Thursday, October 2, 2014

Great Basin National Park, Nevada…

We left Ely Nevada and headed east on the loneliest highway until we came to the Utah border where we camped at The Border Inn RV park and Casino. It turned out to be a nice little spot out in the middle of the Great Basin and the perfect place for us to explore Great Basin National Park. We originally planned to stay four days but with two of the main trails  we planned to hike being closed we only stayed two days.


Our first day in Great Basin National Park we went to the visitors center where we discovered the trails to the crest of Wheeler Peak and the trail to Lexington Arch were both closed. At least the trail to the Bristlecone Pines and the Lehman Caves were still open so we shortened our stay to two days.

Leaving the visitor’s center we drove up the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive which had recently been repaved. Making planned stops at the Mather Overlook and Wheeler Peak Overlook simply whet out appetites for our planned hike to see the Bristlecone Pines. At the end of the road the trailhead for our hike began. The hike is 2.8 miles round trip and gains about 600 feet of elevation. We were a bit concerned about the quality of the trail after a big storm blew through this area and even left a dusting of snow on the taller peaks.

The trail was pretty good at first but eventually became slippery with some water and snow/ice on the trail on the northern slopes. Not bad enough to turn back we continued on until we found the small loop through the grove of Bristlecone Pines near the summit of Wheeler Peak. Seeing these ancient bristlecone pines was high on our list and when finally being among these gnarled, weathered and twisted trees, among the planet’s oldest living things, we simply felt in awe… These trees can live to be 5,000 years old and even after dying may remain standing another 2,000 years…. simply incredible. On the way back down we took a spur hike to the beautiful cirque lake called Teresa Lake. A great hike this was making one feel very humble and young…

The next day, since the high was only supposed to be 47, we went to take a tour of the Lehman Cave. Since it is always 50 degrees inside the cave it would be warmer in it than outside of it. Discovered by Absalom Lehman in 1885 this cave extends 1/4 mile into the limestone mountains. All the cool cave formations can be found here. 

Cave formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, “bacon” and the cool little hollow soda straws are all here. Some cave rarities called shields are also in this cave. Shields consist of two mostly circular plates fastened together like fattened clam shells with a small gap in between. They are often covered with draperies hanging from their lower plate. Lehman Caves is famous for its abundance of shields.

Other cool formations such as the very delicate helictites that form via wicking are found here. The small branching formations that seemingly defy gravity due to this wicking are wickedly cool… Also throughout the cave there is a lot of what is called cave popcorn which actually does resemble popcorn.. A tour of little over an hour enlightened us about this fascinating underground world…

Next up for us is Panguitch, Utah where we plan to stay a while to visit Bryce and Zion National Parks now that the weather is warming up a bit…


  1. I'm glad someone else found the caves..Not too many visitors compared to other National Parks. We enjoyed the campground below the visitor center and caves a few yrs back.
    The sites weren't very level but it was nice to be camped next to a nice creek.

  2. Too bad Wheeler was closed. It is a tough one, but worth it. Bristlecones are indeed a treasure. If you ever go to Las Vegas-On Mt. Charleston is a 3,000 year old called Rainbow. She is an easy hike of 7 miles. We used to go up every Sunday. Miss her!

  3. You are in a place I really want to visit. Your pictures of the bristlecones and the cave are great. I can just imagine how those trees made you feel. Sorry to hear about the trail closings. Were they damaged by the storm?

  4. Boy is our timing off! We are on our way to Great Basin!! We plan to arrive Sunday. The weather looks great.

    It seems we have traced your footsteps several times lately.

    Enjoy Bryce and Zion! It should be a great time to visit.

  5. Nice to see that you are still having fun out there.

  6. We love the twisted bristlecones...enjoy your next vistas.

  7. Thank for sharing,will be there in September 2015....