On Thursday morning (4/6) we woke up to a warm, sunny morning and headed across the highway from the Stovepipe Wells campground to the trailhead for Mosaic Canyon.
This was a short and easy hike but it felt good to get our legs moving a bit after two days of long drives. The scenery along the hike was varied and interesting, ranging from a wide open gulley to narrow passages between rocks. On steeper sections with large descending steps the rocks were incredibly smooth and slick, having been polished by the rear ends of numerous hikers before us. I am also an occasional fan of using five points of contact on the way down so I, too, added to the rocks’ glossy finish.
By late morning we were on the road again, driving below sea level on our way out of Death Valley. Within a few hours we spotted Las Vegas in the distance, but turned left before reaching it in order to hopefully get a campsite at the BLM campground at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. When we arrived at the campground, which was first-come first-served, it looked like all of the regular sites were taken. When we attempted to snag an “RV and trailer only” site, the campground host quickly appeared and told us we would need to have a (actual) motorhome or be hauling a trailer to stay there. He was a little gruff at first but our friendliness rubbed off on him and he politely told us about another small loop of campsites away from the main area which had a couple sites available.
Just as we were getting settled into our relatively remote site, the host reappeared. He told us that fellow campers start leaving their sites around 7:00 am and if we wanted to move to the main camping area in the morning we could. He said this is something he doesn’t normally offer since we had already paid for our current site for three nights, but we “seem like nice people” so he’d be willing to do us a favor.
Although we had quite a trek to get to the outhouses, we liked the privacy and solitude of our campsite and opted to keep it for all three nights. During the day we had nice views of the surrounding hillsides and valleys. During the evening we had clear skies for star-gazing when looking west, and the glow of Las Vegas from over the hills when looking east. Although I’m not a proponent of light pollution it was interesting to see how bright it stayed during the night between the light of the moon and the lights of Vegas. We could even see the beam of light shooting out the top of the Luxor and reflecting off clouds high above.
During our time at Red Rocks we went on several hikes from various trailheads off the Scenic Drive Loop road and Alastair did some rock climbing most days. On Saturday (4/8) the wind really picked up, with forecasted gusts of 50+ mph. We had no connectivity to verify wind speeds but I have no doubt they were at least as strong as what was forecasted. During a hike toward Calico Tank, a natural water reservoir within a gully, the winds whipped around a rock wall with such ferocity that it sounded like a jet engine. Once we reached the water reservoir the wind was strong enough to create waves and spray us with water which seemed quite impressive considering the reservoir was not very large and was surrounded by rock walls.
Once back at camp we found that our campsite had no protection from the wind, which the campground host had previously warned us about. Alastair prepared dinner from the slightly sheltered back of the van while I contorted myself around the inside of the van in an effort to avoid going outside altogether.
Later in the evening we acquired new neighbors, a mother and her adult son, and couldn’t help but watch them set up camp in the wind. This turned out to be a good thing since Alastair was able to spot their tent flying away and could run after it to retrieve it for them. Apparently the mother hadn’t finished putting in all the stakes and seemed strangely nonchalant about the whole situation. It was almost as if she could sense the tent might fly away but wasn’t really concerned. This was the same woman whose son slowly scraped the side of their car on a metal post at their campsite while backing up, and continued to do so despite campers at another site repeatedly yelling at him to stop and drive forward. I don’t know how the rest of their evening went, but at some point during the night they packed up and left. By the time we woke up the next morning there was no trace of them having been there, aside from a little auto paint on the metal post, of course.