anyone busy, from sightseer to hiker to climber. We’ve visited several times before, but this time we did a quick hike through an area we hadn’t seen before and checked out some petroglyphs we’d never noticed. On our way out of the park we saw some wild burros and stopped for photos.
- Valley of Fire State Park, Tuesday November 21:
Valley of Fire is an amazingly scenic valley of red rocks about an hour outside of Las Vegas. Everywhere I turned I was clicking my camera. We stopped at the standard stops: arch rock, petrified logs, viewpoints, and even saw some big horn sheep hanging out in a canyon below us while we took a short hike. It’s a beautiful place and I highly recocmmend stopping by if you are in the area.
- Panamint Springs Thanksgiving, Thursday November 23:
By Thursday we had gotten enough of Las Vegas, and after stuffing our bellies with a breakfast buffet we hit the road and headed for Death Valley. We passed straight through the park and went to Panamint Springs Resort, where we partook in their annual Thanksgiving feast. Thanks for the awesome meal in the middle of the desert! After eating and topping off the gas, we headed out over Hunter Mountain to head back into the park, into the Racetrack area. At Lost Burro Gap we planned on meeting with a group from HighSierraTopix.com, and John, Sooz, and Joe were already settled in.
- Perdido Canyon, Friday November 24:
On Friday morning we sucked down some coffee to help warm us up after the near-freezing night, then set up a shuttle so the five of us could hike Perdido Canyon one-way. We ended up leaving a truck at the upper end and driving back to the bottom, which in retrospect seems kind of silly. Why didn’t we hike *down*? Anyways, the canyon was nice – we found several fossils and at the end had some good views out over the desert.
- Corridor Canyon, Saturday November 25:
Sooz had suggested hiking Corridor Canyon on Saturday, and it was an awesome choice! Tom and Kathy had arrived on Saturday night and joined us for this hike. Corridor had a bit of everything. It began at some interesting mining ruins, passed through a really fossil-rich area, had walls with petroglyphs everywhere, offered some nice dry falls for us to slide around on, petered down to a 3-4 foot wide narrows, and eventually spit us out in a 2/3 mile long straight canyon, unlike any I had been in before. The pictures don’t do it justice, but I tried. (Joe’s Photos from Perdido and Corridor)