Home » 2014 Southwest Deserts and Yosemite

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, CA

Friday, November 7, 2014 - 8:15am by Lolo
196 miles and 4 hours from our last stop - 5 night stay


Herb on Caustic Post Crux Clip - TJGHerb on Caustic Post Crux Clip - TJGTo say that Vegas is not exactly our cup of tea is a bit of an understatement. However, it did, somewhat surprisingly, have something that was – camping proximity to a world-class rock climbing area known as Red Rock Canyon. Although Red Rock does have a campground, it really is only meant for tenters, so the Circus Circus RV Park was the only game in town.

Ironically, Circus Circus, right on the end of the strip, was the first place we ever camped in our brand new motorhome back in 1999, when we had it delivered from the Lazy Daze factory in Montclair, California. So, here we were 15 years later, back in the same asphalt parking lot surrounded by the glitter and glitz that is Vegas. It was like coming home. Well, not exactly, but it would serve our purpose well enough, as a base camp for Red Rock.

The boys and Celeste arrived late Friday night very excited about a break from work and the prospect of spending the next four days climbing. It’s amazing to us how much they have taken to rock climbing, a sport that Herb had been equally obsessed with when he was their age. Now, climbing has become the centerpiece of our family vacations and a wonderful bonding experience for us and our adult children. It’s amazing what trusting your life to the person on the other end of a rope can do for family dynamics.

Lolo Climbing at Red Rock - TJGLolo Climbing at Red Rock - TJGDespite their late arrival and my hopes that they might want to sleep in a little the following morning, they were up bright and early, ready for a full day of climbing.

So, for the next four days, we commuted (during rush hour) from Vegas to Red Rock where we put in a tough 8 or 9-hour day. And they call this vacation???

I was the only one of us that had never been to Red Rock before, so I probably had the most astonished reaction that a place of such natural beauty could be so close to a place of such man-made tackiness. It was like a wonderland of vibrant red rock, just waiting to be scrambled over and climbed.

Unlike other climbing areas we have visited in the past, Red Rock has really long approaches that require climbing up, down, and around giant boulders of rock for over a mile. Many visitors to the park don’t rock climb at all, but come here just to hike and scramble in this red rock playground. Other more sedentary types, enjoy Red Rock Canyon right from their cars, while cruising along the 13-mile scenic drive through the park, stopping at viewpoints along the way.

Andrew Climbing at Red RockAndrew Climbing at Red RockBut not us. For the next four days straight we would hike/scramble to the base of a wall, climb, then hike/scramble some more to another spot, climb some more, and then hike/scramble back to the car, usually with headlamps on, because it was dark. Then we would sit in the now deserted roadway – because most people had the good sense to have already left and were probably eating dinner by now – talk about the accomplishments of the day and have a celebratory beer.

Since the scenic drive through the park was one way, and we were at the beginning of it, we would then have to drive the 13 miles of winding road just to exit the park. With four days, I thought that maybe just once I would actually be able to see the scenery along the scenic drive, but that never happened, because we never got out of there before nightfall. I guess with youth and limited vacation time, the kids wanted to make the most of each and every day. I just hoped I would survive it. I must say, I have never slept so well in my entire life.

Tommy in Black Corridor of Red Rock CanyonTommy in Black Corridor of Red Rock CanyonUsually when we got back to the campground, we were too exhausted to do anything but go to sleep. However, one night I did convince everyone that we should walk the Strip. Circus Circus is located all the way at the northern end of the Strip, so we practically had to walk a mile before getting to any of the good stuff. During that first mile, everyone remembered just how much they hated Vegas, so it took all my charm to convince them to continue on, just a little bit further.

Secretly, my goal was to make our way to the Bellagio Hotel to see the fountains dance, as we had on our first trip to Vegas in 1999, when the boys were just 8 and 10. I am quite nostalgic and I must confess to wanting to repeat the feeling that I had back at that moment in time – the excitement of the first night in our new motorhome and these two little boys mesmerized by the choreography and lights of the fountains, accompanied by Andrea Bocelli belting out “Time to Say Goodbye.” I still can’t listen to that song without crying.

Well, as Herb always reminds me, “You can’t go back.”

Tommy and Celeste on the Great Red Book - AJGTommy and Celeste on the Great Red Book - AJGWe did manage to watch the volcano go off in front of the Mirage Hotel and the tacky out-dated Fall of Atlantis Show at Caesar’s Palace before the troops insisted on going back to the motorhome and to bed. If we hadn’t gotten lost inside Caesar’s Palace for 45 minutes, I might have had them. What really got us is how these casinos try to manipulate you and make you walk for what seems like miles before finding an exit. Herb compared it to that old Roach Motel commercial, where “Roaches check in...but they don’t check out.”

Climbers at Mirage VolcanoClimbers at Mirage VolcanoI guess I should be glad that the boys are not big Vegas fans and prefer more wholesome activities in the great outdoors, but still, couldn’t I just gamble a little? So one night, Tommy humored me, and off we went to the Circus Circus Casino – just two high rollers out on the town. Actually, I give him a lot of credit for going out to a casino with his mother.

We set the rules up front. That way, things wouldn’t get out of hand – hahaha. The game would be Black Jack and we each set a limit of $20. If we worked that $20 up to $30, we could cash out. If not, we had to keep playing until we lost it. Since $20 is not exactly a vast sum of money in Vegas, we couldn’t play the tables, because we would be done in about 2 minutes. Instead we had to find a $1 Black Jack machine. After wandering the casino for about 15 minutes and not finding one, I asked a security guard, who then proceeded to wander around with us in our search. I am surprised Tommy didn’t just pretend he didn’t know me at that point and head out on his own. But he’s a good boy, and we were in this together.

Red Rock Canyon Climbing CommuteRed Rock Canyon Climbing CommuteFinally, we found a machine and decided that I would play first, while Tommy looked on. I think he was just trying to get some tips from me. My less than sophisticated system required me to double my bet whenever I lost. This worked for a while and I my winnings went up and down. When I got to $27, I said I wanted to cash out, but Tommy held me to our rule of not cashing out until $30. I then proceeded to lose the whole thing.

Tommy stepped up to the machine and had similar results. Oh well, it was fun anyway. On our way out, Tommy decided to take out another $20 (going against our rule), and put it on 25-36 on the roulette table, which would give him a 1 in 3 chance of winning. Well, the little stinker won and walked away with a $60 payout (the $20 he put in, and $40 of winnings). That meant that collectively we were even, and I asked him to give me $20 of his winnings so we would be individually even as well. After all, I explained, we were a team. He reluctantly handed over the $20, but only so he could forever hold it over me how he had to bail me out that time in Vegas.

Herb in Black Corridor of Red Rock CanyonHerb in Black Corridor of Red Rock CanyonI certainly felt like a winner. After all, I got to spend a night out with my son, laughing and having a good time. We returned to the motorhome victorious only to find that the rest of them were already sound asleep, resting up for another day of climbing.

Although the four days of rock climbing in Red Rock Canyon sort of blend together, there were definitely some highlights and firsts that stick out in my mind, such as:

I completed my first outdoor 5.9 climb cleanly and without falling. So sure was everyone that this was beyond my capabilities that Andrew even promised to carry me back to the car on his back if I was able to do it. I am still waiting.

On the final day, Herb completed the most difficult lead of his long climbing career, a 5.11b called Caustic. Even more importantly, the photo of this accomplishment which Andrew posted on Facebook with the caption “Old Man Herb cruising up Caustic” received the most Likes of any photo of Herb to date.

Lolo and Tommy in Black Corridor of Red Rock CanyonLolo and Tommy in Black Corridor of Red Rock CanyonTommy, by far the most skilled, willing, and able to lead multi-pitched climbs, herded the four of them (Herb, Andrew, Tommy, and Celeste) up two spectacular ones: the Great Red Book, a 2-pitch 5.8 climb, and the Big Bad Wolf, a 4-pitch 5.9 climb.

Celeste, besides leading several 5.10a and 5.10b routes, and taking the time to set up some easier 5.8 and 5.9 routes for me, completed her first multi-pitch climb. In fact, she completed two.

Besides leading several difficult 5.10 and 5.11 climbs, Andrew led the second pitch of the Big Bad Wolf (his first multi-pitch lead). Andrew also should be credited for the documentation of our Red Rock experience. In an act of dedication to historical accuracy and a bit of anal-retentiveness, he has meticulously recorded on Mountain Project the details of each of our 19 climbs.

Spending time with the boys and Celeste at Red Rock Canyon was an awesome, albeit exhausting experience, but one which I can’t wait to repeat.


Celeste Belaying Herb on Caustic - TJGCeleste Belaying Herb on Caustic - TJG Red Rock Canyon, located just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, encompasses 195,819 acres of towering red cliffs and desert beauty. The park includes a 13-mile scenic drive, over 30 miles of hiking trails, world-class rock climbing, canyoneering, mountain biking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and a visitor center.

Because of its unique geological features and wildlife, in 1990 it was designated as Nevada’s first National Conservation Area, and is managed by the BLM.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area has one developed campground. Red Rock Canyon Campground is located two miles east of the Visitor Center on west Charleston Boulevard (State Route 159) and then one mile south on Moenkopi Road. The campground has 72 individual campsites (including 14 walk-in, 5 RV & 3 accessible sites). There are no hookups. http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/lvfo/blm_programs/blm_special_areas/red_r...

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area location map in "high definition"

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