Locomotoring

Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

Vegas, gateway to getaway

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Chihuly exhibit at Bellagio

Chihuly exhibit at Bellagio

I live in San Francisco and Vegas is my favorite gateway to a getaway. I like Vegas – it is hard to not be amused by this crazy city. But what I love lies within 4-6 hours driving distance from Vegas. So … I get into Vegas, enjoy a night of neon excess and then I get out.

Most popular vacation destination for our household is Death Valley. In the winters when San Francisco is hidden under a cloud cover, a few days at Death Valley brings respite with its bright sun and dry desert. Great hiking, spectacular textures and colors, hours of four wheel driving, poking about the old ghost towns….there is nothing that we don’t love about this vast desert. You can stay here for a day or seven. If a day is all you have then focus on the area around Badwater saltflat.

Grand Canyon is another of our favorites. If a day is all you have, you can get a flight experience over the canyon or take a bus/car ride to the West Rim skywalk.  I would be lying if I say that Grand Canyon can be seen in 3 days – 30 is more like it. But if 2-3 days is all you have, then there is nothing like a hike down the Bright Angel trail from South Rim to the river. It is a tough hike, so if you are not prepared, hike a mile down and enjoy a different experience of the canyon.

Utah’s canyon belt is within 4-6 hours drive from Vegas. Zion, a four hour drive from Vegas, is a park for nature lovers. The variety of flora is fascinating – trees, shrubs, grasses, reeds, cacti, algae, ferns – they are all growing side by side. I found the park exceedingly camping friendly. It is reasonably flat,  the river gurgles away within easy reach, no bears around the campsite and some wonderful little canyons to explore by foot.

Bryce, a two hour drive from Zion, is  a photographer’s paradise – tall red and white colored limestone rocks called hoodoos stand in a row, as far as eye an see giving it a large amphitheater full of people like appearance.

For yogis and climbers, and the two often go together, Joshua Tree National Park is a perfect getaway within 4-5 hour drive of Las Vegas. Rodnee Yee looks very much at ease doing sun salutations surrounded by Joshua trees and boulders. In India, yogis are typically found  under the Banyan tree (in books that is). But there is no Banyan tree on this coast, and maybe a head stand under the Joshua tree is as good as a head stand under a Banyan tree.

Climbing is a busy sport at Joshua Tree. I am told that it is practically impossible to find a camping spot here because of climbers. Once in town, you can pick up a local yellow book and find a climbing school who will gladly take your money for a 3-4 hour session. The boulders here look very inviting and a picnic lunch followed by boulder hugging/scrambling can turn into a perfect afternoon.

Here are some photos from these trips. Click on them to see the entire trip:

Badwater saltflat at Death Valley

Badwater salt flat at Death Valley

Flying over Grand Canyon

Flying over Grand Canyon

River flowing through Zion

River flowing through Zion

Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon NP

Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon NP

Boulders of Joshua Tree NP

Boulders of Joshua Tree NP

Other relevant articles:

  1. Rafting Grand Canyon (more)
  2. Flying over Grand Canyon (more)
  3. Wonders of Death Valley (more)
  4. Hiking Bryce canyon (more)

Here is a map of these spots :

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