Monday, October 11, 2010 Periods of sun and clouds, 68 on the high desert and 45 in the mountains. Mountain time zone.
"North America's Great Basin includes, Nevada, Utah, and parts of California, Oregon, and Idaho. It got its name because the rainwater that falls here stays here. It has no outlet to the sea." The park consists of two main areas. The first is 13,063 foot Wheeler Peak, and the other is Lehman Caves, home to stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations.
After we picked up information at the V.C. we decided to take the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive up to the 10,400 foot level. Along the road are views of the wide, open high desert to the mountains to the north and east. Coming around one of the many turns on the road, we found ourselves face-to-face with Wheeler Peak dressed in a new coating of snow. It really was a stunning sight.
When we finally reached the parking area, we took the Bristlecone Trail which led to a grove of bristlecone pines. These pines cope with the extreme conditions, the cold and strong winds, found at this high altitude. These are the longest lived trees on earth with some up to 3,000 years old. Their dense, disease and insect resistant wood accounts for their longevity. Under normal conditions this would have been any easy trail, but the recent snow had turned to ice after being trodden on by previous hikers. We turned back before reaching the interpretive part of the trail. On our return we took a short side trail to Teresa Lake. Since it is fall, the lake level was low as it is fed by snow melt. Once we retraced our steps, we headed back down the mountain, but we were too late to take the last cave tour.
Back at the Visitor Center we learned many interesting facts about the Great Basin: it is possible to see up 106 miles across the basin because of the pure air quality; night skies here are very clear also because of the pure air and lack of light pollution; Nevada has over 300 mountain ranges, the most of any state; this is the only cold desert in the US. Since we knew so little about the Great Basin before our visit, we enjoyed seeing and learning about this part of the US.
Miscellanea: 1.) Many of the rural areas of Nevada are very poor. Their buildings and homes are in disrepair or abandoned. 2.) Because of the great distances between towns (75-163 miles), people here must have to plan ahead to have the food and fuel they need. Also, doctor and dentist appointments must be a challenge. We also wondered where the children go to school. 4. Glancing across the wide expanses we quickly figured out that where there is a tree, there is water, and where there is water, there is a house. Following this pattern, what few homes there are on the high desert are either close together or far apart. 5.) Senator Harry Reid has many detractors. One poster read, "Will Rogers never met Harry Reid." 6.) After visiting so many national parks, we will have to relearn the art of toilet flushing.
TODAY'S ROUTE: from Ely, NV, US 50E to NV 487S to Baker, NV, into Great Basin NP. Then NV 487S to UT 21S to I 15S to UT 20E to US 89S in Panguitch, UT