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Wherein SobekPundit Demonstrates that Nevada is Not as Pretty as Norway July 31, 2008

Posted by Sobek in Personal Experiences.

Nevada certainly has its charm, mind you.  And if you are in America right now, it’s probably cheaper to get here than to Norway.  And you are far less likely to get harassed by pasty-white Lutherans armed with lutefisk and heresy.  But I won’t try to pretend that these pics can compete with Lipstick’s pics.

I went to Red Rock National park today.  It’s beautiful, it’s close, and it’s cheap.  I still don’t get to go as often as I would like — most of the hikes take a few hours, and I don’t want to leave Mrs. Sobek alone with the kids for that long while I go play.  I’m just freaking awesome that way, is all.  But she and the kids are gone, so I got some guilt-free hiking.

Red Rock is so named because of all the stunning red sandstone hills and mountains.  They were formed millions of years ago from ancient sand dunes that were saturated with iron oxide — basically they are stained with rust.  And because of the complex fault systems, you frequently see a hill made of yellow sandstone at the bottom and a sudden transition to red. 

I did what was supposed to be a short hike to Calico Tank, a good example of a <i>tinaja</i>, or a basin that collects rain water and supports thick vegetation.  Calico Tank is very well-concealed from casual observation; you don’t know it’s there until you climb yet another rock and them bam, there it is.  This time of year it was probably no more than five or six feet deep, but it was full of tall, reedy plants.  A smaller puddle on the trail was full of tiny black tadpoles.

Instead of taking the normal trail back, I climbed the rocks surrounding the tank to get a full view of the Las Vegas valley to the east and the rest of the national park to the west.  While I was clambering about, I found some other hikers who were as curious about me as I was about them:

Mrs. Sobek has our camera with her, so the best I could do was use my camera phone, which does not have much of a zoom lens.  I took this shot after my first four or five didn’t work out, and I decided to try holding the camera phone up to my binoculars.  That is not an easy thing to do.  Compare the uncropped image:

Anyway, I came over a rock and saw three bighorn sheep, who (judging from their facial expressions) had the following conversation:

Sheep 1:  What the hell is that?

Sheep 2:  I don’t know. 

Sheep 3:  It’s looking right at us.  Just ignore it and it will go away.

Sheep 1:  Ignore it?  But it’s looking at us.

Sheep 2:  I’m going to squat down and piss all over this rock.  Maybe that will make it go away.

Sheep 1:  Nope, that didn’t work.  It was looking right at your nads.

Sheep 3:  Seriously, stop looking at it.  Look the other way, like I’m doing.

Sheep 2:  What if it comes over here?

Sheep 1:  Did, it’s wearing a New Orleans Saints hat.  If it want to pick a fight, I’m pretty sure we can take it.

Sheep 1:  Hey, even though I look like as graceful as a brick of furry spam with little toothpick legs, I’m going to calmly walk down this nearly-vertical ledge like it’s no big thing.

If they said anything else, it was after they walked out of my line of sight.  I climbed closer to where they had been standing, and I saw another group of six, including a little baby sheep with tiny little nubs for horns.  The picture above is from that second group. 

So what was a group of bighorn sheep doing hanging around a bunch of desolate rock?  As it turns out, they were near a not-so-desolate part:

I veered off-course to avoid them, and I happened across what looks like another tinaja, this one without any standing water in it.  This tinaja is totally invisible unless you are in a helicopter or something: it is at the top of a very large hill, with a big tank surrounded on all sides by big, yellow rocks.  When the rain comes, it erodes the sandstone and fills the tank with new soil, water and seeds.  It was a little paradise down there.

I climbed down into the tinaja as the best way to get back to the regular path, and got another nice (all things considered) shot of the flora.  Those plants were probably four and a half feet high, and spendidly green, especially in contrast to the cloudless blue sky and the yellow rocks. 

All this, no more than a fifteen minute drive from western Las Vegas and about a 45 minute hike.


1. xbradtc - July 31, 2008

That’s pretty neat, except for the Saints hat…

2. BrewFan - July 31, 2008

Did, it’s wearing a New Orleans Saints hat. If it want to pick a fight, I’m pretty sure we can take it.

I’m amazed at the intelligence of these sheep. They seem to have their own slang (Did, where’s my car) and their dialect seems to be derived from Ebonics. 🙂

3. Cathy - July 31, 2008

Thanks Sobek. Enjoyed your travel-logue.

4. composmentis - July 31, 2008

Thanks for letting me enjoy that vicariously Sobek. I know I would like hiking and climbing on those rocks. It’s always great to find something neat and unexpected when exploring.

5. Spiders, Snakes and Scorpions - July 31, 2008

something neat and unexpected


6. Muslihoon - July 31, 2008

It’s fascinating how varied nature can be. Desolation on one side, life on the other.

Thanks for the pics, Sobek!

7. eddiebear - July 31, 2008

Desolation on one side, life on the other.

You just described Detroit vs the rest of Michigan

8. Retired Geezer - July 31, 2008

Mrs. Geezer and I have been to that first watering hole. Pretty surprising to find it in the middle of all that rocky landscape. I’m glad you saw those sheep. We saw a couple of them about 30 years ago.

We lived off Jones and Charleston in 1971. We were pretty much the last housing development. Jones was a dirt road between Tropicana and Spring Mountain rd.

An interesting trip (not hike) is to drive from Red Rock over to Pahrump on the dirt road. It might not be possible anymore. We saw a Jeep on its roof one of the last times we did it. The guy had wrapped a cable around his driveline and tried to winch himself upright. He wasn’t there anymore but we read in the paper that he got frostbite hiking out. Yeah, it was in one winter with snow.

I wouldn’t try it alone because that road was ‘Michael Scary’ (Site Admin please insert link to Michael driving in terrifying Colorado terrain).

9. Retired Geezer - July 31, 2008

^ Assuming you can find it…

10. skinbad - July 31, 2008

I like desolate. It has its own “pretty” factor.

But then, I’m a Utard.

11. The Sheep - July 31, 2008

I’m glad you saw those sheep. We saw a couple of them about 30 years ago.

We age well, don’t we?

12. Mr Minority - July 31, 2008

I’m glad you saw those sheep. We saw a couple of them about 30 years ago.,/i>


13. Mr Minority - July 31, 2008

Having lived in Arizona for many years, I have a deep appreciation of the desert flora, fauna and geology, and find it fascinating and beautiful.

14. Michael - July 31, 2008
15. kevlarchick - July 31, 2008

Cool story Sobek. Respect the sheep.

16. Lipstick - July 31, 2008

This has to be the first and best camera-phone-through-binoculars photo ever taken. Very clever.

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