Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Summer Trip – July & August 2013 - Part One

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Wednesday August 6th

 Many things are wonderful about living in a small town, like yesterday. Late afternoon I drove over to the post office to pick up our mail that was on vacation hold. Bob was behind the counter, his back to me. I like to think Bob has his finger on the pulse of our community. He knows everybody by first name. Bob was sorting large envelopes. He knew I was there. "Well you've been gone so long we had to send all your mail back."
"Sure you did," I deadpanned.
I was expecting him to say something like,” Don't you keep that swiss army knife sharp enough to shave with?" when he saw my scruffy face.
He went into the back and brought out my mail.
"Now just bring me back the post office plastic bin. Don't try to return any mail you don't like. We don't take anything back."

We were back home, the Lady and me. Eighteen nights spent in our camper. We stood on high places. We walked in canyon bottoms. We saw wapiti, black bear, bighorn, pronghorn, mule deer, bison, marmots, and pikas; lots of birds. We met family and friends including a Wander the West buddy. We ventured in the lands of the ancient ones, endured a city big enough to have signal lights, and had an impromptu All Terrain Camper rally. We traveled many miles in 4x4 low range. We spent time along the maggot superhighway. We also found the quiet, solitude, and peace we search for. We saw many new places, a couple of times by jointly saying, "Let's go there!" It was the kind of trip that we wish could go on forever.........

It may take awhile for the story to unfold, get all the photos edited, and all this typing done. We have lots of chores to get caught up on and I got to get through that tub of mail and figure out a way of getting some of it back to Bob......................

The Beginning, Friday July 19th –

“Looks like you’re alone here this morning,” I said as the cook came out of the kitchen, grabbed an order book, and now stood at the end of our table. He didn’t look up as he said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
We were in the Roadrunner Café in Dayton, Nevada. Along with us for the first Nevada part of our trip were Barking and Mom Spider.
“Do you have cinnamon rolls today?” the Lady asked.
“New owners, no cinnamon rolls.”
So how was this trip going to go?

We had left before dawn to grab breakfast in Dayton shortly after the Roadrunner opened. The sign on the roof says they open at 6am but it’s been 7am for years. Other customers started to filter in as the cook was back in the kitchen. One fellow got up and grabbed the coffee pot, filling up his and others cups. The cook came out with our plates. He had cooked us all a damn good breakfast. As we were finishing two young women entered, called to come in and help. They were pretty inexperienced but receptive and eager to learn and help. The day was looking better.

We were back out in the warm morning sun. Nevada awaited us.

This was the Spiders first trip to explore Nevada. Barking had already noticed much on the outskirts of Carson City. “What’s with all that ‘ranch stuff’ back there?”
“What ranch stuff?” I asked.
“Love Ranch, Kit Kat Ranch, Sagebrush Ranch, Bunny Ranch.”
He hadn’t missed one of them.
“Those are brothels. There are brothels in Nevada.”
“I see that.” He continued, “When we stop along the road with campers and women with us, are people going to think we are portable bordellos?”
“Don’t think so.” I answered and then continued, “But you know this is the 21st century. I’d be careful if I was you and not show too much leg when you climb out of your truck. You might get a few women stopping and asking about you.”
Barking's expressions are sometimes priceless.
“I think you’re pretty cute,” Mom Spider said to Barking.

We were ready to hit the road. Highway 50 was our route to Great Basin National Park.

We made good time crossing Nevada and pulled into the Park Visitors Center in Baker at 4:30 pm to see if they had information on Wheeler Peak Campground. We were told all campgrounds were full. With that news we backtracked a bit to Strawberry Creek. A couple of years ago the Park Service cleaned up the old campsites up this road. They had done a good job fixing up 10 sites and adding a CXT toilet. There are no fees to camp up here.

We were comfortable and enjoyed a cool evening. We were up before the sun.

The Lady got in her yoga.

Our plans revolved around staying at Wheeler Peak Campground. We were there at 8:30 am with the plan to walk around the campground and politely check out tags on the campsite posts and see who was leaving this morning. There was no need to do that as we found many sites vacant, including the entire upper loop. We set up our respective camps and headed out. We were eager to show the Spiders around. We headed up to the Wheeler Cirque and Nevada’s only glacier.

This made a great lunch spot as we watched the clouds move around the sky and listened to the rock fall from the limestone cliffs above. It’s interesting to note that one of Nevada’s highest spots was once layer upon layer of seas creatures on ocean bottoms.

The clouds were thickening as we headed back down.

Our next stop was the Bristlecone Pine Loop trail.

These magnificent old trees certainly deserve to be hugged.

We also hiked the Alpine Lakes Loop trail prior to returning to camp. After a great dinner we wandered about the campground. I got distracted by the evening light…………………..

…………………while the others took part in the amphitheatre program on bird songs by Ranger Mark. Mark presented an interesting talk that ended with the information that nighthawks and poor wills catch insects in their beaks while bats catch insects in their wings and then transfer them to their mouths. None of us had heard this fact before about bats.

At just under 10,000 feet in elevation, we did click the furnace on the next morning for a little warm up prior to climbing out of our bunk. I was soon out with the camera doing a few long exposures in the predawn light.

First light hit the peaks above.

It was time to go. Today was a summit day.

We were on our way by 6 am.

The route takes you to the north ridge and near tree line.

This was the Lady and my fourth or fifth trip to the summit. It was the Spiders’ first and would be the highest point in elevation reached by Mom Spider. On all our past trips to the top, in the early morning, we have seen large mule deer bucks browsing high above tree line. This morning was no exception. The Lady refers to these guys as the "Wheeler Peak Gentlemen's Club".

The views are wonderful. Here the Lady is following me up with Spring Valley and its new wind farm far below.

It is amazing what grows way up here in pockets between the rocks.

Summit of Wheeler Peak, 13,065 feet.

There were scattered groups of Parry’s Primrose right on the top.

The Lady wandered down to get a look into the cirque below.

The view of the rock glacier is impressive.

After spending some time on the summit, snacking, relaxing, and identifying landmarks with our topo quad, it was nearing 10 am. The clouds were starting to look interesting, although this was the only cloud around.

We started down in the shadow.

There was no thunder but we did get hit with a smattering of rain and hail showing that there were updrafts working in the clouds. Lower on the shoulder, back in the sun, we all pulled off our rain gear and pack covers. I got a chuckle out of this scene.

The first trees we hit were Engelmann spruce, showing that the eastern Great Basin ranges have much in common with the Rockies.

Further down the shoulder Mom Spider spotted large hummingbird moths working the flowers.

On these high peaks, when you return down into the aspen groves you know you are nearing the trailhead.

It was early afternoon as we returned to camp. The Spiders took an afternoon nap. The Lady and I took a couple of short hikes and then relaxed and watched the afternoon light.

The Spiders had a few small steaks to grill and we shared other food for a great dinner. The clouds thickened again after dinner as we walked. For only a few seconds, just before it set, the sun bathed the high peaks in wonderful red light.

A fun story to share - when we returned to camp this afternoon we were pleased to see that the majority of sites were now vacant. It was Sunday. I was surprised that a remote park like Great Basin, still had a high percentage of weekend only visitation. We were pleased that we were alone in the upper loop and we were going to take advantage of this. We warmed shower water and were going to stand naked right next to the camper and pour water over each other. No need to find a private place. We were all set up. The gallon jug was by my side right outside the door. The Lady had just gotten all her clothes off and was ready to exit the camper. A truck drove up the loop.
“I don’t see any camping equipment. They’re either taking a look around or going to use the outhouse,” I reported to the Lady.
They drove slowly through and it sounded like they stopped right in front of our site. I checked around the corner of the truck. A door opened and closed. “Excuse me………………I’m sorry………………….” A woman was approaching. “This is the neatest camper! I’ve never seen one like this before. Can you show it to me? Would that be okay?”
“I’ll get my clothes back on,” the Lady whispered.
I laughed and asked the woman to give us a minute. The Lady popped out and was right into camper story mode. I got an All Terrain Camper card out of the glove compartment. The shower was soon forgotten as the Lady went through the features of our camper and how we use it. The woman thanked us and then I pointed out there was another pop up camper around the corner.
“Wow!” was her response. I told her the Spiders were taking a nap.

Morning is such a special time, especially in a place like this. Quiet and peace permeate, the need to even whisper a sound is absent, senses are alert; for us it is a feeling of being home.

Light slowly edges out the shadows.

Lehman Caves is a center piece of Great Basin National Park. Monday was the day to see the cave. We had spent two nights at Wheeler Peak Campground. We would move down to Baker Creek Campground, set up, and the Lady would hike and explore up Baker Creek. I would accompany the Spiders on the 90 minute Grand Palace Tour. The Lady and I had done the tour last summer. This was the Lady’s reason for doing some hiking instead.

The Spiders thoroughly enjoyed the cave. At the beginning of the tour, Ranger Noami asked for a volunteer to stay at the end and do “sweep” making sure no one was behind. I volunteered. I got a big three cell NPS maglite flashlight. I wanted an NPS hat too but Noami said no. I didn’t get to keep the flashlight either. After repeated warnings about “watching your head”, we did have one fellow bang his head pretty well at the end of the tour. Outside the Cave Visitor Center a couple of rangers got to practice their bandaging skills on him. Scalps bleed. No real harm was done and the rangers did well, remembering good PPE.

We returned to Baker Creek at 3:30pm. The Lady was also back. It was a warm afternoon at this lower elevation (7800 feet), made for stories and relaxing. The upper loop of the campground, where we were, was rebuilt last year. After dinner we walked through the lower loop that is currently being worked on. The NPS is doing some nice improvements at Great Basin.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, we were parting ways with our friends the Spiders. They would hike up and explore the Baker Creek trails in the morning and then drive to Hickison Petroglyph Site in the center of Nevada for the night before heading home the following day. We were heading east to Colorado.

With our mugs of coffee, we enjoyed the coming dawn.

Our campsites were at the upper end of the loop. Baker Creek, with its soothing rumble, flowed next to our campsites.

After breakfast it was time for the ski3pinners to hit the road. On our way down the entrance road we stopped to see some of the “folk art” along the way.


  1. ski3pin, every time I find out you have posted a new multi-part trip report, I have to discipline myself not to read all of the installments at once -- just as I struggle not to eat a whole bag of tortilla chips at one sitting.

    Your comment about the sedimentary rock at GBNP is similar to the first sentence of John McPhee's epic book on geology, Annals of the Former World: “If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone. ” If you like North American geology, that book is worth reading.

    1. Great suggestion Dan! We have and have read all of McPhee's books on geology. They are classics as are much of his writing. "Basin & Range" and "Rising From The Plains" are two of our favorites.