*Featured Photo courtesy of my cousin Jango!
For the first two times we’ve visited Vegas, we were able to go to Mt. Charleston in December 2014 and to Red Rock Canyon in June 2015.
Although we did not climb any trail in Charleston, playing in the snow (my first time!) with my cousins is a memory I will hold dearly in my heart.
Years went by as my cousins from my Mom’s side of the family grew up and made their memories together, while we lived in the Philippines. Any time with them, no matter how short, is not to be taken for granted.
So when we had our first reunion in years (!) with my Mom and I in Vegas, one of my biggest and special dreams (one that is not related to an ideal career or lifestyle) came true.
Kuya Alvin, Jango, Ouel, Ate KC, Kuya John C, and I hopped aboard Kuya Alvin’s car, and we drove a long way off to Mt. Charleston. When we would go outside my cousin’s home prior to this trip, Jango pointed off towards the distance, and I’d see the mountain peak capped with snow.
I took videos and photos during the trip. I remember Jango mostly, speaking in his faux yet believable Irish accent!
As we elevated, we could see more of the expanse of the land. Palettes of blue, green, white, and gray form in my mind as I recall our journey to the mountain. It wasn’t snowing at all, but the side roads were covered with it.
As we neared the parking areas, traffic started going slower. Lots of cars needed to park, and on the other lane were people who were headed home already. It was the holiday season, the weather was just right – surely enough, throngs of people will be up in the mountain to enjoy the day and the views.
It took a while for us to park.
Snow on the mountain beckoned.
Mt. Charleston stands at 11,916 feet (3,632m), while I stand at 5 feet and 2 inches.
Going to high or vast places is a good reminder in knowing our own smallness yet immense value in the eyes of God. His creations vary from plants to trees to landmasses to oceans to animals to shores to people, and all these hold His fingerprints.
It was a sight to behold to be underneath the tall trees, to have our feet make footprints on the fresh snow, and to feel numbness and cold in my fingertips and toes. Honestly, it was an unpleasant feeling. Nonetheless, because it was new to me, and I am thankful for these kinds of experiences, I didn’t mind at all this different sensation, said this lady from a country lying near the equator.
Before leaving, my Mom told me to wear extra layers of clothes. (I think I wore four?) Growing up in the Philippines, my body will not take this big difference of temperature easily. I didn’t want to, because I saw my cousins wore two or less than two layers of clothes. I forgot that they grew up in the US; they were used to it already!
I don’t remember if there was a winter breeze at Charleston, but my fingertips hurt. And I was even wearing gloves then.
But of course, I had to touch the snow on the ground with my own bare hands.
Upon closer inspection of the precipitation, snow is like very fine halo-halo/shaved ice. I didn’t try to taste it though. Haha!
My childhood self would be ecstatic to know that I got to touch and experience snow and to be with family again along with my Mom this December.
In the afternoon light, our surroundings were magical.
For some reason, it made me think about The Hobbit; maybe it’s just my cousin Jango, but there was such a Lord of the Rings feel to the place.
Or Narnia even, only there wasn’t heavy snow falling, and there was no lamp post in the middle of the forest.
I’ll always remember the moments my cousins and I threw snow at each other and up into the air, the boys sliding on the icy paths, and taking photos together.
As we headed home, the blue, green, gray, and white colors changed to warm as the fading afternoon light hit the desert and the mountains.
Our family welcomed us back to a shared feast in the dining room.
And then we were warm and safe from the cold.
Here is a short excerpt from an entry in my Tumblr that I wrote before:
Getting nervous, the heavy traffic, the cold nibbling on my fingertips – oh, I got by them easily, because something weighed heavier in my heart during these days. What were these compared to being with family? I did not even notice it much, because I was enjoying myself with the company.
I just wanted to write these down, so I can remember the details of the days of our trip. How I felt, what we did, what we saw… The afternoon we went to Mt. Charleston was special. It was my first time to experience snow! I was like a little child, overwhelmed by this simple phenomenon from the sky.
There was ice on some parts, but there were still a lot of soft patches the higher we got up. Kuya Ouel was enjoying himself by throwing snowballs at us, Jango was creating some magic, Kuya Alvin was being his energetic and happy self, Ate KC was throwing snow up into the air, and Kuya John C took lots of good pictures of us. They sled on the icy road and played by hitting snowballs with their foot. Kuya Alvin, being such a sporty person, would hit the snowballs lots of times with style.
After an hour or so, we went down already, and we bid goodbye to the mountain. Its peak by then was golden because of the light. Mountains and light – sights to behold. We went back to my Tita’s house for all of us to go together to Church afterwards.
The mountains by dusk were grayish violet, and they were lit with gold light. I was with family, we were together, and we were on our way to Church from the mountain. On our way to God’s home.
My heart was not just full. It was brimming. All my joy comes from the Lord who is generous. (Written January 24, 2015)
Red Rock Canyon
From the cold Mt. Charleston, we go to Red Rock Canyon. From blues, greens, and whites, we go to red, orange, earthy colors. If you find yourself in Vegas, please do visit these places!
In June 2015, Jango, my Dad, and I went hiking. The heat wasn’t like the heat in the Philippines; it’s dry, not humid.
On our way, we saw the area of red mountain ranges, a different kind of view for us who mostly saw green mountains and fields in our country.
Before leaving the car, we made sure we had all that we needed: water, trail food, hats, bandannas, and extra clothes. Me being asthmatic and my body still not used to strenuous activities like this, my Dad and Jango carried most of the bulk; I only had my camera in my hands and the clothes on my back. I’ll always be thankful for their kind deed.
We started our trek on flat ground. The sun was high already in the sky; I think we started around 8 or 9 AM. At the start of our journey too, we spotted a squirrel!
The change of flora and environment in Vegas was also something to behold.
As we continued our walk under the sun (it wasn’t cloudy at all!), we started to go higher.
No, we didn’t go through that. Haha!
Humongous formations went up around us, and at first, they might all look intimidating. When you’re around this area for a long while, it can feel like you’re in another planet of some sorts. Being away from the city and the refreshing colors of green and blue…
On our way, we spotted this slight elevation where tiny rocks were placed on top of each other.
My Dad made one for us too!
I think this was it!
After this little village of tiny rock towers, our path led us going upwards now. I do not know how I was able to live through this trek, but here I am, typing what I can remember from two years ago.
One lesson I took away from our Red Rock Canyon climb was this: you have to be sure of the place where your next step will be, just as you must have faith in your own movements. Trust in wherever your feet will take you.
The trail was rough, it went up and down, and your feet will find themselves going on top of land or rock. By observing from a distance, you must know if the place your foot will land on is sturdy and stable. And by deciding to take it and move along, you have to be quick and light on your feet, in case you might stumble, so you will catch ground again on foot. Moreover, you have to trust yourself with your judgment and abilities.
The journey wasn’t all on our feet too, because there were parts where we had to place our hands on the rocks to go up. As in really climb. Sometimes, either my Dad or Jango would go ahead, and grab hold of us to ascend.
We took short breaks during our climb. We rested under a large tree at some point and had some snacks and refreshments. Dad and I laid down for a bit on our big bag, and I remember that there was a slight wind to help cool us off.
And on we went again.
Just before we reached the end of our trail (one where you could see the Vegas Strip from a distance, Jango said), we went through flat open land. In the middle of it was a pond where tadpoles were. Or at least, I think they were tadpoles.
From here, we continued our climb. Higher and higher. Eventually, we reached the end of our trail.
Our photos fail in showing the rich colors and textures of the Vegas landscape. From the photo above, I think you’ll be able to see a minuscule Strip. Jango said that there were more challenging trails than the one we took.
Somehow, I made it a tradition for myself that whenever we could climb a mountain or a canyon, I would sit at a high part and take a photo of myself there and my feet dangling from way up. Haha! I did these too when we climbed Airport Vortex in Sedona, AZ. That was my first ever climb with Ouel and my Mom. In the snow!
I took photos of my Dad and Jango, being happy and energetic!
The photo above shows where we came from. You can spot the little pond too from there.
This landscape was so new to me, and it truly felt like being in a different territory far from Earth, or at least, far from the beaches, green mountains, and fields, and blue skies of our home country.
There is beauty in the desert, in what is unfamiliar, in the form of a canyon of large rock formations built and changed by time. Anywhere is made beautiful with people you love.
I was glad to see my Dad so happy. Not just during this climb but all throughout our stay together in the US during summer two years ago.
As the three of us went down and reached the starting point, my Dad, Jango, and I hugged each other.
That I think was the best part of our climb.