April 25, 2016

4/12/16 - Great Basin NP

We had originally planned to visit Great Basin National Park on our way north this year, but as we got closer, weather reports showed the highs would be down in the low 30s with possible snow--I wasn't very interested.  I cancelled the reservations I had at an RV park nearby, but at some point I realized the forecasts I was looking at were at the top of the mountain instead of lower by the caves.  We made it a day trip from Delta, Utah.

When we got to Baker, Nevada, the Great Basin Visitor Center wasn't scheduled to open for another 20 minutes. We figured we'd catch it on the way back from Lehman Caves.  We were a bit surprised to find another visitor center just a few miles down the road.  I think it's because Lehman Caves was a National Monument before it was incorporated into the newer National Park. My other theory is that the entire population of Baker (sign says 68 people) works at the park and someone's got a job with budget recommendations. They're making a wheelchair ramp at Lehman Caves Visitor Centers so the parking lot is a mess.
Great Basin Visitor Center
Lehman Caves Visitor Center

One of the displays is about an old rifle from 1873 that was found by park archaeologists in 2014, just leaning up against a tree. No one knows who left it, or when. Rusty and weathered, they call it "The Forgotten Winchester". When they found it, it apparently went viral on Facebook, but since I don't do Facebook, I didn't notice.
After the standard screening for White-Nose Syndrome in bats, we got tickets for the Grand Palace Tour. Since we had almost two hours to kill, the ranger suggested a drive on Wheeler Creek Scenic Road up to the Osceola Ditch. The road to Wheeler Peak was closed beyond that because there's still snow.  We wouldn't be able to see the ancient (as in 3,000 years old!) bristlecone pines.

As we passed one of the campgrounds, we saw a whole bunch of wild turkeys strutting their stuff. I guess it impressed the other toms. Actually, it impressed me...
The Osceola Ditch is an 18-mile aqueduct used in the late 1800s for gold mining. The ranger thought we'd be able to hike up it a ways, but there was too much snow.

What I really came to see was the Caves. Not sure if that was what George was interested in because he always has to duck a lot in caves. (Oh, what a difference 12" makes!)

This is a really cool cave!  There were only 9 people on our tour so we didn't have to deal with the crowds we'd been with in other caves.
It's obviously not as big as Carlsbad or Mammoth, but the decorations are gorgeous.  You can get really close to them too.  I was able to take better pictures with this camera too. Here are a few examples:
After the cave tour, we stopped at the other visitor center where the focus is on the entire Great Basin, not just the park.  I tease George all the time about not remembering anything from his Washington State History class in high school, but I took Nevada State History and had a little memory problem myself. I remembered that it encompassed most of the state but didn't know it was in other states too. I remembered rivers disappeared underground but I'd forgotten there was no outlet to the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. I definitely didn't know Nevada is the most mountainous state in the country! (Yet another example of how educational an experience our trip is.)
On the way back home, we stopped at the Shoe Tree we'd noticed just outside Hinckley, Utah. There were a couple of girls trying really hard to try to get their shoes to catch on the tree.  Not quite as easy as you'd expect. 

(This tree and other quirky things can be found on http://www.roadsideamerica.com/ --an odd (and sometimes downright strange) website of tourist attractions.)

More pictures of Great Basin and Lehman Caves: Great Basin Natl Park 

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