Escape from the hustle-bustle of Las Vegas doesn’t necessarily have to be done by hopping a plane at McCarran or heading for the border in your car.
In fact, the best therapy in the valley might be found by heading west on West Charleston Boulevard past the stoplights, the traffic and the non-stop creation of brown stucco houses.
Worlds away from the 24-hour drag race pace of Las Vegas are a series of stops offering the beauty of Calico Basin, Red Rock, Bonnie Springs and Spring Mountain Ranch. Especially as it relates to nature enthusiasts, the short drive not only soothes the soul but also opens the doors to meet people from all over the world who have learned about the loop only a few miles west of Las Vegas.
Known as The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, this is heaven away from the hubbub.
The trip to Red Rock Canyon – especially during a classic winter storm with low-lying fog and/or an occasional snowfall – is one of the best bargains anywhere in Southern Nevada. Seniors with $10 lifetime passes wear the rubber off their tires taking the journey on Red Rock Loop and some enthusiasts even peddle their bicycles on the 13-mile trek while even others jog the route of hilly roads or maybe even climb the mountains.
When the inner city becomes too much to handle, heading west not only changes the pace but settles the nerves at the same time. Between the beauty of the red mountains, the sights of waterfalls after a storm and the animals that can be seen throughout the area, Calico Basin, Red Rock, Spring Mountain Ranch and the community of Blue Diamond are picturesque and therapeutic.
So gorgeous is the area that hundreds of cars can be seen off the road to the western ledge of the road as enthusiasts wait eagerly to watch the sun fall behind the mountains.
This isn’t the beach, but it’s almost as enjoyable for those who seldom get to the ocean and need something natural to offset the plasticity of the make believe world better known as Las Vegas, often known as the adult Disneyland of the world.
There are no stop lights; no barking dogs and no sirens to interrupt your train of thought on what is known officially as State Highway 159.
There are friendly burros wandering alongside the road and through nearby Blue Diamond, which serves as the last watering hole before reaching State Highway 160.
Simply put, this is another element of God’s Country where the scenery is natural; the pace is slower and the people are more down-to-earth. A hike in any direction usually results in meeting some interesting people from all parts of the globe.
It’s tranquility at its best and it’s less than 20 miles from the non-stop, all-electric Las Vegas Strip. Somewhat like Zion National Park in Southern Utah, the area produces a mellow mind without the side effects of some mind-altering drug.
In fact, if the Red Rock Loop is missing anything at all, it’s an outdoor amphitheatre for concerts or plays. Knowing Southern Nevada like so many do, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if someone eventually brings the cash, the wherewithal and the promoter’s mind to the Red Rock Loop for an amphitheatre.
However, already entrenched in the area at Spring Mountain Ranch is the wildly-popular Super Summer Theater on beautiful grounds to the west of State Route 159. When the temperatures soar to triple digits during the summer, each week a steady stream of traffic can be seen heading up West Charleston Blvd. for blockbuster hits. Fans respond in droves by bringing lawn chairs, blankets and bottles of wine to enjoy the outdoors during breathtaking evenings.
There is something about the outdoors under the stars that makes Super Summer Theater the place-to-be. When the sun sets to the west, the entire atmosphere changes and Super Summer Theater takes over in a true example of very mellow and very meaningful works of art combined with the outdoors.
Situated along the Spring Mountain Range, Super Summer Theater has it all and the 2015 season has a long list of what will undoubtedly prove to be memorable shows starting May 15-16 with Keepin’ it Country followed by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang June 10-27; Bye Bye Birdie July 8-25; Tarzan, The Stage Musical Based on the Disney film Aug. 12-29; and Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor Sept. 10-26.
However, while the current day popularity of Spring Mountain Ranch is impressive, it’s the history that is fascinating.
Dating back to the 1830s, Spring Mountain Ranch was a campsite with a spring-fed creek and grassy meadows for travelers using the alternate route of the Spanish Trail. In later years, it was owned by famous Southern Nevadans like Chet Lauck of the “Lum and Abner” radio show; German movie actress Vera Krupp; millionaire Howard Hughes, generally known as the man with the great foresight ever to enter Southern Nevada; and car dealer Fletcher Jones, Sr.
The Nevada Division of State Parks has operated Spring Mountain Ranch since 1974.
And in the desert where both water and greenery are hard to find especially during a drought, Spring Mountain Ranch has lush greenery and Lake Harriet that includes an incredible backdrop of mountains.
Perhaps one of the most interesting elements along State Route 159 is Bonnie Springs Ranch, a truly fun gathering spot with its own very interesting history.
Records show that Bonnie McGaugh purchased 115 acres of land. She and husband Al Levinson opened Bonnie Springs in 1958 and continued renovations have turned the area into one filled with animals, scenes of the Wild, Wild West and what amounts to a very cool environment.
Nowadays, Bonnie Springs Ranch includes an Old Town, a Western setting with an authentic 1880s mining town; and a restaurant open year round that can all be used for old-fashioned gatherings.
Worlds away and only a few miles up the road, the swing concludes with the quaint little town of Blue Diamond where the houses are diverse, a few businesses add to the charm and the burros occasionally intermingle near the local elementary school.
Indeed, the short trip to the West is not only good for the soul, but also for the mental state, too. With the combination of beauty, history and some very interesting people, it’s much cheaper than a trip to your therapist’s office.
Book it and go now. You won’t be sorry you did.