Spring 2012 #8: Great Basin National Park

Our car had so much inside and so much dirt outside it looked like it had been in a head on crash with a dumpster.  “Curlew, Wash” on our rear window isn’t an ad for a car wash.  We met a couple on the trail and couldn’t remember the small town where we went into Washington from Canada.  They remembered it when they got back to the parking lot and left us a message.

In 1997, we stopped in Randlett, Utah the night the Ute Indians were having their annnual bear dance, but we were so tired after driving 100 miles on dirt roads, a stream bed and through a pasture across the Tavaputs Plateau, we couldn’t stay and just mailed cards from the post office to the Randletts we knew.  We went back this year.  The dance wasn’t for another three days and the post office was closed.  Sometimes luck is not in the cards.

US 40 felt crowded, so we took Utah 191 from Duchesne to Helper.  The road went up a long straight valley filled with new oil wells and a few still being drilled over a 9100 foot pass.  Tire chains are required from November 1 to March 31.

Getting back on US 6 before Payson, we stopped at a great Utah rest area designed to look like an old railroad roundhouse.  It even had an old engine – or perhaps a replica.

We decided to take a maintenance day in Payson and it turned out to be a good idea.  We had picked up a screw in one tire and came out to find it flat.  Usually it is Ray who is reluctant to spend a day doing nothing, but this time it was Alie who pressed for a scenic drive past Bridal Vail Falls to Utah 92 over the mountains.  We got a little beyond Sundance, the Robert Redford property, when we found the road still closed by snow.

 

Sundance

The next day our luck was no better when we tried County Road 2822 through the Uinta National Forest over Mount Nebo.  The road was closed at the third gate.  So once again, we returned to Route 6, following the old Pony Express route across Utah.  When we saw the high sand dunes in the distance, we wished we had stopped at the Little Sahara Recreation Area.  But we did stop in Delta for a snack at “Dessert First.”  My favorite T-shirt reads “Life is uncertain: Eat dessert first.”

US6, West Utah

In the 162 miles between Delta, Utah and Ely, Nevada, there are only two gas stations and no towns.  However, we stopped at Skull Rock pass for lunch and looking at the map we found Baker, Nevada not far off the road and Great Basin National Park: what good luck! 

Wheeler Peak Campground

Created in 1986, the park has over 70,000 acres.  But the entire Great Basin actually is an area covering parts of Oregon, Idaho, California and Utah and most of Nevada.  Its streams and rivers for the most part have no outlet to the sea.  It is actually many basins separated by mountain ranges running north to south.  Altogether, it makes up one-fifth of the land mass of the lower 48 states.

A twelve mile drive goes from about six thousand feet to ten thousand.  At the end, is Wheeler Peak campground settled among evergreens and aspen trees.   We were told a trail leads one among bristlecone pines between 2000 and 3000 years old.

 

Shield formation

It was late, so we didn’t walk any trails, but we did visit Lehman Cave.  It is a small cave, but the paved walkway leads through narrow passages and you feel much closer to what you are seeing than in many more famous caves.  We saw an albino cricket and a bat (not common in this cave).  The cave is also home to a scorpion that evolved without a stinger, the only one in the world.  Finally, there are only about 80 caves in the US that have “shield” formations and most only have a few. 

Baker, NV stop sign

Lehman has over 300.

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About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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