Wait a second...Yes, I've been on this trail before. Wait! No, I haven't. I turn around and look at the map again. This is an actual map, not an app on my phone. There is something about holding a map, book or compass. Maybe it is the way it feels, the familiarity of it, but I think it is more getting to hold an actual something, not just an image of that something that I love. In the same way that I had a hard time switching to digital from film photography, I've held on to things that may be considered "old school" by some, yet they are my favorites. Print your photos all of us photographers say and we mean it. There is something about holding an actual photograph that gives depth and meaning you can't get in another format.
Taking road trips years back meant breaking out the NEW and IMPROVED Rand McNally Atlas and pouring over it with excitement. Which towns would we go through and could I calculate exactly how long it would take us to get there? I love the process of discovering new stops I would not have found if I hadn't seen it on the map: The Corn Palace! It's just up the road! Let's do it. It would let me plan/beg others to stop unnecessarily, know when and where we might finally find some national forest areas to camp and discover the topography before our tires did. And while your cell phone might not get coverage (gasp!) or the batteries might not keep their charge, your map is always with you...as long as your three year old doesn't get a hold of it.
So as our tires now head west up the canyon from Las Vegas, I'm excited to go to a place so unexpected and refreshing in the Nevada desert. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is only 17 miles from the strip but a world away. I've been here a few times but upon returning, I discover something completely new. I fall in love with a colorful variation of sandstone, desert plants, spy a desert cottontail and watch the sun paint the landscape differently every 15 minutes. It is known as one of the crown jewels of the BLM and the moment you turn into the area, you understand why. There are wild horses and burros, unique plants and animals found only in the Mojave Desert and so much geological diversity that it will make any geologist swoon.
The next time you mosey on over to Vegas, take a jaunt up the canyon. You'll have your breath taken away for an entirely different reason.