Most visitors whizz past this nondescript parking lot at breakneck speeds on their way to somewhere else. They shouldn’t.
Within a short walking distance of this parking area are no less than five fascinating, unique, multicolored Aztec sandstone geologic wonders.
It’s quite possibly the most traveled past, yet least visited places in the United States where there are so many nearby world class photo opportunities packed into such a tiny space.
Only one of the photo ops has a marked sign and trail leading to it: The Fire Wave! For 70 years even that wasn’t marked.
Well seasoned wilderness landscape hunters like yours truly seek out these overlooked gems of the wild, wild west.
Surprisingly, this lot is in well-traveled Valley of Fire State Park, 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. The park gets over 300,000 visitors a year.
After returning to the lot from my first lazy early morning hike, I encountered a 20-strong motorcycle gang that had arrived. Yup, they were Hell’s Angels, all right. Usually a casual nod between battle-tested road warriors like us is all we ever exchange.
After that, the Angels usually go off to rape and pillage elsewhere while I start packing equipment or fiddling with f/stops.
This time, however, one of the Angels let out a strange bleating noise. I’d never heard anything like it. Was this some new secret signal that, if I didn’t know it, would result in a guy pulling out an unlicensed concealed-carry handgun from his belt, shoot out my tires and then carry off $8,000 dollars worth of my camera gear?
As I was summoning up the courage to make the best bleating noise my suddenly dry throat could muster, I heard an even louder, blood-curdling “bleat!!”
The Angels had established communications with a big horn sheep! In some sort of primordial contest, they bleated back and forth at one another several times in a noisy exchange before the Angels fired up their gleaming machines to drown out the beast and roared off in a cloud of dust.
I was greatly relieved.
I’d barely arrived, yet the there was much more to come!