August 9-10, 2011 – Great Basin National Park, NV
We left Ely on Tuesday morning and drove 69 miles to Baker, NV a small town by the entrance to Great Basin National Park. We are staying at the Whispering Elms Campground, Motel and RV Park - a small park with 24 RV sites and a 6-room motel. It has lots of trees so we have lots of shade, which is good as it is hot here.
We arrived here just before noon so after lunch we headed to Great Basin National Park. The Great Basin is a large area centered on Nevada and stretches from California’s Sierra Nevada to Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. It is named for its lack of drainage. Its streams and rivers mostly find no outlet to the sea, and water collects in shallow salt lakes, marshes, and mud flats to evaporate in dry desert air. It is not just one but many basins, separated by mountain ranges. Great Basin National Park was created in 1986 to protect a small portion of the Great Basin. We stopped at the Visitor Center and tried to get tickets for a tour of Lehman Cave but they were sold out for the day. We bought tickets for tomorrow morning and then drove the 12-mile Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Wheeler Peak is the 2nd highest point in Nevada at 13,063 ft. and has Nevada’s only glacier below its peak.
The scenic drive ended at an elevation of 10,200 ft and we decided to hike the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail. Once we started up the trail, which was fairly steep, we realized that we had not hiked at this altitude in a long time. We had to stop a catch our breath a few times. At the top of the trail we came to Stella Lake, a small beautiful mountain lake.
Down the trail a short ways we came to a smaller lake called Teresa Lake.
Both lakes were a beautiful turquoise color and very clear. There was a sign at the trailhead that said the lakes are shallow and freeze solid in the winter so there are no fish in them. We really enjoyed the hike.
Wednesday morning we went back to Great Basin National Park and took a ranger guided tour of Lehman Cave. This is a small cave – it extends only ¼ mile into the limestone and marble that flank the base of the Snake Range. We first had to have our shoes decontaminated – if you have been in a cave or underground mine your shoes, clothing, etc. must be cleaned before entering to avoid spreading White-Nose Syndrome. White-Nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that has killed more than 1 million bats in the US and Canada. This cave stands out because it is one of the most profusely decorated caves in the region – it was beautiful.
We think this cave has the most formations we have seen in a cave - lots of stalactites and stalagmites, columns, draperies, flowstone and soda straws. Every room was decorated with all kinds of formations.
Lehman cave is well known for more rare formations called shields – two roughly circular plates fastened like flattened clam shells, often with graceful stalactites and draperies hanging from their lower plate – like the Angel Wing Shield in this room.
We really enjoyed our tour of Lehman Cave and would encourage anyone visiting Great Basin National Park to see this beautiful cave. Great Basin National Park is an oasis in an otherwise arid, desert region.
After our tour we went back to the campground, hooked up the 5th wheel and left for Utah. We crossed into Utah a few miles west of Baker on Highway 50 – this section is still part of the loneliest road in America. It is about 100 miles from Baker to Delta, UT and there is nothing between the two towns – lots of flat, dry desert with a couple of small mountain passes and lots of sage brush. Then we saw what looked like a big lake in the middle of the desert, it was Sevier Lake – a dry lake bed shimmering in the distance.
We arrived in Delta, UT around 1 pm – no it is 2 pm as we crossed back into Mountain Time at the Utah/Nevada border. We are staying at the Antelope Valley RV Park – a nice park with lots of grass and shade trees. We have decided to stay here a few days to relax and see what is in this area of Utah.