Early Morning Gray

Today seemed like an endless possibility kind of day.  Classes are behind me now and my workplace is slowing to a standstill, soon we’ll be taking a two week furlough for the holidays — time which I will be using to get some writing and artwork done, fingers crossed.

I decided to go hiking, invited my sister, our father, and his girlfriend.  I live in a city that translates from Spanish to “The Valley”.  We are surrounded by beautiful mountains on all sides, each one carved out with numerous paths, treks ranging from easy, moderate, to couch potatoes stay clear of this path.  We picked Red Rock, it was closest and least likely to be covered in snow, in-spite of the season.

Red Rock is probably Nevada’s most gorgeous landmark.  If you’re ever in the area and you enjoy the outdoors — or perhaps you don’t, you just like to see it, there’s a scenic loop that’s about a 7-mile long drive — I highly recommend visiting.

The rocks which are this park’s namesake are a brilliant red color.  They look lit ablaze.  They’re breathtaking in the summer, but heats out here can reach as high as a hundred and twenty plus degrees by ten or eleven in the morning, so unless you’re a desert animal like me, attempt to visit in the chillier months.

I didn’t snap any pictures of the red rocks while I was there, as I didn’t hike along  their trails.  I went, instead, along a trail called Keystone Thrust.  It’s a short hike, 2 miles round-trip, but I went with a few sedentary office workers antsy to return home, alas, we couldn’t take a longer more strenuous trail.  Regardless, it was a good time.

Keystone Thrust is lower in the valley.  When people think of Las Vegas, they tend to just think of it as a desert, yet we're actually a very diversified region with several different biospheres ranging from desert to tundra to forest.

Keystone Thrust is lower in the valley. When people think of Las Vegas, they tend to just think of it as a desert, yet we’re actually a very diversified region with several different biospheres ranging from desert to tundra to forest.

The air was cold enough to be refreshing, not so much as to be a hindrance or bother in any way.  There were some patches of snow on the ground here and there.  My father would sneak handfuls of the delicate fluff and form balls to lob at us ladies.  He tossed four my direction, the first flew well overhead, the second came no where close, the third fell to my left-side as I attempted to scurry past his girlfriend in a rush to escape, and the fourth whizzed so close past my ear I felt its icy nip.

Squint and you can see the snow in these tree branches.  The sun's rays were peeking through the branches, I tried to get them in the picture, but I had trouble doing it without blowing the shot out altogether.

Squint and you can see the snow in these tree branches. The sun’s rays were peeking through the branches, I tried to get them in the picture, but I had trouble doing it without blowing the shot out altogether.

There was a bit of fear in planning that the hike would get rained out, but we got lucky.  The weather was beautiful, slightly overcast with sun peeking out here and there.  The temperature was brisk, roughly forty degrees, warm enough I didn’t need the sweater I brought, but I was glad of my long sleeves.  Clouds hung low over the mountains, fogging the tip-tops of several hills.  It gave a melancholy, almost somber, scene to the right of our trail, which contrasted greatly to the clear and cheerful nature of the scene on our left.  The mountain has so many faces and she shared quite a few this morning.

Low clouds smothering the hill tops.

Low clouds smothering the hill tops.

We only stayed for a couple hours.  I hope to do more hiking during the winter break.  I have a season pass, good until April of next year.  If I can ever find my camera, I can take better pictures.  I like to hike alone sometimes, which makes my friends and family apprehensive — describing scenes from 127 Hours in effort to scare me away from the mountain, but it can be perfectly safe if you take the proper precautions, which you could read about here if you so desire.  Most of it should be common sense: let others know where you’re going and when you intend to get back, take trails you’re familiar with, know your limits, pack plenty of water — more than you think you may need, bring a first aid kit, check in at the ranger station, etc, etc.

Hiking alone is nice for numerous reason.  You can take your time or move as fast as you want to, there’s a greater sense of  adventure and independence.  You can dwell at overlooks, snap as many pictures as you need of the scenery without someone nearby hounding you to keep moving or simply standing over your shoulder making you feel as though you need to keep moving.  Also, you can stay as long as you want on the mountain.  This morning I was revved to keep moving, but my hiking pals were ready to call it a day before we’d reached the trail’s end.

Not to mention, the experience is so different, even on trails you’ve trekked hundreds of times in the past.  Without other people around to occupy part of your attention, your entire focus shifts to your surroundings.  I hardly ever see the wild-life (birds, rabbits, squirrels, so on) when I hike with others, but when I’m by myself they seem to come out in full-force.

When it comes to hiking alone or hiking with others, however, I don’t really recommend one over the other.  Both are equally enjoyable and really depends on your mood.

12162012 135

Of course, if I hiked alone, there would be no one to take this full-body shot picture of me with the landscape as my backdrop.

I had put ingredients for a Creamy Bratwurst Stew (one of my favorite crockpot recipes in the world, the stew is so hearty, I’ve shared it with people who didn’t even like bratwurst who’ve loved it) in the crockpot before leaving for the hike, and when we returned home the entire place smelled delicious.  The stew, however, wouldn’t be ready for another several hours, so I ate leftover Chinese food for lunch and drank a couple glasses of a red wine, a brand of Melbec called Cupcake, and curled up with the first book on my winter reading list “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein.

Yes, if you’re wondering, I did chose the wine because it was named after one of my favorite pastries in the whole world.

Anyhow, here are a few more pictures of the mountain top.  It really is beautiful in person.  I know, you all wish you’d gone hiking with me.

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