Thursday, October 2, 2014

Great Basin National Park

September 29 - October 1, 2014

It's another beautiful desolate ride on the Great Basin Highway, route 50 and route 487 for about 70 miles to Great Basin National Park.  We went downhill into an immense valley with rows of wind turbines silhouetted by snow dusted mountain peaks, quite a view.  I get a bit jaded from time to time, getting used to seeing incredible scenery, but these wide open, far as the eye can see vistas always get to me. 

Route 50 view

We then arrived at the entrance to Great Basin at the town of Baker, population 86, and I stop at the visitors center to meet Twinkles, who is not there.  We communicate by phone, barely working, and find she is at the lower campground waiting.  The road to the Lower Lehman campground goes up and up to about 7,300 feet elevation.  It is a cool day, high 50's with only partial sun, ominous dark clouds in the mountains.  This is a first come, first served campground, (no reservations), always a gamble, but the peak season is over, we are early in the day and sites are open.  We end up in a beautiful roomy pull through campsite next to the bubbling, fast flowing Lehman Creek which originates at Wheeler Peak about 4,000 feet above us.  The only negative is that it is not so level, how nice automatic levelers would be, but after getting two boards under my usual two stage leveling ramp at each front tire it is livable.  I really hate these plastic ramps, they tend to slide as you try to pull onto them on many surfaces, would help to spike them into the ground sometimes, (a brilliant idea).  I get our supplemental propane heater out for use as it will be cold and I can't run the furnace so much on battery power alone.  I could on the generator, but I hate to hear it run, it annoys me terribly when I am in a pristine quiet natural place like this.

Lehman Creek behind our campsite

Aspen tree cluster next to our campsite

View of Wheeler Peak from the campground

The hawk in the campsite

We do the usual visitors center trip, there are two here, with one being more for the Lehman caves which is a big attraction here.  It seems that everyone loves to go into the caves, stange as it seems I don't. 

1926 Dodge sitting amongst the sage

A decorated gate, note the head is an old car heater

The Great Basin is a huge park, not a well known National Park, but a very unique one.  It takes in 77,000 acres and includes much of the South Snake Range which has 13 peaks over 11,000 feet.  Wheeler Peak is the highest mountain in the park at 13,063 feet, second highest in Nevada  This area is considered a desert due to it's low annual rainfall, but it is called a "cold desert", due to it's high altitude and freezing winter temperatures, the only one in the US.  There are many streams flowing out of the mountains but none of them reach the sea, they all sink into the "Great Basin".  

It gets near freezing overnight with the interior of the RV at mid 40's. I usually fire up the furnace and then quickly get fully dressed.  Somehow, it isn't that bad, you just need to get mentally prepared to suffer through it.  

Our goal for the day was to ride up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive which goes from 7,000 feet to 10,000 feet.  It is a great drive, all paved with several overlooks along the route.  The road takes you up through several vegetation zones.  The Aspen Trees are changing color at present and are beautiful in contrast to the green of the pine trees.  We lucked out, it was a nice day with lots of blue sky and large puffy white cumulous clouds. The views are incredible as there is an 8,000 foot difference between Wheeler Peak and the valley floor.

View for the road

Wheeler  Peak

Wheeler Peak glacier

Aspen's along the road

A close up

We drove to the Wheeler Peak campground where we took the Brislecone Trail for 1.4 miles to the Bristlecone pine grove interpretive loop at 10,600 feet.  There were pockets of snow on the ground all along the trail, it was a little slick in places. The Bristlecone Pine trees live at the Alpine level on the mountain between 9,500 and 11,000 feet.  They are extremely slow growing and the ones on the trail are from 2,000-3,000 years old, but they have been known to live for 5,000 years. On the return trail, we side tracked to Teresa Lake, a small alpine pond with crystal clear water. It wasn't a long hike but when you are in the 10,000 foot elevation range and going uphill the breathing is much harder.  They have altitude sickness warnings on all the main trail signs.

Twinkles on the snowy  trail

Trail view from our lunch stop

Ancient Bristlecone Tree

Bristlecone loop view

Close up of the beautifull wood grain

Teresa Lake

We then drove all the way back down to the valley floor and to the Baker Archeological Site where an ancient Fremont indian settlement was found. The Fremont people lived from about 700 to 1300 AD and are closely related to the Anasazi.  They had a 5 story adobe main structure built here with several smaller buildings.  The site was excavated and many artifacts were found, however when finished they backfilled it in again to protect it, so there is not much to be seen. 

Baker Fremont Indian site

Sun rays across the valley

I did more hiking on Wednesday, doing portions of the Lehman Creek trail from our campground to the upper Lehman campground and from upper Lehman campground to Wheeler Campground.  Also the Baker Creek Trail to the cutoff for the South Fork Trail.  Lehman Creek is a series of fast flowing streams cascading down over rocks and logs, really pretty.  It runs 20 feet from our campsite soothing us with it's noise as it tumbles over the rocks.  Baker Creek is a similar Creek, but in a more remote area a few miles down a gravel access road.  The Baker Creek Trail to the cutoff was supposed to be 1 mile, but it seemed more like 2, I think they measure as the crow flies ?  We thought the same yesterday on the Bristlecone Trail. 

Creek view

Aspen leaves in the creek

Aspen trees with carved initials and designs are everywhere.
Some of the old ones might be from Basque sheep herders

The Aspen leaves on the trail caught my eye

Baker Creek looks like this it's entire length 

The Aspens and the pine trees are a beautiful sight

We are pulling out of Nevada in the morning and heading for Utah.  Next stop is Fillmore, Utah.

Twinkles and Slick

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed staying at that campground with the creek yakking away....As you said it was tough to get a level site. The caves are worth visiting especially being out in the middle of nowhere....And the dark sky?..Yes!..Stars..The Milky way..Incredible..
    Take Care,