Grapevine Canyon (Near Laughlin NV)
Valley of Fire State Park, NV
Campground: Valley of Fire State Park. $10.00 basic plus $14.00 for electric/water hook-ups. Spectacular red rock background for campsites.
About 50 miles outside of Las Vegas NV.
Well I’ve wondered around Bullhead City and Laughlin for the past week. Found out Bullhead City was incorporated into a city in 1986. No wonder both cities look like they just grew up out of the desert and bare mountain ranges in the area. Isn’t it amazing that even though everything is relatively new, that tacky buildings still get built and all the planning and design still can’t change the fact their these homes and businesses are still sitting in the middle of a dry arid desert landscape. The Colorado river being the only break from the bleak scenery.
I won’t say I’ve been bored, but I knew something was missing. Yes they have all the big stores to shop in and the Casinos have all the restaurants and buffets, but I’ve discovered I need more than that to be happy or feel fulfilled. So the other day, I was looking through the list of Points of Interest in the area. There are the boat tours, Davis Dam which one can’t go to unless it’s via water, as it’s off limits after 9-11. Then I saw a listing for Grapevine Canyon.
A perfect morning for an excursion, the temperature is warm and the sky is overcast keeping the sun at bay. I take a circle route across and over the Colorado river onto the Nevada side of the river. Passing those stark tan colored rounded mounds of hills which become a part of Spirit Mountain. I climb the highway up, up, up and eventually turn off at Christmas Tree Pass, onto a dirt road of dusty powdery hard packed sand.
I already feel alive driving out into the country. This is exactly what I needed. Out in the open spaces and back to nature. Two miles up the road and a turn off and I’m at the edge of the canyon. A wide sand bottom wash defines the area leading to the rock outcroppings and the Petroglyphs. Camera in hand, a bottle of water, good hiking boots and I’m off. I follow the trail as it tracks along the top edge of the wash. I can see numerous tracks leading down into the wash and across to the other side, all leading to the rock outcrop on either side of the canyon beyond.
Even from a distance I can make out the Petroglyphs. The sides of the dark vanish covered rocks covered with Indian etchings from top to bottom. Everywhere I look I discover more and more etchings. I climb high up on the side of the mountain where the rocks jut out, covered with lines and hatch marks. Some are boxes, tic tac toe type lines wavy lines, but very few animal prints or human. Oh they are there, but the majority of the Petroglyphs are line symbols. Which gets me to thinking that they must have had something important to say. It’s as if they are feverishly trying to tell a story. But about what. How close were they coming to figuring out how to put their language down in writing? Many of the Petroglyphs overlap each other as if to say, here is even more information for you, or wait, I have another thought to put down. There are just so many etchings everywhere.
The experts don’t believe these are very old, possibly anywhere from 200 to 800 years old. Petroglyphs are hard to date. I can almost feel the feverish urgency of the writings on the walls and rocks of Grapevine canyon. It’s like hearing a foreign language and dying to know what is being said. It always amazes me that a people would end up in such a desolate area. They tell me that a natural spring flows most years except during major droughts. I don’t see any water flowing. I’m sure that’s what attracted these native Indians to the area, but the Colorado is also only a few miles away and like the present day communities, humans are attracted to life giving water.
More mysteries all across our country. I wonder if we will every know what they were trying to convey? And also so accessible. One can walk right up to the Petroglyphs and one could even touch them, of course signs at the parking lot warn against this so as not to destroy the history behind this art form. Neither are they protected in any special way. History exposed and waiting to be seen.
It’s Thursday and it must be moving day. 170 miles and about a 4 hour trip with stops for coffee and lunch along the way as well as some stops for photo ops you know. It always amazes me how long it takes to go such a short distance. This time though, part of the longer time was due to traveling the back roads through Lake Mead National Rec. Area and slow downs numerous times for road construction. You should see my camper after traveling over dirt construction roads, wet down to keep the dust down. The front of the camper looked like it was a real mud collector. Did a quick one bucket wash on the front of the camper and part of the truck to make them look presentable.
One of the great pleasures in life is coffee and although I’m not supposed to have caffeine, I do occasionally indulge. Before heading out on the road, I stopped in a local Firehouse Coffee shop for a Danish and a huge cup of coffee. I was partially good as I had them mix ½ decaf and ½ leaded. But even with that I was able to get that delicious charge from the caffeine, that slightly acidic taste way back on my tongue, then the flavor of the cream on the sides of my mouth…. A hint of sweetness from the sweetener and it all added up to one caffeine induced high… Ahhhhhh.
Life’s little pleasures.
On the south side of Las Vegas is Henderson and as I drove NE though this bedroom community, the edges of town mixed with awesome mountain views and sparkling new Spanish style communities and townhouses hugging the cliffs and hill promontories. Creating almost a European flair on the edges of Lake Las Vegas.
Then it was into the Lake Mead Rec. area. A vast landscape of changing mountain scenery of what seemed like an ever-changing color spectrum. Light to dark tans, browns, ruddy reds and clay colors, each commanding my attention. And to make it even more spectacular, each mountain and hill had it’s own shape, from round, to jagged to whole mountain ranges pushing up in sharp pointed peaks. Some taking on the shapes of hammer head sharks or rocks tipping on the edge of cliffs. The narrow road winding up down and around these spectacular scenes at every turn. Lake Mead coming into view over every crest. Lots of auto commercial are filmed around here.
Finally reaching my destination, The Valley of Fire State Park, outside of Overton NV. I could have stopped in Las Vegas for a few days, but opted for the rugged country on the north end of Lake Mead. And was I lucky, I got the last electric/water site at the campground. Of course I could have used a dry camping site, but it’s nice to have elec. And water when they’re available. The scenery is spectacular with the pinkish red sandstone rock formations. Couldn’t ask for a prettier campsite.
A number of movies have been filmed here including Star Trek. Commercials galore. So in and of itself, that points to the fact this is one awesome place for picture taking and ogling. I’ve already visited a few sites containing more Petroglyphs (over 4,000 years of Indian habitation), petrified wood and “water tanks” These are natural rock hollows where water collects during a rain. They could retain the water for many months and it’s believed the Native Indians knew where they were all located and used them. The small town of Overton has a Lost Pueblo Museum where they tell you about a string of pueblos covering over 30 miles along the mud river area.