Friday, February 8, 2013

Valley of Fire Nevada State Park

As much as I enjoyed Death Valley National Park I had to leave because my camping reservation was ending.  My plan was to leave and then return later to meet with friends from Maryland for a few days. In the mean time I decided to go to Nevada where the gas was cheaper ($5.12 in Death Valley) and check out a park in Nevada.  Valley of Fire, the first state park in Nevada, was named for the red sandstone formations created during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago, so it seemed like a good place to visit. Maybe I could see some dinosaurs. Everything was so red I thought I had been teleported back to the land of red clay, where I grew up in east Tennessee, only this was red sand and I was tracking it into my camper.  I knew what my mother must have felt when I would track that red mud into the house. Still, it is beautiful in this red desert created by the iron oxides in the sand.  
These red rocks were formed during the Mesozoic Era, between 250 and 66 million years ago.

After I found a camp site I went to Atlatl Rock with it’s nice example of ancient Indian petroglyphs (peh’-tro-gliff).  It was a bit of a climb but well worth it. At least I had stairs.

Atlatl Rock was named after a tool called Atlatl used by the Gypsum People 4000-1800 years ago (2000 B.C.-200 A. D.) who were nomadic hunters and gatherers and lived in caves and rock shelters.  Bighorn sheep were the main stay of their diet but during their time, the desert became drier and as much as they tried with new techniques and religious rituals they could not survive and the Gypsum Culture died out.  They used a spear, aided by a spearthrower called an atlatl (aht’-laht-l) that extends the length of the arm by at least two feet and the force and distance of a spear thrown by about 50%.  Later it was replaced by the bow and arrow. Below is a drawing of one with a bighorn sheep above.

Besides the drawing here at Atlatl Rock I found many, many more on another trail to Mouse’s Tank where a renegade used to hideout in the 1890’s. It looked to me like the drawing were all on the black surfaces of the rock and I could see where parts of them had fallen off or had been taken or eroded. Most were high up and one had to be sure footed to climb up but occasionally I would find one that was close at hand.

Today no one really knows what they mean and we can only guess. The designs do not represent speech; it is not writing but rather symbols used in ceremony or to communicate ideas.

Some represent spirits holding hands with people.
While on the walk I found a Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes) . They hide by during the day in silk-lined nest built in rock crevices. In the late afternoon they emerge and feed on large beetles and to mate.  This one is a male. 

I uploaded my video onto YouTube to show its movement but I think I was moving a little more than the Tarantula, sorry. Click HERE.
I actually found one flower I believe to be Desert Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).  Normally they bloom in March but I think the rain tricked a few flowers here and there and they popped out early like scouts in the desert.

That evening I drove around and stopped at Rainbow Vista.

This formation is called Arch Rock.  I think the imagination for rock naming died with the Gypsum People.

The next morning, was misty and the hills were even more beautiful and enchanting. 
I made a quick stop at the visitor center just in time to see a group of beautiful Gambel’s Quail nearby.  It was a life bird for me and I tried as best as I could to get a photo but they were like chickens and constantly on the move.  Plus I was so excited to see them I couldn’t be still either.

HERE is a YouTube video I made of them.  I don’t think they were loud enough for the camera to pick up their soft voices and they constantly chatted.
From there I drove onto Lake Mead where I planned to spend the night.

You might also like to see other critters for one of the blogs found at CAMERA CRITTERS .





1 comment:

Potomac Valley Nature Writing Group Reading List said...

I like your comment about creative arch naming! The pix of the rocks and the mist - nice! The mallow is so delicately colored. What a fascinating place.