Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nevada's Valley of Fire

We were driving between St. George, Utah and Las Vegas and looking for some interesting places to break up the drive. We thought we might stop at a bar or restaurant on Lake Mead for a quick stop. There was also an interesting sounding place - Valley of Fire State Park - that we thought we would give a go to. We drove down the long entrance road and came to a parking lot. There were a few cars and several motorcycles with a few people milling about. The self-pay said it was $10 and I was quite leery it would be worth it. All I could see were a few large rocks - so I tried to persuade the Mr. from paying and going in. I couldn't have been more wrong. And I'm glad Mr. UR is game to try just about anything.

Once we drove over the first hill - and saw what we couldn't see from the entrance - I knew Valley of Fire was a special place. Bright red sandstone, limestone, rocks, petroyglyphs, a mid-century modern visitor center and wildlife all mix together in Nevada's oldest and largest state park. (A road was built through here in the early 1900's for people travelling from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles and they started calling it the Valley of Fire then.)

I actually have a hard time describing it - the desert landscape is varied with different colors and shape of rock - and on our drive through the park I couldn't help but think that it reminded me of the Flintstones cartoons that I watched when I was young. Some of the rocks looked like they could've been Fred and Wilma's house and some areas looked like the rock quarry where Fred worked. As much of the desert southwest seems to me, it looks a bit otherwordly - like you're on a different planet. There are several named rock formations - elephant rock, balanced rock, seven sisters, and beehive. There is even a memorial to a soldier, John Clark, who came through the area after his release from the US Army. Apparently water was as scarce then as now, and finding none he died.

Whatever it reminds you of, it's definitely a unique place. I thought it was just so cool. We drove through the entire park - though probably at a quicker pace than those who make it their only destination - and got a sweet surprise of spying some bighorn sheep. We climbed the ladder to view the petroyglyphs - presumably from the Anasazi culture. Then, as usual, we needed to be on our way. But I'm so glad we took the time to stop.

If you're in Vegas and your luck has run out - or you just need an escape from the city - or you love a good state park - then you may to to visit Valley of Fire State Park. 

Things to know before you go:
-Valley of Fire is a state park comprising of 40,000 acres of Aztec red sandstone located in Overton, Nevada about 54 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
-Park entrance fees are $10 and the park is open 365 days per year from sunrise to sunset.
-There are two campgrounds with 72 units. Campsites includes shaded tables, grills and water with 24 hour access.
-The visitor center is open daily from 8:30 to 4:30.
-Leashed pets are allowed in the park but not the visitor center.

How about you? Have you been to Valley of Fire?

This post is part of a link-up with: Weekend Travel Inspiration at Albom Adventures, Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Montauk - the quintessential Long Island beach town

The small town of Montauk, New York - located 120 miles from New York City at the extreme end of Long Island - has a unique claim to fame. It claims to have more world saltwater fishing records than any other port in the world. The waters of Long Island Sound off of Montauk have been designated birthing grounds for The Great White Shark. And it was the birthplace of the fishing technique known as Skishing - where one dons a wetsuit and flippers along with rod n reel to catch fish while swimming in the ocean. All this is well and good for fisherman but what really brings people to Montauk these days is surfing and beaching during the day - and seeing and being seen at night. It's a popular weekend getaway for New Yorkers and there have been a glut of 1950's style motels redone in "beach chic". The party crowd is strong here but there are still families who come here every year for their beach week. We drove out one day in May - and I was totally charmed by this small town.

We started our visit at the very end of Long Island at Mountauk Point State Park climbing the lighthouse and visiting the lighthouse keepers house and museum. I've always been fascinated by lighthouses so they're usually on my list of places to see. Beautiful views, a playground, fantastic weather - a fun visit. But now it was time to put our toes in the sand and experience some of Montauk's famous beaches.

We made a quick stop at Kirk Park Beach located right in town. There was free parking and restrooms. The beach was empty and it felt really good to put those toes in the sand and hear the ocean rolling in. 

It was time to start thinking about dinner. I had heard about Navy Beach - a bar/restaurant located on the bay side of Montauk with supposedly great views. They had just opened for the season the day before we were there so we headed their way. Just a word of advice - Navy Beach is not easy to find as it's located in what appears to be a residential area. We thought we were definitely in the wrong place but it was indeed the restaurant. When we arrived we were told they were having a staff meeting and they wouldn't open for another 30 minutes but we could sit out by the water. So we did. We relaxed and enjoyed the views until we could get a drink. After enjoying the water views for awhile we decided to head elsewhere for dinner.

We were told that the Montauket was a great place to watch the sunset. But apparently everyone else in town already knew that. It was beyond packed with the parking lot full and an entire two streets with cars parked on both sides.We couldn't find anyone to even find out if a table was possible - so off we went down the road. Side note: Due to all the bars and partying, there is a taxi stand set up in Montauk so there's no drinking and driving. A first for me - I'd never seen a taxi stand in a small town before. (The taxis are also available for service from the Jitney - Long Island's extremely prevalent service from New York to Long Island. You don't need a car. There is scheduled service all the time)

We ended up at Duryea's Lobster Dock. Located on Lake Montauk, Duryea's is a self-service restaurant - that's not really self-service. You order at the window but they bring the food to you, fill your drinks and even provide blankets on a cool evening. There is outdoor seating with sunset views and music to dine by. Mr. UR and our daughter both ordered the lobster roll - pricey but they said it was definitely worth it. 

Our hotel was a good hour away so we got on the road. Due to our late arrival, there  wasn't nearly enough time for me here in Montauk. If I go back, I'd stay in town so I could see so much more. More beaches. More good food.More uber cool bars to visit. More Montauk.

Have you been to Montauk? What did you think?

This post is part of a link-up with: The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog PartyWeekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox!