It is not uncommon for Lisa and me to first stop at the visitors center of new places. I look for trail maps so we get the hiking experience we desire. What really floats my boat, so to speak, is the relief map on display at some centers, usually an eight foot by five foot, three dimensional metal representation of the surrounding landscape. We get to point to areas we hope to hike, and get a good sense of the terrain where we will be immersed. Some of these maps have tiny embedded light bulbs that illuminate when you push a button mounted on the periphery of the display, highlighting points of interest. When little kids discover this, they run around the thing pushing every button as fast as they can. Fireworks!
Today we are visiting Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, part of the Mojave Desert here in Nevada. At the Center, among the claimed average 5500 visitors per day to Red Rock, are a number of smartly dressed people milling about, shaking hands, looking around for what to do next. Soon, a naturalization ceremony will begin, welcoming these folks of various accents, colors and features to citizenry of these United States. Mazel tov!
We also go hiking.
On one of several hikes, we trek out to the Keystone Thrust, a big jutting rock about 65 million years old, plus or minus twenty minutes.
This one was formed when the Pacific plate pushed its way under the North American plate, causing the uplift. This 13-mile long fault is unusual because, as we humans thrill to do, you can stand with one foot on the younger reddish Aztec Sandstone layer and the other foot on the older, grayish limestone rock.
We make our way past unmistakable Joshua Trees, the Mojave yucca with its sharp leaves, prickly pear as well as other types of cactus, creosote, dull yellow rabbitbrush, oak brush, the dead-looking blackbrush, Indian rice grass and a million other species I don’t know. On the way, we do not see a single desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, burro, white-tailed antelope ground squirrel, chuckwalla or quail, all of which we are told live here in abundance. Feh.
Why the name Red Rock for this place? Take one look and it’s no mystery. The Aztec Sandstone is red because the rock contains a significant amount of hematite. Hematite comes in a variety of colors including… red.