Running In Vegas – Day 3 – by Helen

Day Three  – Running In the Wild – Red Rock Canyon

This was the highlight of the trip for me.  Well, other than spending quality time with my husband and son, of course.

We drove to the canyon and parked at the visitor center.  We were planning for about a 13 mile trail run.  Turns out that we ended up running about 8 miles.  My daughter Marjorie was right… we should have had a compass with us.  That one wrong turn on the trail…

What was so wonderful about running in the canyon was that it changed so much.  We started on what is known as the “loop road,” a popular trail for mountain bikers.  It starts out on a long uphill climb of several miles through the Calico Hills.  The trails were good though – hard packed dirt and not too many rocks.  It was a good opportunity to enjoy the flora and fauna of the canyon.  Lots of cacti as you might expect.

Running along the canyon walls was awesome!  Aztec Sandstone forms the cliffs of the Red Rock Canyon.  More than 600 million years ago, the Red Rock Canyon was the bottom of a deep ocean basin.  About 180 million years ago, a giant sand dune field formed over the Western United States.  Over time, the weight of the layers of sand compressed into stone – Aztec Sandstone.  Exposure to the elements caused some of the minerals to oxidize.  This process is also known as “rusting of the sand” and resulted in red, orange and tan colored rocks.

While there weren’t many other runners or hikers that day, there were several dozen climbers enjoying climbing the walls of the canyons.

Along the canyon walls we could see petroglyphs and pictographs.  These are images carved or painted on the canyon walls or boulders.  Some may be thousands of years old.  Petroglyphs are rock engravings.   The dark layers of the rock were chipped or broken away to allow the lighter unweathered rock to show through.  Pictographs are paintings or drawings on the rocks.

Although we had a trail map, we made a wrong turn and ended cutting across the canyon in a wash.  A wash is a dry creek bed.  Running in this particular wash was like running on a gravelly beach.  At times it was easy and other times difficult because of the shifting of the gravel under your feet.

After a couple of miles of running in the wash, we finally found our way back onto the trail.  It was at that point that we realized that we just ran across the canyon and shortened our run by about 5 miles.  Even so, we really enjoyed our time in the Red Rock Canyon.

If you are ever in the Las Vegas area, go spend some time in the canyon.  It truly is a memorable experience.

This concludes my musings and sharing about our running in Vegas.   Hope you enjoyed it.

Helen

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