Viva Las Vegas

To bring in the New Year right, Cody and I have made our way down to Las Vegas. It’s a traditional week of good friends, rock climbing and adventures. Since Las Vegas isn’t our typical scene, it’s always interesting to see what comes from it.

In our third day here, we had to break from the climbing atmosphere a bit and get in some foot travel. We headed up past our friends at the crag on Lone Mountain northwest of the city. We were on the outskirts of a newly developed, mostly empty housing tract. Las Vegas is strange…I encourage you to leave the intensity of the strip and explore the outskirts. This place has expanded immensely over the past few years and there are now perfectly paved streets running through the open desert. There are whole neighborhoods of homes, with only a couple occupied. Foreclosures have racked the city but expansion continues…Las Vegas is strange.

So we grabbed our bottles and continued up the mountain. Past the climbing crag and up across the semi-exposed scree fieldsain is a steep edged limestone formation that juts out of the flat landscape. These sharp mountains provide a good backdrop to the seemingly endless flat valleys in between. 

The exposed, rocky slopes left us carefully picking our foot placements as we worked our way up, trying to pick the best possible route. After only a few slips, we reached the ridge, where the rocks not only got looser, but the wind was much more intense, threatening to push us off at any moment. The summit of the peak had its sentimental hurrah, the one that comes with being at the top of something(blame it on us humans’ need to feel powerful or something- whatever the reason it still feels pretty cool).

As we eyed the expansive view, it was hard not to get bogged down on the fact that there were houses. Everywhere. And beyond that? Yep, more houses. And then right in the middle: the sky-reaching Las Vegas strip. “Oh ya…we’re in Las Vegas” was a sigh that we both mumbled, even though words were unnecessary to read each other’s thoughts at that moment. Looking the other direction, out towards the Red Rocks Wilderness Area, which was a place free of human expansion, we spotted another disappointing sight: graffiti colored many of the boulders at the summit.

It’s really interesting to be in a place of such stark differences. Here’s a city known for being outrageous, big, bright and full of so many things that tend to turn us outdoor folks away. But driving through just a few more minutes can bring you across some pretty amazing scenery. The bright red rocks that stick out from the desert sand offer so many opportunities for climbing, exploring and playing. That beauty can’t be taken away, even when we can see the possible negative influences that being close to this city has.  As I reminisce about our little jaunt up the mountain I get excited at how many options there are for cool, unexpected playgrounds in areas that we may not have thought of yet.

The fun of Las Vegas isn’t over yet, though. While we may have gasped at the sprawl of development, the allure of all those lights has pulled us in. To celebrate the passing of 2010 and the coming of 2011, we’re headed to the strip tonight :) Like Cody said…Las Vegas is strange.

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