Thursday, June 2, 2016

Across Nevada! - May 2016 - Part Two

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Wapiti at breakfast

We continued east on highway 6 but took a short detour south to visit Lunar Crater. This impressive crater from a violent volcanic explosion is a National Natural Landmark. Here are two videos for an overview of the crater and the area to the north.

We found Easy Chair Crater a more enjoyable visit and the higher perch allowed a better view of the surrounding landscape. Easy Chair was a symmetrical volcanic cone that blew out from the side, reminiscent of Mount Saint Helen's eruption in 1980. It's remains resemble an easy chair. It is visible across the valley in the second video, above.

The views are outstanding and I expect that most of you have noticed the reoccurring theme of thunderstorms  around us, already this early in the day.

We had fun with a perfectly camouflaged horned lizard that loved to pose for photographs.

This section of Nevada east on highway 6 was new terrain for us and we enjoyed our first glimpse. We discussed that seductive name and our planned trip there. As we crossed Railroad Valley and the Egan Range the sky was black with storm. We drove in and out of rain. This weather trend looked like it would continue, in contrast to the forecasts I had seen prior to leaving home.

Our discussions continued and knowing enough about the primitive roads we would travel on, the real possibility of wet slimy Nevada gumbo did not look attractive or wise. It was time for plan B.

The Lady has been reading and rereading Gretchen Baker's Guide to Great Basin National Park.

We also follow Gretchen's blog - Desert Survivor

There are several trails and hikes on the Lady's wish list. Could we be so gutsy as to think we could drive into one of America's National Parks in the middle of the Memorial Day Weekend and expect to find a campsite? You bet. I even knew two out of the five campgrounds were closed.

We arrived around 3:30 pm at the tail end of an impressive thunderstorm and snagged site 3. Out of 38 sites around 8 were available. Site 3 is very nice. 

The campground did fill around 6:30 pm but there were plenty of overflow campsites available down the road at Grey Cliffs Campground. The campground sits at 7500 feet in the broad Baker Creek Valley. We walked the trail up to the Baker Creek Trailhead, about a mile up from our campsite. The open areas were ablaze with the yellow flowers of the Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

Monday morning we were up before the sun. The Lady got me out of the camper so her ritual fussing could begin. I wandered out to the road to the trailhead and was infatuated with the sun's first light on the sea of balsamroot.

I could smell the aroma of Peets coffee a hundred yards away. It was time to get back to the camper, very spoiled boy that I am.

I put our chairs alongside our camper and watched the high hillside above us, lit with the morning sun. I was ready for when they appeared. The Lady joined me with our breakfast of fresh strawberries and goat meal. The five male wapiti were in a line, the grayer old guy was leading, his head already heavy with a large rack in felt. It took all of breakfast and a second cup of coffee for them to graze all the way across the slope and disappear into the Mountain Mahogany and Pinyon pine. Wapiti at breakfast; a good start to a day in Nevada's high country.

The Lady was in charge on this one. This was her day. Three trails take off from the Baker Creek trailhead at 8000 feet - Timber Trail, South Fork Baker Creek Trail, and the Baker Lake Trail. The Lady wanted to know if we could make it to Baker Lake, the high country was still covered with a mantle of snow. There was no better way to know then to try. Up we hiked.

The aspens at 8000 feet were just leafing out.

What an amazing place to spend the day!

Gaining elevation was like going back in time. 500 feet higher and back to an earlier time in spring and the aspens had no leaves. It occurred to me that using the lifespan of an aspen leaf as a measure of time would be a darn good way to live.

We encountered snow at 9000 feet. Coverage grew as we continued to climb.

We were within a mile of Baker Lake when we stopped at 10,000 feet. The snow was now continuous, deep, soft, miserable to move across. Even on snowshoes or skis it would have been difficult. It had not froze overnight here. Postholing in deep snow is not fun and can be dangerous with the possibility of hitting buried rocks or downed timber. It was time to turn around. The Lady was not disappointed, now we had time to hike and check out the other two trails!

We descended back down to Baker Creek. I shot a short video to give you a feeling of this wonderful place in Nevada's high mountains.

We continued down the Baker Lake Trail.

About three miles down there is a new cutoff trail over to the South Fork Baker Creek Trail. The intersection is at a high mountain meadow just coming to life with spring.

We climbed up the South Fork Trail in hopes the snow would allow us to reach the high intersection with the Timber Trail. We did cross several snow patches but the way was fairly clear.

The Timber Trail climbs an addition 400 feet and tops out on the saddle between South Fork Baker Creek and the Snake Creek drainage to the south. Deep snow stopped us just short of the ridgeline. We returned back down.

There is a high open meadow complex at the Timber Creek - South Fork Baker Creek trails intersection. The views here are fantastic.

Pyramid Peak is to the left and Wheeler Peak (second highest in Nevada) it to the right.

When the Wheeler Peak Road opens later in the year, also the high Wheeler Peak Campground, most of the hiking use moves over to that area with most wanting to try and reach Wheeler Peak. We've been on the summit of Wheeler five times. It is well worth it. But after our time up here, this area is well worth visiting and offers much more solitude.

We met a family of five, parents with three young children. All were in light clothes and very light tennis shoes, meant more for fashion than walking. Only the father carried a small pack. We were so happy to see them out with the kids, who, by the way, were good strong hikers, excited, happy, and no whining. But, we were a bit apprehensive about their preparedness. We talked with them at the intersection. They were returning to the trailhead via the Timber Trail. I asked that they be mindful of the snow as the topo map indicated most of the high part of the trail was on shady slopes.

They set out but soon returned. We remained at the meadow - enjoying one of our "would we rather be here or back at camp" moments. They shared their story of snow banks higher than them and plunging up to their waists when they tried to cross.

"We're going back the way we came!" the mother and father said.

"So will we," we replied. "We'll be along behind you in a bit. We are not ready to leave here yet."

Later in the afternoon we started down.

For a Monday night, we were surprised how busy the campground was. We expected it to be empty after the holiday. There were still many open campsites available but we were really pleased that the public is visiting this very special National Park.

Monday gave us our only evening color of the trip.

It had been a great day of hiking, covering around 15 miles.

The birds started up with their songs around 4:30 am Tuesday morning. We had our windows open. The overnight low was only down to 44°. We lay in bed and laughed. The birds sounded so happy. The loudest and most predominant was a robin. This robin never stopped singing.

Is it common practice for a robin to perch on one leg to sing?

It was time to head home. Alas, that place with the seductive name, that I'm kindly sparing you from, will have to wait. But we, for damn sure, will be dreaming of visiting there every single day until we do. It haunts our thoughts.

It was a beautiful Tuesday morning as we dropped down into the Snake Valley from Great Basin National Park, a perfect morning to stop at the Baker Archeological Site.

This is the western edge of the realm of the Fremont Culture and explains the Fremont style pictographs found in the Park.

Also visible in the photo is the predominance of the invasive species - cheat grass, the scourge of the west. It is now drying out and is rose in color. Driving home back across Nevada, it was easy to see everywhere. It is now so dominant.  Devastating fires across Nevada's Gold Butte area and California's Mojave Desert (including Joshua Tree National Park) are directly linked to this invasive plant.

The lady had much fun with the abundance of these little critters, these little dinosaurs

We enjoyed our trip home on highway 50. Highway 6 has its pluses and is a great route across Nevada but highway 50 will remain our favorite. Weather was finally warming and the threat of thunderstorms was diminishing.  

We relaxed and enjoyed the journey. At one point the Lady noticed a nest in a power pole as we drove. "Baby ravens! They have baby ravens!"

The parent was disturbed that we stopped and let us know. We left them in peace.

We had to stay out one more night in the Nevada we love. We could get home in the morning, no need to hurry. We headed south from Eastgate on the road over Buffalo Summit. We found a primitive two track spur road that had just the right lonely spot.

Geology and wildlife was all around us.

There is no better place to wake up quiet and alone than somewhere out on the ocean of sage.

What a trip! After an experience like this, I expect most of you know how hard it is to get back to work, get in the groove, the routine. Thoughts of going places, seeing something new haunts you. Especially a place with such a seductive name...............................................

Forgive me, but I am going to leave you with one last tease. If you know us and have done some reading here on this blog, you know we enjoy remote natural hot springs - another of Nevada's treasures. They are always on our radar to search out. Well somewhere out in the middle of Nevada, one quiet morning on this trip, before the thunderstorms soaked the roads and turned them to slime, we checked out some place new..............................................

You might think me awful, but remember most of the fun is in the search and the success of finding some secret place out there on your own. Good luck and happy adventures!  

1 comment:

  1. I can see why the robin made you laugh -- that was a vehement song! More fine adventures!