Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Great Basin National Park (first day)

The first thing we did upon arrival at Great Basin National Park was to take the drive up to Wheeler Campground. The park is fairly underdeveloped and the one paved road was a windy goat path that snaked its way up about 4,000 feet from the Snake Valley floor. As an aside, I love the idea of a Snake Valley, my squeamish friends not withstanding. 

About one tenth of Wheeler Peak
The road was narrow and it was a slow drive but that's OK because we enjoyed unbelievable views down to the valley and the nearby Confusion Range (another name I approve of). Literally, we were looking down into Utah. As we gained elevation, Wheeler Peak sort of dominated the view. I say "sort of" because clouds covered up most of the mountain but the base of it was still impressive.

A sign we are not in Oregon
We had intended to camp at Wheeler Campground for quicker acclimation to the high elevation, the camp being at 9,800 feet. However, it was frigid cold with intermittent showers so we beat a hasty retreat down to Baker Creek Campground, sited at a more user friendly 7,700 feet. It was interesting to camp with both pinon pines and prickly pear cactus residing in our campsite.

Looking straight up
Lehman Caves is a must-see and we took the guided tour through the caves. Stunningly beautiful, the caves defy description. There were stalactites and stalagmites and the ranger turned off the lights so we could experience pure blackness, a state that occurs also in my ex-wife's heart. But hey, I'll quit talking and let the pictures tell the story:

Another sign we are not in Oregon
We took a short walk on an interpretive nature trail near the visitor center and also did the same on the Osceola Ditch Trail. About 15 miles away lies the ghost town of Osceola and back in the day they built a ditch and flume to transport water from Wheeler Peak to the town. All that remains today of that hydrological project is a faint ditch, old timbers, and a trail with great views of the Snake Valley. 

My kind of forest fire
We set up camp and went to bed early because it was cold, darn it! I thought we had traveled to the hot desert but it sure felt like we were in northern Fennoscandia. We had put in a full day's work and we slept comfortably, buried deep under every blanket and spare item of clothing we had brought with us.

Passing on to the next world
For more pictures, see the following Flickr albums:


  1. I would imagine from the pictures that the caves there are much larger and have more rooms than the Oregon Caves? The colder temps sound good to me right now, but I'm sure by the middle of winter I will be wishing for some sunshine. Hoping to get out and do some more hikes once cooler temps do come to Southern Oregon!

    1. I'll answer your question on a hunch basis, my hunch is that Lehman Caves are larger but I have no hard data on hand (although, I could research this on the Internet if I wasn't feeling so lazy). Yup it's been hot, that's why I've avoided the Siskiyous lately