I have to say that the drive along the north shore of Lake Mead, by itself, makes going to Valley of Fire State Park worthwhile. The road dips and twists for fifty miles or so, covering some beautiful desert terrain. I found it to be enjoyable towing the Airstream along this road, and Kyle (following us with his 34-footer) seemed to feel the same way.
We had expected that the campgrounds at Valley of Fire would fill up quickly, and so we were not surprised to see “CAMPGROUND FULL” signs upon arrival at 10:30 a.m. on Friday. But we’ve learned not to take such signs seriously. It’s always a good idea to inquire, especially in the morning when people are departing. The campground hosts (usually volunteers) and rangers can’t keep putting up and taking down the “FULL” sign, so they generally just leave it up and let the people who are more timid or great respecters of signs turn around and go elsewhere. We are neither timid nor great respecters of signs, so we plowed ahead a few miles and (after passing yet another CAMPGROUND FULL notice) readily found two vacant sites with water & electric hookups.
The camping area is beautiful, reminiscent of the Squaw Flat campground in the Needles district of Canyonlands NP, but with one important difference. The state park prohibits climbing on the rocks, except in a few designated areas.
This was unexpected, and curious. A big attraction of these sorts of parks is the hiking and climbing amongst the rocks. We had figured on the kids being able to explore a bit. Was the park management concerned about human-caused erosion of the sandstone? People getting hurt?
The other surprise was the dearth of established trails. On Friday afternoon we hiked every trail in the park, and they were great, but they were short. The experience left us wanting more and there just wasn’t more to be had in “Nevada’s largest state park.”
OK, so no more hikes, no climbing on rocks, and also no cell phone service. This meant no blog, no work (yippee!), and enforced downtime. I spent a lot of time just sleeping, eight or nine hours a night and a big nap in the afternoon. At one point Eleanor looked around at the scenery, and me uncharacteristically lying in bed with a book, and said, “Shouldn’t we be doing something?”
“Yes,” I replied, “and I’m doing it.” Or words to that effect. It was a guilty pleasure. Usually time in the Airstream is tinged with work. This time I had a chance to finish Umberto Eco’s “The Island Of The Day Before,” which has been sitting on my bedside table for over a year.
But really we did do more than just lie around. We made dinner outside again, I baked breakfast in the Dutch Oven (mentioned in the previous blog entry), talked about things we don’t normally have time to talk about, and on Saturday we went to a little classic car show that was organized in the park’s Visitor Center parking lot. It was enough.
We didn’t have to worry about Emma and Kathryn at all, except to ensure they didn’t wander off somewhere. They have kept each other company for three weeks straight. At one point this weekend Eleanor handed them a bottle of soap bubble solution, but otherwise they were entirely self-entertained in Pokemon talk, co-writing a story (about two girls who acquire mysterious superpowers at the hands of evil scientists), developing a code language, and whatever else 12-year-old girls do together. I don’t really want to know.
On Friday I noticed Stupid Camper Trick #2: Somehow, our neighbors managed to establish a cell phone call with friends who were apparently coming to the park. (How they did this, I don’t know since I had “No service” on Verizon. Maybe Sprint or AT&T works better.) They stood outside their trailer and loudly conducted the call on speakerphone. The sites are widely spaced here, but I can guarantee that everyone within the surrounding 200 feet clearly heard both sides of that conversation. It wasn’t an interesting one.
Saturday night Mary made what I thought of as “Farewell Brownies,” since they were the last meal we would share together. It has been a good three weeks with them, camping at our house and traveling together. There aren’t many people with kids who we could last three weeks with. We made tentative plans to cross paths again next February, when they will be coming to Alumaflamingo in Sarasota FL, and we might have the Airstream there too.
Kyle was close to pulling off Stupid Camper Trick #3, but he owned up to it before he did it. For logistical and work reasons he had to get on the road at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning. The only problem with that plan was the fairly loud Dodge diesel, which could wake everyone up. We have encountered this one before, and it’s really only an issue when the owners let the engine idle while they hitch up. Kyle was thoughtful enough to hitch up the rig the night before so they’d be ready for a quick getaway, and so we granted him absolution in advance of his sin. I promised him I’d roll over in my sleep as a sort of salute to their departure, but in fact we never heard a thing. They slipped away in the night and started their run up to the Pacific Northwest. We’re wishing you guys clear skies and smooth roads.