mojave road trip

Around 10 on the morning of Friday, Dec. 4, I knew I needed to head out soon. The plan, after all, was to get to St. George UT, at the northeastern end of the larger Mojave Desert. And I wanted to make a couple of stops. I did not have much time to waste, however, because I wanted to get into St. George at a reasonable hour, and I would already be crossing a time zone (Pacific to Mountain).

It ended up being a pretty interesting drive, at least in part, although with some seemingly interminable stretches of dirt and grey mountains in the distance. A few scenes, including ones taken in Death Valley near Beatty NV, lying just outside of the park, about an hour northeast of Furnace Creek CA, at the park’s heart. Next door to Beatty is, meanwhile, another NPS property, Rhyolite Ghost Town. I briefly toured the ghost town, then had a tasty pork al pastor burrito from a Mexican food truck in Beatty, as well as French press coffee from a drive-through place (really, a trailer).

After this, I had high hopes of being able to at least briefly stop at Valley of Fire State Park, located between Las Vegas and St. George, and about 15 minutes east off Interstate 15. I had I read about this gem of a state park a few months before in researching places to visit in the region. By the time I got there, it was only going to be open for another hour. So I couldn’t tarry long, but I made it!

I’d read great things about this park, and even my brief drive through showed me that it lived up to its billing. Next time I make it around these parts, I need to go back and spend a bit more time at Valley of Fire. For the record, the property was almost a national park. Today, it’s a state park bordered by federally-owned lands, including the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which I drove through the tail end of after leaving.

One unexpected thing: Making my only siting on my trip of big-horned sheep, the undisputed showstoppers among wildlife in the region. (Read upon my return to Mississippi that a recent visitor complained about losing a shoe to one of the sheep. Park staff later found a shoe matching the visitor’s description within the park.)

After leaving, I took a lovely drive through small towns near here after that (many palm trees around houses, ranches and such, old downtowns) at dusk, before hooking onto I-15 again. I ordered and ate pizza, caught up on emails and such, and soon crashed.

Next stop for the next day: Springdale UT, gateway to Zion.