Las Vegas Vacation 2012!

Monday, March 26, 2012 1 No tags Permalink

Bob and I went on vacation in Las Vegas March 17 – 22. The following photos are a few of the highlights (when I say a few, I took more than 700 pictures on this trip. Seriously. And Bob matched me with his photos as well). If you want to see more photos, I’ve got them on my ipad and all you need to do is ask!

We left from Grand Rapids at noon on Saturday, March 17. Got on the plane. The weather in Michigan had been in the 80s – sunny and hot! The first plane had a leak in the hydraulic system, so we got back off the plane, got our luggage off the baggage carousel and rebooked a slightly later flight. We still made our connection in Detroit, no problem. When we got into Las Vegas, it was cool (50s) and raining. We checked into the MGM in a newly refinished room (the nicest room I’ve stayed in – love the MGM!) and had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe (a veggie burger, which was excellent).

The next morning, Sunday, we set off for Death Valley.

Death Valley is about a two hour drive to California. We stopped in the little town of Parump for breakfast (delightful meal of chorizo breakfast burritos at an authentic Mexican restaurant where the staff didn’t speak English) and got water for the journey. Even though the high was only predicted in the 60s, hiking through the desert requires a lot of water.

There are a lot of boarded-up homes and sketchy trailers along the journey. The area has been hit hard by foreclosures and a bad economy.

There is something really special about driving out through the desert. Such a contrast from Michigan, especially given the early spring and green lushness we’ve had.

We got to Death Valley fairly early. Stopped at the ranger station. We had read up on what we wanted to see, but wanted to also chat with them and see what they recommended (a two week vacation is required to really see and hike through everything. We had to pick and choose what was most important. We will go back sometime and see the rest!).

February is a time of rain, and they didn’t get a lot so there wasn’t a lot of spring flowers. There is still a fair amount of things that can survive in the difficult climate, though.

We started our hiking adventure in the Mosaic Canyon area. It gave us plenty of opportunities to get off the main trail and climb and hike through some beautiful areas without other people around.

The Mosaic Canyon trail is pretty much all uphill and a moderate climb. We had to think about how to get up or through some challenging areas, and I did manage to not place my feet correctly and fell off a climbing rock. I got a little scraped and bruised, but no real damage.

After Mosaic Canyon, we drove on to Golden Canyon. One of the side trails on the trek is up to the Red Cathedral, pictured in the distance below.

The trail to the Red Cathedral sort of ends, and you have to climb over and under some rock wall areas to get back to the trail and move forward. Not too many people make the effort, but it’s well worth it.

Below, you can see how small Bob is in comparison to the Cathedral walls. That hill to the left is one we climbed up to get a better view.

At the top of that point, I stacked a small pile of rocks and we took a few minutes to sit, contemplate our surroundings and listen to the complete and absolute silence around us. It was my favorite part of the park and the trip.

Next, we continued through Golden Canyon around the Gower Gulch Loop. On the photo below, you can see the trail in front of the photo. It goes up past those three dark spots in the middle of the frame, and you can just make out the thin trail just below the bottom of the main peak.

This photo below shows Bob on that thin trail. It is deceptive how it looks basically flat; there is a narrow path and a stiff wind along with a steep drop-off the further you go along the trail.

After finishing up that hike, we went down to Badwater to see the pool and the salt flats. It was pretty late in the day. The salt flats area is the lowest point in North America, and often the hottest place in the United States.

If you were to walk all the way across the salt flats to the mountains beyond, it’s about a 2.5 mile hike. We went out about 1.5 miles.

Towards the end of the path where most people go, you can see the geometric shapes the salt forms on the earth.


Do you see that tiny little sign marker half-way up the mountain? That marks where sea level is.

After getting back to the car, we made the decision to hit our final destination, Dante’s View, 5,475 feet above sea level. It was 29 degrees on the top, with a furious wind. We didn’t stay out of the car too long.

The sunset view was lovely. Then, we began the slow process to get back to Las Vegas. It was a long day of lots of activity, but we enjoyed every minute of it.

Monday morning, we got up and made our way down to Paris for breakfast. The difference between the Strip at 7:45am and any time after 10am is amazing.

City Center was just in the process of being built when we were in Vegas the last time.

Paris is as lovely as ever. I had remembered the Cafe from our previous trip, and was really looking forward to a healthy breakfast.

Le Cafe Ile St. Louis.

Breakfast was just as good as I remembered…delightful!

After breakfast, we decided to walk the strip all the way down just past the Venetian for some shopping.

One of the stores I was anxious to visit was Bettie Page inside the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. I had spent a lot of time at their website, but the clothing is so specialized it’s something you really want to try on for yourself. Bob was the perfect husband…carried my bags, helped find other sizes in dresses, zipped me up, offered his opinion. I bought a dress and a crinoline which I’ll wear to the HSSCM martini mixer in May (now I’m spending my time reading up on 1950s style makeup and pin curls!).

We stopped at the Bellagio to see the conservatory, where I took a ton of photos. It was fall when we went the last time; the spring theme was beautiful!

We made our way back to the MGM to get ready for dinner, then took the tram down to Margaritaville for dinner. Excellent meal, excellent Margaritas, then a walk back to the MGM.

When we got back, we sat down at the bar and played some video poker (didn’t win).

Tuesday we got up and walked to the Imperial Palace for breakfast at Hash House a Go Go. Then we walked to City Center to look around.

This is a restaurant inside City Center.

A chocolate sculpture inside the Aria Casino.

Tuesday night we went to see Cirque du Soleil’s ‘KA’ which was simply amazing. I sat watching with my mouth open for almost the entire performance. It’s one of those things that you don’t expect to be as incredible as it is once you see it. When I think about it now, I still can’t believe how fantastic it was!

After the performance, we went over to New York New York to have a drink and people-watch.

Wednesday, we got up and drove out to the Valley of Fire. We stopped at IHOP on the way, and picked up some more water. When we were in the Valley last time, it was at the end of the dry season. Spring has a lot more greenery and flowers. We did a ton of hiking and rock climbing throughout the park.

This time we also saw animals! We saw this mountain sheep on the side of the road, but we also saw a whole herd inside the park, along with many geckos and a few larger lizards.

Dune primrose:

Barrel Cactus:

Did you know that Star Trek: Generations was filmed in the Valley of Fire?

On the drive back, we went past Lake Mead and came in through North Las Vegas. I took a quick shot out the window of our wedding chapel:

After a long day of hiking and lots of activity, we wound up going to bed a bit early. The next morning, we got up, went to the Studio Cafe for breakfast, and made our way back to the airport.

We had the best time on vacation. I love Las Vegas itself, but also having the opportunity to get out and enjoy nature, hiking and climbing, is the best. We are already talking about what we’d see the next time we go!

When we did make it back to Michigan, we found that there are leaves on the bushes, the trees have popped, the spring flowers are well out and spring is completely here. I put out the oriole jelly feeder this weekend, and will put out the hummingbird feeder this next week.

1 Comment
  • Bob
    March 27, 2012

    Great pictures Jessica, I loved your captions! It was so much fun hanging out with you. That was our best trip ever and I can’t wait for our next adventure!

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