We've had visitors here for the last few days and on Saturday, a perfect day for being outside in the desert sun without roasting (as are most October days), our guests decided they wanted to see some Vegas glories of the natural versus man-made variety. Not being either shoppers or out-of-towners who are obliged to clog up the Strip on weekends in order to see it at all, we were delighted (and a bit relieved) by this choice. Our definition of hospitality includes letting guests decide on plans, then chauffeuring them, keeping them company, and otherwise doing what we can to make sure they have a wonderful time. This policy occasionally leads us down dubious paths activity-wise, but not this time.
Valley of Fire, Nevada's oldest state park, is within an hour of Las Vegas. Its name comes from its eye-popping red sandstone formations. These fantastical shapes and sinuous layers were created 150 million years ago by enormous shifting sand dunes, then sculpted by both the uplifting and faulting of the entire region (which occurred in pulses from about 80 million years ago until about 35 million years ago) and by erosion, geology's most dogged player. The park also features layers of limestone, shale and other gorgeous and geologically fascinating rocks, chipmunks as bold as game-show hosts, lizards, jackrabbits, coyote, birds, and the usual array of desert plants.
It's amazing how distinct and colorful these plants now appear to us. When we first moved here, our eyes accustomed to the splashy colors of Midwestern foliage, all the desert flora looked similarly scrubby and more or less beige. Familiarity has transformed subtle beauty into vivid beauty, as splashy in its own way as the rich rainbow of humid climate colors or the gaudiness of the Strip. Here as elsewhere, I guess, perspective is everything.