I never thought I’d visit Las Vegas. It’s really not my kind of place. Everyone says you need to see it once in your life. Once. Last night as the plane touched down onto the tarmac through inky blackness and dazzling lights, I realized this is my third time. How did this happen?
The first time I came to Las Vegas I’d just finished a month of hiking through the deserts and canyon lands of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah with Charles. It was a fantastic trip. We saw more slow-motion sunrises and searing red sunsets than I think I’d ever seen in my whole life. The dry harshness of the desert enchanted me while its radiant warmth made me want to stay. Charles had booked his flight home a day before mine, so that gave me a day to explore the big city. Before heading to the airport, though, Charles joined me for a huge buffet. After eating dehydrated backpacking food for a month, we stuffed ourselves silly.
I returned to Vegas the following year. Again, I hadn’t really planned on visiting the city – it just worked out that way. My friend Jonathan and I spent a week climbing in Red Rock Canyon, just outside of Las Vegas. The slick varnished rock felt so good to grip while the unfamiliar reds and oranges of the surrounding cliffs made me pause mid-climb to admire their intensity, almost forgetting the hundred meters of air directly below me. While we climbed all day, we spent our nights at a nearby airbnb. Our host, a retired pharmacist from New Jersey, had fallen in love with the glitz and glamour of Vegas and knew this was exactly where he wanted to live out his golden years. Every evening he insisted on taking us out for dinner and a clamorous show on the infamous Vegas strip.
It’s now three years later and I’m back in Las Vegas yet again. Much like my previous two visits, I’m here for the surrounding desert, not the pleasures of Sin City. This time, it’s Death Valley, North America’s lowest point and driest desert, that has lured me. Last autumn the parched land received an unusually large rainfall that has produced the most spectacular bloom of wildflowers in decades. I can’t wait to see the spectacle. But, first, the spectacle of Las Vegas itself. This trip, I’ve come with Sil and it’s her first ever time in Las Vegas. Yes, it is a sight everyone should see once in their lives.