We spent the four day Thanksgiving weekend in the Las Vegas area. While this might seem weird, its not like there’s some hard rule that we needed to be at home (or with relatives) for Thanksgiving. We were in South Korea a few years ago over Thanksgiving, so going to Las Vegas was far less of a culture shock. We slept & ate in Las Vegas, and spent the rest of the time on day trips outside the city. We’ve been to Vegas many times before, and we’ve seen just about everything that is ‘family friendly’. However, within a few hours drive are still a decent number of awesome things to see.
We drove down on Thanksgiving day. The traffic has never been much fun (especially on I-15 when all the yahoos from LA are heading out for the weekend), however it was a special kind of crazy on Thanksgiving day. My personal record for driving to Las Vegas is about 6 hours. I still managed to get out there in 7.5 hours, so while it wasn’t great, it wasn’t horrific.
The next morning we headed about 90 minutes west of the city, back into California, to the China Ranch Date Farm. The drive out there was through pleasant mountainous Mojave desert terrain. The last mile or so was down this steep dirt road through a slot canyon to the valley where the date farm existed. We started by wandering the grounds. They have a few short trails, plus the actual date palm groves all easily accessible to explore. They even had a very ‘modest’ (their words) museum which provided some background on the history of the property. It was all quite pleasant. We then went on a relatively short hike out into the desert, towards the the Amargosa River. Finally we went into the shop, and Denise got a date shake, which she had been craving for years.
The next day we drove about 2 hours northeast of the city, nearly to the Arizona border to an area east of Lake Mead and south of the Virgin River, known as Gold Butte. This is a vast region of canyons and valleys, primarily managed by the BLM. The first destination was the old Gold Butte town site (ghost town), which was about 38 miles of driving from the exit off I-15. About 2/3 of the driving was on a paved road, of varying quality. However the last 12 miles or so was unpaved. While the road was never in bad condition, it did degrade somewhat, where I was averaging around 30MPH. Information about the townsite suggested that there would be a decent amount of random artifacts to explore & examine. However, when we got there, all we found were two gravestones from the last residents of the town, a large mining contraption (about 8ft long), and dozens of old metal cans. It was a disappointment to say the least, although he scenery was quite pretty. Next we retraced our drive about 14 miles, and then drove 2 miles down a rather poorly maintained rocky road towards the Falling Man Rock Art site. The site is named after a pictograph which depicts a man in a seemingly free falling position. However, there were literally dozens of other pictographs spread around the assorted multi-colored rock formations, and it was quite beautiful.