“Where are you going?”
“What!? YOU are going to Vegas?”
We called our first trip to Las Vegas, years ago, the “Over My Dead Body” trip…. Everything I knew about Vegas seemed at odds with the way I choose to live my life. But Vegas, I found out on that first trip, has some wonderful experiences, some great people, and some incredible natural areas to explore.
Despite the billboards that we saw on our drive into Las Vegas, it is not necessarily a city characterized by “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas,” Life on The Strip, gamble your heart out, over-the-top consumerist, glitz & glamour urban environment that should not exist, environmentally speaking, in the desert. It is not just a city with an underlying atmosphere of seedy desperation and depravity, or the hell-hole of addiction place that lives in my crime-fiction/Hollywood/ Breaking Bad fuelled assumptions and ideas. (How’s that for a run on sentence filled with high & mighty, elitist, emotional hyperbole and a whole lot of unfair assumptions!).
Most people go to Vegas for the nightlife, the shows, the gambling, the deals and the shopping. We were there for the Nevada desert.
The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a spectacular landscape to explore. It gives you a taste of the desert with its cacti and Joshua trees, its dry stream beds and washes, and incredible eroded sandstone rock formations.
The rock that makes Red Rocks famous rises up out of the desert, a little like Ayers Rock in Australia’s outback. It stands out spectacularly from its surroundings with its massive size, its undulating wave-like eroded shapes and its incredible red, pink and cream colouring.
The reason we were there had everything to do with the rock. We were there to climb!
There are over 1,000 climbing routes in Red Rocks and the Calico Basin area, with climbs that appeal to everyone including boulderers, trad climbers and sport climbers.
We had no difficulty finding crags that appealed to the mixed bag of diversity that represented the climbing skill levels and desires of our group. I was most assuredly the weakest link of our group, and when I couldn’t get on hard routes, I still had a blast enjoying the airiness of the crags, watching others do the impossible on some seriously hard stuff, being a belay slave, and climbing the 5.8s and 5.9s myself.
In my next post, I’ll show you what the crags we went to are like…
Should you wish to venture out into the city proper, there are so many excellent dining options. There is still free parking at the Venetian (we heard that many of the big hotels are now charging for parking). We arranged ahead of time for our group of 8 to eat at Canaletto in the Venetian in a lovely private room that looked out on the piazza. It was no extra charge, and we were able to order off the menu, and were not restricted to a fixed menu, thanks to a wee bit of negotiating, and we could hear each other speak. I highly recommend it.
Are you after something “cheap & cheerful” (as our good friend Monika calls it)? Join us on the hunt for the best, most authentic Mexcian tacos in town. Our two favourites this trip were Tacos El Gordo in east Las Vegas (the line-ups were insane, but the atmosphere was fascinating… see the video below!) and Frijoles & Frescas (where the crunchy tortilla lies inside a soft wrap, making them much easier to eat). Try the Al Pastor (marinated pork) tacos at both locations!