Tag: Baker

Nevada Road Trip: Part Two- Day Three: Great Basin National Park

(c) NPS

(c) NPS

We started our day by cooking up an eggs breakfast in the full kitchen of the Get-Away Cabin, using the groceries that we had stocked up at the Border Inn’s convenience store. Considering the limited resources of Baker in the off-season, it was a really enjoyable meal, and as far as I could tell, our best bet for breakfast since we didn’t want to drive the eight miles to the Border Inn again, before our 9:00a tour of Great Basin’s Lehman Caves.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

Saving some time would have been especially important had we not spent some time in the visitor’s center the day before, because the National Park is being extremely careful about protecting its bats from White Nose Syndrome. White Nose Syndrome first appeared in North American bats in New York in 2006; and is named for the white fungus that grows from the noses and wing membranes of infected bats (Belert et.al. 2008). In some bat species, such as the little brown bats, this disease has 90-100% mortality rate, and may affect half of the bat species found in North America, while it has been confirmed with symptoms in seven different species, two of which are endangered (White-Nose Syndrome.org). Wikipedia estimates that this disease was responsible for 5.7-6.7 million bat deaths as of 2012; this is a major concern not only for the endangered species involved, and their ecosystems, but us as well, as bats provide invaluable pest control and pollination services to humans. In any case, White-Nose Syndrome has not yet reached Nevada, but the National Park Service is doing what is can to make sure that it never comes to Lehman caves. This means that visitors who have shoes or cameras that they have taken into other caves must be disinfected. The process is easy, but it takes a few minutes.

Old signatures in Lehman Caves (c) AB Raschke

Old signatures in Lehman Caves (c) AB Raschke

Lehman Caves themselves were discovered by Absalom S. Lehman in 1885 (most likely), and shortly after his discovery he began bringing paying visitors down into the caverns, which are full of graceful formations, and at the time, were definitely an adventure to boast about having done. Early visitors went down into the pitch black caves with only candles to light their way, and with these candles they had to squeeze their way past thickly growing formations and through narrow passages. Many celebrated their exploration victories by writing their names on low cave ceilings with the smoke and heat from their candles. Some tourists at the time didn’t have that luxury, as their candles may have blown out and left them in the darkness, lost. Luckily, all early visitors had a guarantee from Lehman that if they didn’t come out of the cave within 24 hours, he would come looking for them, and he knew the caves well. (NP History of the Lehman Caves : http://www.nps.gov/grba/learn/historyculture/lehman-caves-discovery.htm).

Wheeler Peak (c) AB Raschke

Wheeler Peak (c) AB Raschke

My own experience with Lehman Caves was pretty tame, as the pathway through the cavern is now paved, and many of the formations that would have once forced visitors to squeeze by have been removed. There are also electric lights throughout the cave, as is fairly standard in caves open to the public. Lehman is probably one of the nicest caves that I have seen in the US, and I would rank it as being at least as good as Kartchner, although none of its formations are as large as Kubla Khan. There is also some unique historical aspects to this cave, that I haven’t seen elsewhere, such as the old signatures on the low ceilings from the early visitors. I also got to see a roosting bat during the tour, which was a first for me.

Bristlecone Pines (c) Wikipedia Commons

Bristlecone Pines (c) Wikipedia Commons

Besides Lehman Caves, Great Basin National Park is also home to some of the oldest trees in the world, the Bristlecone Pines. Unfortunately, the only way to reach the grove was snowed in when we were at the park, and we hadn’t snow-shoed before, so we didn’t have the skills to brave to snow in order to see these trees. Thus, this was something that I missed out on when I came to Great Basin, but for anyone that visits during the season (Great Basin is one of the least visited National Parks in the lower 48- so it is a great place to explore if you don’t like crowds) this should be a must-see. For those people with experience snow-shoeing, there was also equipment available at the NP visitor center.

Day 4 to come on April 15th!

If you have any questions about my experience in Nevada and Arizona or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. šŸ™‚

Nevada Road Trip Part One: From Phoenix to Great Basin

Created by Google Maps

Created by Google Maps

I have a life goal to see all of the national parks in the United States, which is easier said than done, because there are a lot of them! But so far, this has led me to visit more than a few places that I didn’t previously know existed, and I haven’t regretted any of them. One of the national parks that I had never heard of was Great Basin, which seemed fascinating based on its name and its location north of Las Vegas in Nevada, an area that I had never explored. My dad and I were further intrigued by this place after learning that it is home to the Bristlecone Pine, one of the longest lived life forms on the planet. Finally, when we had a few days free, we decided to take a road trip up to Great Basin, and without much planning we ended up visiting several beautiful and intriguing places. The following account will mostly cover the places that we visited during this road trip, but I will also highlight a few places along the way that would be worth stopped at but which we didn’t have the time to visit.

Day One: Setting Out

(c) Sweet Tea @ http://www.rentcafe.com/blog/cities/great-phoenix-day-trip-lake-pleasant/

Lake Pleasant (c) Sweet Tea @ http://www.rentcafe.com/blog/cities/great-phoenix-day-trip-lake-pleasant/

The first day of our road trip didn’t start until 15:00, so our only goal was to make it up into Nevada for our first night. Luckily, the drive between Phoenix and the Las Vegas area is pretty nice, and it would actually have several good stops along the way for travelers with a full day. First, Lake Pleasant is worth a stop for anyone that hasn’t been, as it is a good example of Arizona’s artificial lakes, even if it isn’t one of the most beautiful. After living in the desert for a few years, it is hard to not appreciate water where-ever you find it, and besides some good desert winds for sailing, Lake Pleasant also has some nice hikes nearby in the Hells Canyon Wilderness. Furthermore, this area is home to wild burros, which I have seen on several occasions, and they are some great charismatic megafauna to see in the Sonora.

Further down the road, there is also the Hassayampa River Preserve just outside of Wickenburg. I actually haven’t made it to this area before, so I don’t have any personal experience with it yet, but it is somewhere that I hope to visit in the near future. Another oasis in the desert, the river preserve protects something that is rare now in Arizona, a river still flowing in its banks, thanks to the Nature Conservancy. There are plenty of trails here, and like Lake Pleasant it is good to experience any water that the desert has to offer, even more so, in places where some natural riparian ecosystems remain.

Hoover Dam at Night (c) AB Raschke

Hoover Dam at Night (c) AB Raschke

Of course, the biggest attraction between Phoenix and Las Vegas is the Hoover Dam, which we hit around 20:00. When I initially envisioned this trip last year, I had hoped to visit during the day and take a tour of the Dam. There is actually quite a bit there to see and do during the day, and in any case, this place is a major historical landmark for the country, and it has also shaped the Southwest in a very serious way. Las Vegas certainly owes its size to the resources provided by the dam, and the life-line of the Central Arizona Project shows the link between Phoenix and the Colorado River. Sadly, I didn’t get to take a tour this time around, but the dam is open to visitors until 21:00. So, we at least got to drive across the dam, park and take pictures of the landmark at night. It was a very peaceful place without the crowds, and there were some good views of the stars to boot.

Our day ended in Boulder City, where we spent the night in a Quality Inn a mere five minutes from Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Day Two: Through the Desert to the Great Basin

(c) AB Raschke

Lake Mead (c) AB Raschke

Before we hopped in the car for the day, I dragged my dad to Lake Mead, because I had to get my national parks passport stamped and I wanted to go on a little hike before our journey. As it turned out, we found a really great little trail outside of the fee area, and we both really enjoyed this stroll. The Historic Railway Trail is right by the entrance to the park, and as its name implies, this trail follows the former track of the railroad that brought materials from Boulder City to the site of Hoover Dam as it was being built. Besides the great views of lake from the trail, we really enjoyed getting to see the massive tunnels that were built through the mountains in order to fit the large pieces of dam equipment through. From the trailhead to the first tunnel is about a mile, so it was a great section of the trail to walk when we only had a limited amount of time.

From Wikipedia

Lower Lake Pahranagat Lake From Wikipedia

From Boulder City to Baker was quite a drive. Most of the towns that we passed, besides Las Vegas, were quite small. Alamo, which is perched just north of Pahranagat Lake, didn’t have much to offer along the side of the road, and when we asked about places to grab lunch there, the gas station attendant only told us about two different restaurants. We ended up at the Windmill just north of the town, and it was quiet enjoyable. Not only did they have some good standard American fare, but they also had a nice little bakery where we got a fresh cookie and a lemon square.

From there on out, we entered the Great Basin region, which gave us a taste for what we would see and learn more about in the National Park. This region is characterized by parallel ranges of mountains, which remind me of the sky islands in Arizona, rising up out of the dry lowlands to peaks of lush forests. The lowlands, instead of being Arizona desert, however, were large, flat plains of sagebrush and grasses, where we spotted herds of cows and even a few ranchers on horseback.

Once we got to Baker, we were somewhat surprised at how small the town at the gateway to Great Basin NP was. In fact, since we traveled to the park out of season, there were no open restaurants, and according to Wikipedia the population is 68. That being said, we had a reserved a great little place to stay for the night called the Get-Away Cabin. The owner was very friendly and welcoming, and she even bakes her guests delicious little loaves of banana bread.

Baker Archaeological Park (c) AB Raschke

Baker Archaeological Park (c) AB Raschke

After getting some tips about what to do in the park the at the visitor’s center for the next day, we drove a few miles out of town to check out the Baker Archaeological Site, which wasn’t much more than a few outlines of Fremont buildings among the sagebrush. There was some good information in a little guide book that the BLM provided at the site, however. After a short stop there, we made it out to the Border Inn where we enjoyed a delicious dinner, and picked up some groceries.

Day 3 and 4 to come on April 1st! And Washington DCā€¦ someday!

If you have any questions about my experience in Nevada and Arizona or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. šŸ™‚

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