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What to do in Nevada

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Las Vegas on a budget, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Rhyolite Ghost Town, Valley of Fire. Information, experiences, tips and tricks.

ghosts sculpture rhyolite
Original artwork at Rhyolite Ghost Town

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is located in Death Valley National Park. Let's start by dissecting all these words, which seem to have no meaning. Mesquite is a particular tree that grows in this desert. It has twisted branches and appears to be dead, but in reality it is its way of surviving and avoiding being buried.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

You would think that sand dunes can appear anywhere in a desert, but you need special conditions. There must be a source of sand grains, so a mountain or several nearby, lots of wind to create erosion and eventually, over time, create beautiful sand dunes.

The name "death valley" is a bit disturbing, but it was only by first impression that the pioneers gave it this name. Because even if there does not seem to be any life in this environment, it is only because the small animals and insects are not so easily seen.

We chose Mesquite Flat Sand Dune for its proximity to the highway. Moreover, several Hollywood film shoots have chosen its landscape for the same reason (Star Wars, among others). I had read somewhere that it was possible to do sandboarding there. Maybe with an organized tour, but on the spot there is no surfboard rental. Anyway, at the time we arrived (in the middle of the day), I wouldn't have even tried to do anything physical because it was so hot (probably in the 40+ degree range). Instead, we had the crazy idea of trying to cook bacon on the roof of my car! Did it work? I keep you surprised and let you try!

2 young girls smiling and bacon on top of a car
Cooking bacon on the roof of a car, does it work?


abandonned building rhyolite
Abandoned Rhyolite Building

To stay with the Death Valley theme, I had the idea of visiting a ghost town just 40 minutes from Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: Rhyolite. It began to develop around 1905. Two years later it had almost 5000 inhabitants and was one of the most promising towns in the region. Around 1907, it had concrete sidewalks, electricity, water systems, communication lines, a train station, newspapers, police and fire departments, a hospital, a school, several banks and two churches. . In 1920, no one lived there anymore. What happened?

At that time, it was the gold rush. The miners seemed to move with the rumors. Specialists have overestimated the deposits in this region. After a few years, there was already nothing left. Located in the middle of the desert, it was certainly not a good place to settle for a long time with a family without an income, so they simply changed sides.

It was impressive to walk among these ruins and these streets that were once so bustling, to see smashed beds, rocking chairs that are still held together by fear, a huge dump of rusty tin cans. We tried to imagine what the old rooms could be used for. Was this building used as a chicken coop? Was it a former communications office? We can let our imaginations run wild.

Rhyolite broken chair creepy

Recently, the owners of the place tried to accommodate tourists by commissioning a bizarre artwork of ghosts lined up like the Christian Last Supper scene and an absurd sculpture of a naked blonde woman. I really liked the concept of the first one. We did not understand the meaning of the other with the ghost town but what is certain is that we had a good laugh!

rhyolite blond naked girl sculpture
A work with no apparent connection to the ghost town!

Las Vegas on a budget

Las Vegas Strip collage
Las Vegas Strip

Visiting Las Vegas on a budget and without enjoying playing lotteries... Bizarre idea, do you think? Still, this was my second visit to Las Vegas and both times I didn't feel pressured to spend. Obviously, to be able to fully enjoy the most touristic city in the world and its attractions, such as international shows, shopping and other expensive and original activities, you have to have a big budget.

Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas Strip

But if you are passing through, as I was before heading to the Valley of Fire, the city remains a very pleasant place to discover for its extravagance. I let myself be carried away by the wave and I remember having had a great time among backpackers at the hostel (Sin City Hostel), walking on the Las Vegas Strip, looking at the twenty largest hotels on the planet, reproductions of famous monuments all over the world (such as the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramid of Giza), gazing at the gigantic fountains of the Bellagio, entering the casinos just to see or having a good laugh seeing that it is actually possible to get married on the run like in American stereotype movies. With luck, I was even invited to swim for free in a swimming pool where luxurious parties were organized every day to cool off from the beautiful, almost eternal temperature.

So, visiting Las Vegas with almost no money is possible. This is actually the reality of many people. In some neighborhoods, poverty affects 60% of the population, and I remember that the first time I arrived in Las Vegas by bus at dawn, I saw dozens of people coming out from under the overpasses who had probably lost everything in gambling, ready to risk everything the next day in the hope of winning...

If you don't have a car, this place can be a good starting point for several attractions in the area, such as the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Bryce Canyon, etc. I predict however that it will not be the cheapest tours offered on the tourist market, but everything is possible.

Valley of Fire

Only 45 minutes from Las Vegas, we find ourselves in the middle of the desert and this park attracted me for its beautiful limestone mountains colored with sandstone (Rainbow Vista). Arrived on the scene, we quickly realize that the photos have been greatly retouched and that the colors of the geological strata are not as intense, but it is a magnificent place all the same and I enjoyed camping there. . The entrance fee to the park is only about ten dollars and camping is on a “first come first served” basis (Atlatl Rock Campground) and costs $20 a night.

rainbow vista no filter
Rainbow vista (no filter)

I remember thinking they should have called it the Valley of the Wind rather than the Valley of Fire, because I don't think I've experienced a sandstorm as intense as this in my life. I guess that's normal in the desert, but clearly we weren't prepared for this. Despite our precautions to ensure that the tent was firmly fixed in the ground, we found it half detached after our visit to the surroundings, and we hesitated for a long time whether to close the curtains of the tent or not, because it was so hot that we probably would have suffered, and in the other case, it was so windy that the sand came in through the mosquito nets. It was truly an unforgettable experience!

valley of fire

Leave everything and travel, become a nomad. Many people dream of it, but many also fear doing it. Be inspired by the adventures of an independent travel filmmaker who challenged herself to make 10 travel films around the world and become a full-time nomad.

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