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Nevada’s red-rock inferno
Entering Valley of Fire State Park, “I felt as though I had been transported to another planet,” said Dan Blackburn in the Los Angeles Times. As I “crested a hill on the drab road” through Nevada’s Muddy Mountains, an hour northeast of Las Vegas, I caught my first glimpse of the sun setting in a “blaze of glory.” As evening fell, the “fading rays illuminated the red-rock formations” that give Nevada’s oldest park its name, making the entire valley seem ablaze. Millions of years ago, this area was covered by water. The sea slowly withdrew and left behind a “desert of enormous, swirling sand dunes” that, over time, wind and rain carved into sandstone formations that range in color from “deep red to almost pure white.” The “sculpted, chiseled, and twisted” rocks that prevail over the park’s 35,000 acres are some of the “most dramatic” sights I have ever seen.
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Robert Johnson’s Mississippi
Mississippi’s Delta Blues Trail leads through the “land where the blues began,” said Bruce Watson in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The state’s Blues Commission has placed more than 100 markers across the delta. Sites run the gamut from train depots to defunct juke joints to birthplaces of bluesmen. I “drove deeper into the lonely, haunted delta,” in search of the blues’ “most mythical figure,” guitarist Robert Johnson. To this day, the location of his grave remains a mystery. At Greenwood’s Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, I found a likely looking headstone “littered with beer cans and guitar picks.” Then I traveled to Morgan City’s Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, which Columbia Records claims is the true burial site. Still others believe Johnson lies in Quinto’s Payne Chapel. The man’s history, like the origins of the blues, remains as “murky as a Mississippi swamp.”
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