Saturday, June 5, 2010

Great Basin National Park ~ Primitive Beauty

Ever since noticing the Great Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada on a map, I have been curious about it.  I knew next to nothing about that area in Nevada, having only been to Reno once and Las Vegas a few times.  Our visits had been contained to the western part of the Silver State. 

The park lies within the Snake Range of mountains which has become like an island in a desert.  This mountain range sits in the middle of sage-covered valleys.  There are many similar, small mountain ranges in Nevada.  The actual Great Basin covers almost all of Nevada ending just north of Las Vegas and opposite Death Valley.

After we had left the RV park in Delta, we had planned to stop off at the Great Basin National Park..  Bruce called ahead and learned we could drop the MH off in the Visitor Center parking lot and proceed into the park with the Explorer.  Vehicles over 24 feet are not advised to go into the park past the Upper Lehman Creek Campground.  From the Visitor Center lot we could look up at the Snake Range and see the highest peak which is Wheeler Peak.

We had packed our usual picnic lunch and put Annie in the car with us.  We took light jackets and the camera and were driving up the very steep 12-mile road for a closer view of Wheeler Peak.  As we climbed higher we could look down at the valley below us.  It was a hazy morning and the sun was in that direction making a great pic difficult.

Before you begin to climb this 12-mile road you have the option to go on a guided tour of Lehman Caves.  We had Annie with us and have seen other caves and caverns, so we skipped this part of the adventure.  I'd say that Great Basin is best utilized by visitors wanting a primitive, back country experience.  Nevertheless, the casual visitor, like us, can enjoy the beauty of the park without hiking on primitive trails.

Midway on our drive up, we stopped at this overlook to enjoy a mountain view.  It was getting cooler here and we were glad we had brought along our jackets.  Wheeler Peak's summit is at 13,063 feet. 

After we left the overlook we began seeing snow at the side of the road.....lots of it.  The park road was totally clear at this time of year, but there was plenty of snow to appreciate.  The deciduous trees here were still mainly bare of leaves.  Soon we passed the 10,000 elevation marker.  At the Visitor Center the elevation is 5,317 feet, so you climb to 10,000 feet fairly quickly.

Once we reached the end of the road we were at a small picnic area and the Wheeler Peak Campground.  The campground was mainly buried in snow.  It was 20 degrees cooler up here at the picnic area than it was at the Visitor Center where we started.  There was nobody else here and we had the place to ourselves.  We got out to walk around and stretch our legs and just enjoy the beauty around us.  Up here you will see the Bristlecone Pine trees.  These are the longest living variety of tree.  They have survived for centuries in these mountains.  We also had a magnificent view of some craggy peaks near Wheeler Peak.  They were awesome.

There are 4 campgrounds in the park and all are dry camping only.  The Lower Lehman Creek CG (ele. 7,300) and the Upper Lehman Creek CG (ele. 7,752) are open to small RV's.  It appears that the Baker Creek CG (ele. 7,530) is also open to small RV's.  The Wheeler Peak CG, by the picnic area at the end of the road, is at 9,886 elevation.  You could probably get a small Class-B motorhome in that CG.  No potable water is available at Wheeler, though. 

The park also has some very primitive campsites in the back country where you will find small lakes and a lot of streams for fishing.  These sites are hike-in only.  The park brochure said that the night sky is the darkest here so stargazing is fabulous.  If you like hikes in very primitive areas on little developed trails and getting off by yourself to enjoy solitude and the sounds of nature....this is the place for you!

Until next long for now!


Sam&Donna Weibel said...

Another great post of nature, I just wonder about that sign that said 10.000 feet elevation, In my flying days if you went above 10.000ft you were supposed to go on oxygen, since I don't smoke, I wouldn't probably have any trouble, but with a lifetime of smoking and a lung congestion problem I'll bet Donna would be distressed. Hope you guys didn't have any breathing problems. Looks like a great day of sightseeing. Be safe out there, Sam & Donna.


"If you like hikes in very primitive areas on little developed trails and getting off by yourself to enjoy solitude and the sounds of nature....this is the place for you!"

Yes, it sounds like somewhere I would like to go for sure but this current snowbird lifestyle is sooooo time restrictive!!

An English Shepherd said...

Looks very spectacular :-)


Judy and Emma said...

Thanks for the tour of Great Basin NP. I'd never heard of this park before. :)

Rick and Paulette said...

Beautiful pictures and a great description of the park, Margie. Just goes to show, there's a lot more to Nevada than just desert and casinos! All that snow in June is pretty amazing.

Happytrails said...

Just beautiful!! I don't know if we would be able to do the backcountry hike but I would love to take the driving tour as you all did. Wasn't it nice to have the area to yourselves???

Enjoy your journey and travel safely.
Mike & Gerri (happytrails)

Gypsy said...

That would be my kind of place, although the back country trails are probably desolate and I shouldn't hike there alone.

Carol K said...

Great pictures. We've never been to that national park but we saw several signs for it when we were in Utah. I didn't realize that it was so high! Thanks for writing about Great Basin NP!

Laurie and Odel said...

This brought back happy memories for me. We've stayed in Lower Lehman Campground - in our 38' MH - twice, and done a lot of hiking in Great Basin. Quite an isolated location, isn't it? We were able to hike the Bristlecone Pine loop trail, where etched metal signboards identify some of the oldest trees. It's a lovely spot.
Safe travels!

K and D in the RV said...

Gorgeous pictures, Margie. Wahta beautiful mountain - we have skied in Nevada so we know there is lots of snow there!

KarenInTheWoods and Steveio said...

Oh nice to know you can leave your rig down below... or camp up as far as lower Lehman campground. Great information!! Marvelous shots of the snow in the upper regions too!

Karen and Steve
(Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard