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Viva Las Vegas & Death Valley

Viva Las Vegas & Death Valley

November 2022

Heading toward Las Vegas, we took Interstate 15 quickly and comfortably, winding through Virgin River Canyon on our way to Nevada’s oldest State Park with the promising name of “Valley of Fire”. 

Right after the entrance, we parked the car for our first introduction to Valley of Fire State Park. A short hike led to a rock formation called Elephant Rock. Three guesses what this formation looked like.

After visiting a few historic stone cabins built during the park’s opening in 1936 to provide shelter for visitors, we finally passed by the Visitor Center where the history of this deserted area was explained. Then another short hike to Balancing Rock. Three guesses why this formation was called like this.

The red rocks guided us further into the park. The color of the rock here was even a little more intense than in places we have been recently. This also made it easy for us to make the connection to the name of the park.

Balancing Rock

We began the scenic drive toward the Fire Wave and White Dome. Through a narrow canyon, the road first ascended until on the other side the view opened up over a vast valley consisting of colors that would make many a rainbow jealous. A 4-kilometer hike is set out here along a colorful “wave of stone” that we followed until we reached a pointed stone protrusion with outlined wavy white lines. It served particularly well as a photo motif for us and groups of Asians, who wanted to pose one by one with their most beautiful smiles. Despite the beautiful view, we quickly left this crowd behind and continued on our way to the White Domes. A rock formation that apparently has a lot of white color in it. 

We crossed the main road to the other side where the slot canyon soon announced itself. With slot canyons we knew how to deal with by now. Although this one was totally unlike the slot canyons near Escalante, it was still impressive to find our way through such a narrow passage of rocks.


The sun was well on its way to hide behind the horizon which gave the colors of the rocks an extra shade of orange and red. We watched this color spectacle from an overhanging rock with a good overview of the valley and the White Domes. After a short drive to just outside the park we were able to spend the night on a deserted and dry piece of desert landscape.

Then we immersed ourselves in another world that could not be more extreme in terms of contrast than the one we have been in recently. Las Vegas. Both of us had once before visited this out-of-the-world city in the Nevada desert. Although parking and/or sleeping in big cities always comes with problems, here it wasn’t too bad at first. Through the app iOverlander, the “Oyo Hotel and Casino” seemed a nice option. The parking lot was quickly found and within walking distance of “The Strip”, so super arranged.

Las Vegas does not begin to live until the sun goes down so we did not set out until around 3 p.m. and disappeared into the crowd. The Statue of Liberty greeted us and wished us well. Along the Manhattan Bridge we looked at the New York skyline before walking into the first gambling hall at “The Cosmopolitan”.

The longer you think about the fact that it is possible to build such a surealist city that is madly unaware of what is real and what is not, the more idiotic the story becomes. Could we be the only ones thinking about this? That everything here is fake is obvious. Most people seem particularly concerned about taking a selfie with the Parisian Eiffel Tower and the Venezuelan Rialto Bridge within the hour. With a little skill, you can even get them both in one photo! Diehard gamblers forget about time underground in one of the casinos that come standard with every hotel.

New York

The “Bellagio” hosts a water fountain show every 15 minutes that is worth watching. In everyday life, people are reminded to use water sparingly because in the increasingly dry desert, water is a scarce commodity. In Vegas, apparently other sources are being tapped that the rest of Nevada does not know about and everything is plentiful. As long as money is made no one cares about anything. Therefore, times must have been tough for Las Vegas during the Covid period. Many bars and restaurants not affiliated with a hotel or casino still lay idle and deserted. Despite the constant flow of people, Vegas is not yet running at full 100%.

Waterfountain show in front of The Bellagio

At the “Venetian”, we walked across the Rialto Bridge before checking out the interior where the ceiling paintings especially caught our eye. Completely Italian-style, so real, but so fake. We crossed the Strip. By now we had refreshed our memories and decided to turn around and go back along the other side of the road. Rome was next. Hidden behind an impressive facade complete with Gothic columns was a shopper’s paradise. Through a set of escalators going up in a circle, our brains first had to move and get used to this new environment. The street scene that opened up behind the Neptune fountain was so lifelike “outside” that we almost came to believe it ourselves. It was a pleasant late afternoon mood on a random day in August. The terraces were full and shoppers were busy to stock up on the latest bargains.


“Via Garibaldi” merged seamlessly into the “Caesars Palace” casino. Two times blink and the shoppers gave way to tourists looking for some luck at one of the many computer-controlled slot machines. Once back in the real world again, we strolled leisurely back toward the cars and had a drink to end the day. Tired from all the impressions, we went to bed early tonight.

Suddenly someone knocked on our car. We looked at each other – did you hear that too or was I dreaming? Outside we heard Thomas talking to someone. It was 1 a.m.! Apparently we were not allowed to spend the night here. The cheerful and correct security lady told us that we were allowed to park here, but that staying overnight was forbidden. So now what? In consultation with Thomas, we quickly made a plan. Twenty kilometers north were two possibilities, a truck stop on the right side of the freeway and a Cracker Barrel on the left. We chose the latter option. By now it was 2:00 a.m. … good night!


Then we were ready to make our way to the largest national park in the Lower 48 states, Death Valley. Along some Wild West towns we turned our backs on Nevada and passed the California border. Death Valley is the hottest place in the world! The hottest ever temperature has been recorded in 1913. Fifty-three degrees Celsius. Since we visit the park in November we did not have to worry about that now. Also, at the Badwater Basin with 85 meters below sea level is the lowest point on the continent.

At the “Zabriskie Viewpoint”, we watched the sun set behind the rocks and enjoyed the palette of colors into which the canyon transformed in what photographers call the “golden hour”. Then we found a place to camp.

We enjoyed the surreal landscape which took a different turn around every corner. In the distance we could see the salt flats which we would have liked to take a picture of. Unfortunately, the roads leading to these plains were closed for some unknown reason. At minus 69 meters, we turned right onto Artists Drive. This 10 kilometer drive is a landscaped route through beautiful colored canyons where we got off at several spots to capture this natural beauty on film.

A little further on at Golden Canyon, we found no more space in the parking lot and were forced to park along the main road. Not very long ago we let the sun warm us up as fast as it could. Now shrouded in t-shirts only, we walked through the Golden Canyon which provided much needed shade. With eyes almost squeezed shut, we followed the wide path through the white rocks. The rocks reflected so much light that it was barely possible to keep your eyes open. The highlight of this trail came unexpectedly at the very end. After two kilometers, the trail narrowed dramatically. We climbed up about 50 meters and had an insane view of the canyon we had just come through. Yet another rock and yet another canyon. Yet again, this one was beautiful and different from all the others we had visited so far.

At the Mesquite Sand Dunes we stopped briefly and lazy as we were, we let the drone do its job to take some nice videos and photos of the dunes. On our way to Panamint Valley, we rose to 1,500 meter in a short time and parked our cars on the side of the road just before dark. These remote spots without any light pollution are great places for stargazing which we enjoyed doing. Many star formations were clearly visible, but the Milky Way was also easy to see. One last night in Death Valley before we went to the next place in our “contrast program” – an area full of giant trees….

Eddy and Romy van Es © 2020, infected.nl. All Rights Reserved.

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