Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Fire Wave - Valley of Fire State Park

We've been to lots of places in the Southwest and this short hike to the Fire Wave in Nevada ranks up there with the best of them. It's in Valley of Fire State Park which is 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas. Most of the tourists on the strip have no idea this exists.  

The Fire Wave in Nevada

Up until last year this rock formation was a "hidden treasure" with no marked trail, but the State Park opened up a trail in 2013. The trailhead is not on their map yet so it's not very well-known. You need to go to parking lot #3 and look carefully for the sign (ask at the Visitor center). It's worth it - a short 1 mile hike over the rocks to this very cool formation.

We went there with our friends George and Cathy who we met in Las Vegas while we were staying in Palm Springs. We all really enjoyed Valley of Fire State Park in addition to the Vegas nightlife - and this hike was the highlight for me. 

George on the rocks
 Photo taken looking back from the Fire Wave 
We were lucky enough to be there with very few people. You can climb on the rocks easily and take photos from several angles. 

It's even more amazing in person - go there

Denise contemplating the geology

George, Cathy and Denise enjoying the day
Cathy and Denise (and my huge shadow)
taken from atop the Fire Wave

There is another remote place on the Arizona/Utah border called "The Wave" which this place is named after.  "The Wave" in Arizona  "The Wave" is a much larger version of similar rock formations and it's supposed to be one of the most amazing places in the Southwest - but its pretty remote and there is a lottery run by the BLM to get hiking permits to go there. They only allow 20 people a day to visit, so it's a tough ticket. It's very high on my bucket list and we plan to apply for permits (they say there is a 1-2% chance of success). 

But if you can't get to the actual "Wave" then this hike near Vegas is the next best thing - and it's pretty easy to get to if you know about it. Leave the strip behind for an afternoon and check it out! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Palm Springs

We spent a fantastic winter in Palm Springs, and sadly we are leaving on April 1. This place is fun, modern, retro and hip all at the same time. They have managed to recapture the optimism and party atmosphere of the 50's and early 60's but in an updated way. 

There is this cool (and very large) statue of Marilyn in downtown Palm Springs framed against the San Jacinto mountains. The town is jumping every day of the week with live music, bars and restaurants. 

One of our favorite places for music is the "Purple Room". This was a rat pack hangout in the 60's which kind of went downhill for a while but was revived in past few years. It's a "supper club" and the bands here are great.

A lot of the architecture in Palm Springs is from the 50's and they call it "mid-century modern". They celebrate this with a week of events and tours called "Modernism Week". We took an interesting tour of the homes, many of which were formerly owned by stars like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Dinah Shore. 

Modernism Week tour
Mid-century Modern architecture
During the days we did lots of biking and hiking - and I tried to learn golf (with limited success). Joshua Tree National Park is nearby - this unique tree (Yucca brevifolia) grows mostly in the Mohave desert.

Joshua Tree National Park

Denise is practicing her rock climbing (just kidding)
Skull Rock at Joshua Tree NP
Another beautiful area near Palm Springs is called Indian Canyons. It's an oasis full of California Fan palm trees which grow in the middle of the desert supported by an underground aquifer. 

California Palm trees at Indian Canyons

We also had the opportunity to visit with my Mom and Dad a few times - they live 2 hours away in LA. They are doing great and while we were in California both of them had birthdays (Mom is 90 and Dad is 93). I had the opportunity to golf with them (they still get out to the course twice a week!) and I'm happy to report that my Dad easily beat me. 

My mom with her birthday present (new clubs)
My Dad on the golf course

While we were here we met some new friends - Ruth and Brian from Vancouver. They have been coming to Palm Springs every winter over the past several years and we really enjoyed their company on various bike rides, excursions and dinners out. Brian is a pilot who owns a small plane, and they were nice enough to take us on a flight to Catalina Island one day.

Ruth and Brian with their Piper Arrow
Approaching the "Airport in the Sky" on Catalina
A fun excursion to Catalina Island

Overall we had a great time on our "winter vacation" in Palm Springs. The desert is beautiful and the weather was perfect. We leave for parts east on April 1 to complete our first counter-clockwise circumnavigation of the United States. We will spend some time in New Mexico and Texas and then head to the southeast before we work our way back to Philadelphia.