A MEMORABLE PLACEFeeling the Nevada heatMarjorie V....



Feeling the Nevada heat

Marjorie V. Streiker

Special to the Sun

After my encounter last summer with the Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas, I have a new respect for all those westerns I viewed as a child. The highway winds a mere 55 miles from downtown Vegas to this breathtaking site. With just one turn of the road, brilliant red rocks appeared before my eyes.

Being the typical tourist family, we parked our rental van to read an informational plaque about ancient Indian petroglyphs. Because they were only a short way up the trail, we decided to hike it. An oppressively hot breeze hit us as we exited our air-conditioned van. Thankfully, we remembered to wear our hats. However, Grandma and I soon found out that we could not navigate the rough terrain. So I said to the others, "You go on. We will wait for you here."

Standing in a shadow cast by an enormous rock, we were relieved to feel at least a 30-degree difference in temperature. I was sure it was over 100 degrees in the sun. (Later we found out that it was actually 122!)

This setting was just like an old western from my youth. The destitute cowboy would desperately search for shade in which to sleep during the sweltering heat of the day. Then, he would travel in the coolness of the night.

My Hollywood nostalgia was then jolted by a harsh reality: The only sound I could hear was ... my own breathing! All my senses were on edge. I had never experienced such piercing silence!

There was only gravel, griddle-hot red rocks of every size and a birdless blue sky. Because of flash floods, most of the rocks were riddled with dark holes. I wondered what creatures could be hiding there.

As I continued to stand motionless in the ever-narrowing shadow, my mind began to dwell on the dryness of my mouth. Inside, I was begging to sweat. This commanding environment had become claustrophobic to me. Again, I remembered those westerns. Cowboys would sometimes lose their minds in such a forsaken place. I could easily understand how panic could have full reign.

Just then, Grandma nudged me. There, in the gravel right in front of us, was a gray striped lizard about eight inches long! After a few minutes he scuttered away as silently as he came. How can anything survive here?

When I thought I could endure this scene no longer, I caught sight of my family returning. They excitedly chattered about the adventure Grandma and I had missed. However, I will never forget my own desert experience. Valley of Fire is certainly the perfect name for this Nevada state park.

Marjorie V. Streiker lives in Reisterstown.


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