It’s been far too long since I’ve been to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a unit of BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System just west of Las Vegas, Nevada. It holds a special place in my heart as it was one of the first out-of-state destinations that Kim and I went to together. Back in March 1998, we borrowed my dad’s old Cadillac and drove up to Las Vegas for a few days. We didn’t have much money, but Kim hadn’t seen Vegas before and it seemed like it could be a cheap vacation.

We stayed in a cheap Motel 6 just a block off the Vegas Strip, next to the MGM Grand, and spent the first night wandering up and down the Strip looking at the spectacle that is Las Vegas. Since we’re not drinkers or clubbers, and didn’t have any money to waste on slot machines, we simply took in the sights. The next morning, we headed out to a part of Vegas that far fewer see. We drove up to Charleston, turned west, and drove until we found Red Rock Canyon NCA. Red Rocks has some interesting resources and we found ourselves spending much of that day exploring the Calico Hills area. I still remember taking the a much-treasured picture of Kim curled up in an alcove.

After some time exploring that area, we continued along the loop drive, stopping at each turnout to read the signs and snap some more photos. We took a few short hikes before completing the loop drive and heading back to the bright lights of the city for dinner.

While Red Rock Canyon didn’t quickly vault to the top of our must-see-again list, we had a surprisingly good time there. We hadn’t expected to do much hiking at all on the trip, but the visit to RRCNCA and nearby Valley of Fire State Park made the trip uniquely special to me. Not only was it the first time we had ventured out the state together, but we did it on our own terms and managed to stumble upon some really cool places – foreshadowing, I suppose, the wandering National Park roadtrips we’re now known for.

So it was great to stop by and visit – even for a short time and by myself – and reflect on the importance of the site to the last decade of my life. And this time, I won’t let another decade go by before I return.