It's easy to write about the consumer excesses here. Much harder is writing about places like the Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon.
The Valley of Fire is a state park just north of Las Vegas and just west of Lake Mead. The rocks are a serious shade of red and the shapes they've taken on from wind and water erosion are surreal. We did one short hike off the main road to something called Mouse's Hole (or something like that). It had been a hide out (presumably for someone named 'Mouse') and a place where water collects during the rare rains. It was only supposed to be a 1/2 mile hike round trip so we figured it would be pretty easy. We hadn't counted on it being 100 degrees and a mostly sand trail.
The actual water hole was anti-climatic. The most exciting part was a yellow snake having a swim. There were two guys already there watching the snake and who told us where to look. They thought the snake was 4-5 feet long. I told them that guys always overstate size and that it looked to be about 2.5 feet to me. Thankfully, I did not get pushed into the hole.
Along the way, we saw petroglyphs, chuckwallas (a kind of lizard) and some other kind of lizard. (Isn't it impressive enough that we know how to identify chuckwallas? We can't learn about all of them!)
Yesterday we went to Red Rock Canyon. I was on a hunt for big horned sheep but all we saw were a few chipmunks (which I, of course, renamed "little big horned sheep") and the rustling of some larger animal behind a tree. One of the remarkable things was the drop in temperature between the start of the trail and the end (of our little hike). It must have cooled down 20 degrees, which gave us a really comfortable hike until it started raining. I'm not sure if it rains there often, but there was a lot of greenery and most of the cacti were flowering.
Back on the consumer end of things, we explored the Aria hotel and casino this morning. The first thing you notice is that they must have a very high-end air filtration system. It barely smells smoky. The second thing you notice is that it's really beautiful. They've paid attention to the smallest details on the floors, walls and the ceilings. They even have art in the bathrooms - and in the individual stalls. You have to have a room key to get into the pool area but they let us walk around - it looked like the kind of place they use for movie sets. We also learned that to rent a cabana for the day was as much as our hotel is for the whole week. And all the plants and flowers we saw there were real. We were clearly out of our league.