Spring Break 2017 - Day 1: Valley of Fire State Park

Spring Break for this year has come and gone but left in its wake many memories with adventures in places both new and old.  Our first day would take us to Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park.  For Jessica and I, it would be our 2nd visit having camped there for the final night of our honeymoon, but for the kids, it was their first.
- Day 1 -
Sunday - April 2, 2017

After a brief rendezvous in Richfield with Jessica's father where he gave him our dog to take back to Torrey for the week, we continued on down south until we arrived at Valley of Fire State Park in mid-afternoon.  Our first order of business was to find scour the campgrounds in hopes of getting lucky to find a vacant site.  Lucky we were.  Right as we pulled into the first campground, Atlatl, we found a couple of vacant sites neighboring each other and picked one.  

I thought for sure all the sites would be claimed and we'd be searching out a spot way out on the BLM land to the east.  Instead, we paid our fee and set up camp right then and there.  

From the campground we headed on down to the visitor center to give the kids a quick intro to the area.  

Outside the Visitor Center

From the visitors center we headed on up the road to do the first of what would be an attempt at three hikes with the daylight we had left.  Petroglyph Canyon, a.k.a. Mouse Tank Trail.

Heading into Petroglyph Canyon

If it's not already obvious, Petroglyph Canyon gets its name from the fact that petroglyph panels are abundant throughout the three-quarter mile canyon, the largest being the first one we encountered which was within the first quarter mile.

The first and largest of the petroglyph panels in Petroglyph Canyon

Petroglyphs up close

Petroglyphs up close

Another petroglyph panel

Bighorn sheep and other glyphs

Mouse Tank itself is a pothole of water that sits in enough shadow throughout the day that it is known to hold water for up to 6 months without rain.  Legend has it that a Paiute fugitive named "Little Mouse" would hide out in the canyon in the late 1890's as he sought to escape law enforcement authorities.

Mouse Tank (in shadow)

Mouse Tank

Before heading back, some of the kids wanted to try their hand at a little rock climbing.

Ellory climbing

Lennox perched on a foothold

Raylee getting some climbing in too

Heading back up trail

Throughout the canyon, little arches could be found along the canyon crest.

Taking a quick rest under the shade of an arch


Back at the trailhead we got back in our car and drove up to the end of the road where we set out for our second hike, the White Domes Trail.  Near the beginning of the trail was some beautiful patches of desert flora.

"These look like pineapples!" remarked my daughter, Ellory, about a small stand of Yucca plants.

Desert evening primrose

Desert evening primrose

Yucca plant

This 1.25 mile loop trail quickly showed off a lot more diversity.  Through several stretches of the trail, I would look up and out and feel like I was right back in the more familiar confines of Capitol Reef National Park.  Given the "white domes" in the area and other geological formations and textures visible along this trail, it really did have a lot in common with Capitol Reef.

Heading down White Domes Trail

Descending the White Domes Trail

Descending the White Domes Trail

About a half mile down the trail, it crossed through an old movie set for the 1966 film, The Professionals.  While it's kind of neat to see a little historical remnant like this from earlier days of movie making, it's also good to know that modern technology allows for sets like this to be erected temporarily to leave no trace, if not digitally created all together in order to preserve the natural geology and landscape of such public areas.

On set of 'The Professionals' movie set

Shortly after passing through the movie set, we entered a short slot section.  This was a favorite for many of us.

Entering the White Domes Slot

Inside the slot

Stemming comes natural to some of these kids

The slot

Looking back at the slot exit

Playing on a rock ramp just outside the slot

After the slot, the trail turned back for the trailhead, continuing the loop.

Taking refuge in another little arch

The White Domes

Along the White Domes Trail

Closing the loop back to the road

Once back at the car, the kids had seen enough, but I still wanted to try and make it out to the Fire Wave, another unique formation nearby.  So we made a compromise.  Jessica and the kids would stay at the car and watch part of a movie, while I ran as quick as I could to reach the Fire Wave before the sun fully set down below the horizon.

Prickly Pear along the Fire Wave Trail

The Fire Wave

Fire Wave

Fire Wave

Fortunately, I was able to get there and catch at least the tip of it illuminated with some alpenglow.  Unfortunately, I probably arrived just a few minutes after what may have been the prime time for it.  Still, it was beautiful piece of geology to behold.

Fire Wave

Fire Wave close up

Red Barrel Cactus

On the approach back to the road and the car, I paused for one more moment to capture what was left of the sunset.

Sunset in Valley of Fire

Hungry and more than ready to return back to camp, we drove on back and set up around a fire for some hot dogs and s'mores.

Hot dog roasting at the campfire

S'more time

Long exposure catching the moonlit clouds over camp

Orion standing guard in the sky above

Waning Crescent approaching Third Quarter

It had been a full day.  There was no trouble getting the kids to fall asleep.  If only they were just as excited to get to bed back at home.

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