The Las Vegas Strip that is. Not far away, about an hour+ drive from all of the glitz, glamour and craziness of the commercial city of sin lies Nevada’s first state park. Upon taking the exit from the main highway from town, you begin to drive down a long straight away single lane paved road. Off into the distance, you can see mountain formations as you pass desert-like flat terrain. As you near these mountains, the road take a drastic (and very drivable I might add) turn … literally. The road becomes windy as you make your way for about 15 miles through this vast nothing-ness. At first, I thought to myself as I was driving along was, “… I hope this car doesn’t breakdown … cuz’ I ain’t seen anybody since I left the highway … I have some water, but not days worth …” This kind of thinking, yes, is self-preservation induced, but you have to think of these things as you scenery changes to complete remoteness – I’ve been there several times and yet, I’m still here!
Anyhow, making one last turn off from this road, a small sign reads, “Welcome to the Valley of Fire”. Encouraged to continue. Since the forecast (in July on this day) was supposed to be in the upper 90s to low 100s(*F), I wanted to arrive early enough to where the sun would be beating down on me straight overhead. Even at 8am, you can just feel it was going to be a toasty day – good thing is is that you’re out and away from the concrete and asphalt jungle which retains at least 20*F so it shouldn’t be too bad. After self-paying entry, make a few turns down the main park drive and you’re immediately transformed to another world.
The landscape turns to a rust colored wonderland of strange formations that (from movies) look like a scene from planet Mars – definitely not one that resembles Earth as we typically see it. The blacktop road undulates through this valley of fire colored pock- marked vermillion rolling hills. Along these roads are well marked vista points that point you towards the more structures such as Arch Rock, Elephant Rock with the Fire Wave not but a mile from a parking lot. This park, more than many others of this type have several easily accessible natural wonders to enjoy and marvel at. What’s even nicer is human traces around these wonders were far and few – I have seen the worst of human visitation in our grand state and national parks of the western part of the US. While setting out for one of the scenic areas, I happened upon a young couple making their way to the same spot. Being that they had been photographing it the night before, they knew the way – thankfully they helped lead the way.
Because of recent travels to places where heat is a factor, I have come to seek out lighter and lighter camera kit while upholding a certain amount of image quality (better than a quickie snap from my trusty iPhone), leaning towards a kit that has been making great strides in the digital area of photography over the past 4 or so years – Fujifilm. This trip was sort of an experiment for me to see what I can come up with with only a single focal length … ok, perhaps a screw on lens attachment to allow for a wide angle, I had two lengths 27mm and 35mm. For the most part, the 27mm was on most of the time. I found myself not being bogged down by a zoom lens, let alone the carry weight. It was liberating in a way. For those of you who have ever lugged around a DSLR, you know where I’m coming from – especially those pro-type kits that border on 7lbs! This may not sound like a lot, but trust me, it begins to tug and tire you out more than you know when it’s strapped to you for more than 5 hours. My camera carry weight was around a pound and a half now. Heck, I schlepped more water (a definite must in these conditions) than I did in kit weight. Billed as a street photographers tool, I am becoming overwhelmingly convinced that the Fujifilm X100F is an all-around camera for most genres. Highly mobile. High image quality. Bonus … it’s whisper quiet shutter has allowed me to stealthy fire off frames in such forbidden places as monasteries …. shhhh.
We were lucky this day – weather wise. Although the sun was fully out and heating the desert, we were gifted a fair amount of cloud cover to filter the suns relentless beatdown allowing for a bit more exploration than usual for this time of year. It being just past high noon and the clouds beginning to disperse widely, it was time to leave and head back to the (even hotter) concrete jungle of the Las Vegas Strip. I highly recommend visiting this magical place for a day to give yourself a break from the one-arm bandit (and possibly from losing $$ too). Viva Las Vegas!