It was supposed to be a hot weekend in the Utah desert, so naturally I decided to spend my days off going somewhere a little bit cooler in temperature, and by cooler I mean snow still on the ground. I had to visit Great Basin National Park, so I was excited to make this trek across the border from Utah into Nevada. I had left after work the night before, crashed in my car on forest service land before it got too dark and I got too tired, then I got up early, in order to get to the park as early as possible.
I ended getting there even earlier than anticipated since I had forgotten about the time zone difference, but even then I found one open camp spot at 5:30 in the morning, thanks to one other person who was as much of an early bird as I was. After quietly setting up camp, I set out for my adventure of the day.
I had decided to hike to the Bristlecones, some of the oldest trees in the world, and then from there continue on to Nevada’s only glacier. But….as it turns out it’s hard to find the trail when there’s still 3+ feet of snow on the trail in some places…which was the case, even in June!
I followed footprints where I didn’t see the trail and eventually got to a point where even the footprints seemed to disappear. Fearing get lost on the mountain in the snow, I decided it was time to head back and spend time elsewhere in the park. As I was turning around I found an old Shasta cola can that had been lost way longer than I had been. Judging by the designs on it, I’d say maybe even a few decades had passed since that can was left there.
But luckily I was still able to do the lakes loop which connects the trail I had attempted with two beautiful alpine lakes. Having started so early in the morning, I had both lakes to myself, and most of the trail to myself. It wasn’t until the end of the trail closer to the parking lot when I started seeing other hikers.
After finishing my morning hike I decided I had to see Lehman Cave, so the next stop was the visitor center to get my ticket. Luckily there were tickets available with only about an hour wait.
During the wait I decided to scout out the Baker Creek area for a hike later in the evening. The lower elevations of the park were much hotter, but still cooler than I had dealt with earlier in the week.
Finally it was time for my tour.
I’m a big fan of caves, I think they’re all wonderful and I try to visit as many as possible, wearing different shoes in each cave I visit, since I don’t want to risk spreading Whitenose Syndrome to the bats in the cave.
The cave itself is gorgeous. It’s highly decorated with stalactites and stalagmites and is known for it’s shield formations, which are basically these circular formations that form through capillary action. Stalactites often grow off of these shields making them extra spectacular!
I spent the evening walking part of the Baker Creek trail. The trail followed the creek, which was gushing from the snow melt. Wildflowers encompassed the path with fields of yellow and white and red and purple. In the distance I could see Wheeler Peak, and all the snow it still held.
Great Basin National Park is one of the three darkest parks in the country. I had the unfortunate probably of being there at a time close to the full moon, which meant the sky would be washed out by the brightness of the moon. Having not slept well the night before, I got to bed early and slept soundly, waking up in the morning to the sound of a babbling mountain stream and a flock of turkeys!
Between the caves, the creeks, the wild flowers and the snow, Great Basin has quickly become one of my new favorite parks! I’m looking forward to returning on a day that the snow will have melted enough to actually make it to the bristlecones and glacier!