Those Wondrous Rocks – Valley of Fire, NV

2016-03-05-NV-1420868.jpgOur scenic drive into Valley of Fire (click here if you missed it) and the breathtaking trail explorations left us wanting more.  Fortunately we had a week to explore this park, and did we ever rock out!

The park didn’t have extensive trails, but the ones we followed took us past many intriguing rock formations and colors that wowed us again and again.  The story of how the earth moved to cause the folding, thrusting and shoving of ancient seas millions of years ago resulted in what we saw as a geologists’s dream.

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Pinnacle Trail

This was our first trek, and it led us to a cluster of sandstone towers.  The high gray mountain ridge here is made up of the oldest exposed rocks in the park, estimated to be 550 millions years old.  The red rocks in front of it are younger, “only” 66 million years old.

Pinnacles Trail

An open desert hike this time

After going around the southern edge of a ridge of dark gray-green rock and doing a bit of scrambling, the pinnacles came into view:

Pinnacle Rocks

On this trail we were fascinated by eroding large and small sedimentary rocks cemented together by minerals:

Conglomerate

Steve touches a piece of wood that was cemented among sedimentary rocks

After climbing the pinnacles we were rewarded with beautiful scenery in every direction:

Pinnacles Trail, Valley of Fire

The shrubs near the top of the pinnacles displayed a bluish-green tinge that made Steve take notice:

Pinnacle Trail

A bluish tint on the sage brush

Approaching our campground, we stopped by groups of ancient sand dunes that have hardened over millions of years.  This is part of the cluster seen on my header image:

Valley of Fire State Park

Prospect Trail

Another trail we followed took us behind those huge sandstone formations that make up most of the state park.  We began our hike from the campground and crossed open desert before hiking into the enormous sandstones.  The cacti were beginning to bud, and we could only guess how vibrant this area would be in a few weeks.

The sandstones here are ginormous, weathered by wind and time and forming odd shapes and forms.  These formations were originally sand, mud, silt or lime that became stone over 300 million years ago.

Prospect Trail, Valley of Fire

I looked like a blue ant standing among the sandstones

Prospect Trail

Playing and climbing amongst incredible weathered rocks

Brittle brush

Blooming Brittle Brush against the rocks

Prospect Trail

Is that a pig though the rock window?

Valley of Fire State Park

The trail ended at White Dome Rock, and the oppressive dry heat was getting to us so we headed back.

Prospect Trail

Looking up at a high canyon wall

Natural Arch Trail/Elephant Trail

We had planned to see the natural arch on this trail, but after walking a while in deep sand in the wash we decided to try another trail.

Mesozoic Muds

These red deposits are called mesozoic muds, which will turn purple, pink or lavender when exposed to air

Natural Arch Trail

Deep sand isn’t our favorite kind of hike, let’s try something else!

It’s a good thing we detoured to the Elephant Trail just up the road.  The Big Horn Sheep were out for their breakfast in big numbers:

Desert Big Horn Sheep

A herd having breakfast…

Big horn sheep

…while a family does lookout duty from the top of a rock

Back at the campground, Betsy was parked right in front of a large sandstone rock that Steve wanted to conquer:

Atlatl Campground

Atlatl Campground

Betsy’s hidden behind that big rock

We spent a day exploring in and around our campground, and checked out whimsical formations that were close by:

Sandstone Arch

A Sandstone Arch, an example of what happens when water and wind find weak places in the rock that erode faster than surrounding stone

Beehive Formation cross bedded rock

A beehive – persistent winds over millions of years created this masterpiece

Yawning Indian

A yawning indian – can you see it?

I’ll stop now or you’ll be yawning like that indian.  But the beauty is in the details, as you’ll see in my next post!

Next up:  It’s really in the details