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Honeymoon Destinations: The Valley of Fire {no, really - it's a state park in Nevada}

Updated on May 7, 2014

Adventurous Souls

My husband and I recently passed our six-month anniversary, which reminded me of our honeymoon in the Valley of Fire State Park in Overton, Nevada.

We're not the type of couple that does anything in the usual way; so I realize that not everyone would be thrilled with the kind of wedding and honeymoon we arranged for ourselves in much the same spirit as children planning to sail away and become pirates. For us, and for those who love adventure and the outdoors, it was a completely fabulous way to start off a marriage we hope will be full of a lot of the same. Start as you mean to go on, right?

Yes, we did.

Drive-Through Vegas Wedding on a Harley

Yes, you read that right. Gleefully, we arranged to zoom off on our Harley Davidson motorcycle and get married at a drive-through window in Las Vegas. I thought those were hyperbolic myths, so I assumed my husband was joking when he initially mentioned it as an option. When I found out they were as real as vanilla ice cream - though not as classic, admittedly - the temptation became overwhelming.

Neither of us had any desire to spend much time in Las Vegas itself; it was just the outrageous convenience combined with the sort of swashbuckling romance attached to the idea of a Vegas wedding on a Harley at a drive-through window that appealed to us.

We did stop a few times and wonder if we were really going to do something so non-traditional and - some would say - disrespectful of marriage in general; my husband is from Japan, and once said it was the most American thing he'd ever heard of, and he couldn't believe we were doing such a thing (even though he was the one who brought it up to begin with). I was born in New York, but it was almost as crazy to me. Far from dissuading us, however, it just added to the overall spontaneity and joy for us.

Never has it been less of a headache for a bride to plan a wedding! The chapel itself was quite accommodating, the staff was friendly and helpful, and our overall experience left us without much to complain about. The planning for our honeymoon camping in the desert was far more arduous for both of us - but well worthwhile.

Campsites

It might look like a lot of red rock and scrub, but the edge of a circular firepit is visible in the right lower corner, and in the distance toward the right you'll see some covered picnic tables; each site comes with one.
It might look like a lot of red rock and scrub, but the edge of a circular firepit is visible in the right lower corner, and in the distance toward the right you'll see some covered picnic tables; each site comes with one.

In case anyone has use for it ...

A markerVegas Weddings -
555 South 3rd Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101, USA
get directions

View from the site

This shows the site next to ours, as well as the edge of the bike's mirror for perspective, and the edge of our own covered picnic table.
This shows the site next to ours, as well as the edge of the bike's mirror for perspective, and the edge of our own covered picnic table.

Ideal Honeymoon

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Valley of Fire!

When I was looking up nearby wild places to camp for our honeymoon, I found several that seemed appealing. However, once I saw 'The Valley of Fire', I hardly even needed to look at the place itself. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to spend their wedding night in a place called 'Valley of Fire'? I envisioned myself saying that for the rest of my life: "Yes, we got married at a drive-through window in Vegas, and then went straight to the Valley of Fire for our wedding night." Irresistible.

In all seriousness, when I looked up the website and saw several of the breathtaking photographs featured, I knew it was a place everyone should visit at least once. I had never seen such a landscape before, except perhaps in my own visions of science-fiction Martian topography. The desert had never appealed to me, and I did not enjoy Nevada much when I drove across it on my long cross-country journey, but this place looked like nothing on earth.

In a more mundane sense, the facilities at the campsites seemed relatively comfortable as well; we wanted to camp, but we also wanted to take showers. It was still a honeymoon, after all; no one wants to stink on their honeymoon.

View from Canyon Floor

Desert Camping: a few things to remember

What to Pack
for day
for night
shoes
close-toed sandals or breathable hiking shoes.
socks with your hiking boots.
clothes
light, breathable layers
fleece, sweats-type layers
body stuff
sunscreen; don't forget sunscreen!
bug repellent
drinks
water, more water, and water
herbal tea, coffee, cocoa
food
light, nourishing stuff like granola
heavier, energy-rich stuff like rice & curry mix
This is not a complete list by any means, just to give you an idea of the contrast in conditions when camping in the desert. It's very hot during the day, very cold at night!

Camping in the Desert

I had never spent any time in the desert before this camping trip, so I was sure to read up on it before leaving; particularly in light of the fact that my Northern European heritage has left me with the kind of skin that is convinced it's melting off and disintegrating as soon as it's been exposed to direct sunlight for more than 15 minutes. I have never been able to achieve the golden goddess-like tan most of my friends enjoy, and I have learned to accept it - however, we're all more aware these days of the need to protect our skin from harmful radiation, even if you do have the golden-god bronzing ability I lack. My husband, for instance, does have the ability to tan well, though he generally chooses to cover up anyway.

Whatever your skin tone, if you go camping in the desert, be prepared to protect your skin from the sun. There's not much shade, of course, so it's up to you: either wear long sleeves and pants (preferably loose, to allow air flow), or lather on the sunscreen. Ideally, both; I save the sunscreen for the hottest parts of the day and stay covered for most of it - remember that skin absorbs what you put on it, and sunscreen does contain chemicals. Natural sunscreen is available, but it generally needs more frequent application - and herbal essences are absorbed into the skin as well.

The other vital point to remember is hydration, hydration, HYDRATION. This cannot be overstressed; when you go for a hike, or even just a stroll, be sure you take enough water with you. We brought a Camelbak pack, as well as each carrying smaller water bottles.

Bringing energy-rich, light snacks is also a good idea, but not as vital as the water if you're only going for a short hike or walk.


First Campsite

That's our little 2-person tent nestled among the gorgeous red sandstone caves, right near a beautiful canyon we hiked.
That's our little 2-person tent nestled among the gorgeous red sandstone caves, right near a beautiful canyon we hiked.

Into the Canyon

This was our route down into the canyon behind our tent.
This was our route down into the canyon behind our tent.

Hiking a Canyon

One thing we vastly enjoyed while we were here in the Valley of Fire was our walk through the canyon that lay just behind our first campsite - we did switch sites after the first night, and both sites provided their own unique delights as far as perspective and view. The convenience to the centrally located bathrooms and shower facilities was about equal throughout the campground. One nice thing about it was that the sites are relatively near each other, yet still quite private.

I mentioned the similarity of this landscape to what I once imagined a Martian landscape to be like, while reading science-fiction or astronomy books as a child. The photos do a far better job than I can of illustrating what I mean by that; nonetheless, I could wax eloquent about the vivid red sandstone and its sculptural, startlingly artistic qualities.

The caves in these rocks are a delight from a distance, and unbelievably cool up close. If you look closely, there's a prairie dog perched on the crest of rock in the foreground.
The caves in these rocks are a delight from a distance, and unbelievably cool up close. If you look closely, there's a prairie dog perched on the crest of rock in the foreground.

Explorer's Paradise

What struck me perhaps the most about the sandstone formations up close was the organic, sinuous shapes they naturally molded into. I grew up on the East Coast, where the rocks are angular, majestic, and quite geometrical. These twisting, turning, graceful, breathtakingly unpredictable shapes were an endless marvel to me.

One of my favorite things was finding caves I could crawl into, or at least windows I could poke my head into and see out the similar window immediately beside it. I don't mean, of course, that I stuck my face stupidly into dark openings that might have been full of scorpions or things with teeth; these formations are often very open to the air, so you can see what you're getting into before you get into it. (Let's not get TOO carried away, after all.)

Here's a beautiful cave lined with soft red sand; I was tempted to lie down in it for a siesta.
Here's a beautiful cave lined with soft red sand; I was tempted to lie down in it for a siesta.
Another lovely cave with a graceful red pillar of red sandstone.
Another lovely cave with a graceful red pillar of red sandstone.

Second Site

We make no claims to 'second sight', as it were, but I do feel pretty clever making that pun. George Takei would be proud.

Anyway, we did switch campsites in order to have the fullest experience possible while there. (My husband also objected to the extreme amount of red sand at our first site, and wanted one with less; I'll leave you to decide which was really the main reason for the switch, haha.) Our second campsite was equally stunning, and offered its own unique features that appealed to us and made our stay that much more enjoyable. Should you choose to visit this place, be assured that any site you choose will offer you a wonderful stay.

Second campsite; the corner of the designated 'tent spot' can be seen in the lower left corner.
Second campsite; the corner of the designated 'tent spot' can be seen in the lower left corner.
Natural skylight in our little private cave.
Natural skylight in our little private cave.
Natural windows in our cave, which also resemble eyes in an eerie way.
Natural windows in our cave, which also resemble eyes in an eerie way.
Our cave as seen from our picnic table.
Our cave as seen from our picnic table.
Cave window and doorway.
Cave window and doorway.

Starry Nights

In conclusion, I'll mention the other *literally* stellar aspect of camping in the desert: the night sky. The sheer number of stars visible took my breath away; we sat in our delightful little camping chairs drinking coffee and staring up at the billion diamonds in various sizes and hues spangling the black velvet of the night, swirled intermittently with navy satin streaks, and talked dreamily about the future, the past, Stanley Kubrick movies, what we should do the next day, which kinds of food we'd choose to bring next time, and how parenting compares and contrasts with patriotism - in short, everything and nothing.

Our society is perpetually plugged in; that obviously includes me, since I'm here writing this on the Internet - so I won't bore anyone with hypocritical condemnations of modern technology I use myself. However, that said, we as humans tend to extremes, and that's a dangerous trait. We should cultivate balance, I believe; times like this, totally unplugged from the virtual world, are necessary and unbelievably restorative.

Sadly, I do not possess the kind of camera or the kind of skill that can do any justice to the night sky, so I will leave you with more startling red rock formations. I heartily recommend the Valley of Fire as a travel destination, whether you're into camping or not - it's only an hour from Vegas, so even city lovers can enjoy its wonders for a day without sacrificing comfort.

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    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 3 years ago from Olney

      Great hub...voted up!

    • Eira Losee Fukuda profile image
      Author

      Eira L'osee-Fukuda 3 years ago from California

      Thank you! Very glad you enjoyed it.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      All I can say is WOW!!! It is an amazing site and reminds me of some of the rock formations in the national parks of Utah and the red rocks around Sedona, Arizona. I would LOVE to see the Valley of Fire someday! All up votes except funny, sharing with my followers and starting a new board on Pinterest titled Nevada so that I can easily find this again for reference. Fantastic photos!

    • Askme profile image

      Pritchard 3 years ago

      Love your pics. Voted up. Great Hub!!

    • Eira Losee Fukuda profile image
      Author

      Eira L'osee-Fukuda 3 years ago from California

      Peggy, thank you very much for your input, and also for your sharing! That's really encouraging for me, still being new here. I have not been to Utah (only through it) or Arizona as yet, though we hope to make it there in the course of future adventures. ;) The only other place I've seen red rock formations something like this was the Garden of the Gods, in Colorado Springs. Also a gorgeous place.

    • Eira Losee Fukuda profile image
      Author

      Eira L'osee-Fukuda 3 years ago from California

      Thanks very much, Askme! So glad you enjoyed it.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have also visited the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Our country is filled with gorgeous places to visit! ☺

    • Eira Losee Fukuda profile image
      Author

      Eira L'osee-Fukuda 3 years ago from California

      Yes, I heartily agree, Peggy! Thank you again for your input. ^_^

    • Askme profile image

      Pritchard 3 years ago

      This also reminds me of many of the parks in Southern Utah. Very beautiful.

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