Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 2: Great Basin Park

Day 2: Great Basin Park

Day 2: Great Basin NP (#3)

And the most unusual and surrealistic place in New York City is Central Park.

Pictures: Sunrise in Baker, more outsider art, Lehman caves, Great Basin NP

I make it up (and not a minute longer) to see the sky full of stars, a vivid partial moon, and a few unidentified animals making noises off in the bush. Up early again (I hope to actually be able to skip a few morning shots of this variety…we’ll see!).

We have breakfast in the room: epi shorties from the Temescal farmers market and fresh ground coffee (not decaf…) from the Silver Jack store. We use both the toaster oven and microwave (to heat our milk – actually DB uses the microwave, THB never touches a microwave). Total - $10.

Off we go to make our 9am Lehman Cave tour. Turns out the park is free, the tours are $10 or $6, we opt for the longer (1.5 hrs) tour; 10 people are on the tour, there’s room for 20, 4 were last minute walk-ups.

This is the most “decorated” cave per foot we’ve ever been in. There isn’t a lot of walking, and there is a lot to see (see pics). With this small a group, there’s no problem seeing everything in the time allotted, and we can hear every question and the answers.

Now for some fun facts (what are fun facts????):
- Driving: Day 0 – 230 miles; Day 1 – 380 miles; Day 2 – 35 miles
- Technical cave terms: bacon, shield, straws, drapes, dam
- Day time temperature range: 55 – 80 (all in the park, between 9 and 4:30, base on altitude)
- There is no fee to enter the park, just for the cave tours or camping
- Ground coffee at the Silver Jack sells for $7/pound (we should start re-importing it to the Bay Area)

After the tour, to reach the start of the trail (finding the trail head is the hardest part of the hike and how THB got his name), we drive on a road that heads straight up the mountain, where we figure out how the park got its name: as you go up in altitude, you get a startling view of the great basin to the east of the park. This may be the only park not named for something in the park!

At around 11:15 we start our hike, we’re doing a two lake/scenic vista/views of Wheeler Peak hike. 7 miles and 5 hours later, we make it back to the car. The following is not an understatement: this is the best scenic hike we have taken, equivalent to what we did in Patagonia (including similar high winds). How is this not a major destination? Well, the obvious reason is that it is in the middle of nowhere, on the border of Nevada and Utah (not all that far from Zion NP, we find out just how far tomorrow). Roughly the equivalent of May Lake and Mt Hoffman in Yosemite except a lot prettier views and mountains (not the lakes, they are dinky).

Lunch at Stella Lake (lake #1 in the pics) is leftovers from our lunch with Peter and Jutta (so free) and DB makes herself a turkey sandwich (items have survived the trip from E-ville in our handy dandy borrowed car cooler). Cost - $3 for bottled water.

In addition to the views, we also encounter the bristlecone pine (see pics), a tree that can live for 5,000 years, even when half of it looks dead (and totally dead trees appear to last forever also!).

Book review time! On Day 0, we start to listen to Amy Goodman read her own book, Breaking the Sound Barrier. She’s a “hard-hitting” journalist some of you may have heard on Bill Moyers or NPR. The content is old, drab, and not pertinent even a few years later. However, there is one thing of note: the title is very accurate. Interspersed with Amy’s reading are other people she’s interviewed or broadcasts she’s found pertinent, all in the real person’s voice. One such is a speech by a person who has been tortured by US forces; he’s talking in Arabic and then pausing for his translation. At one point they have an internal dialogue as the translator searches for the right words. It’s a new era in audio books, now you can include any other sounds you want!

Now for some more fun facts (are these even facts?)
- We start the hike at around 10k feet and almost get to 11k at one point
- We both have sunburned cheeks
- DB’s pony tail isn’t quite long enough to catch all the wisps, stay tuned for more pics to show how long her hair has grown during the trip
- On the hike we chat up a German couple (they take the pic of us in front of Wheeler Peak), and they are also staying at the Silver Jack
- The peak next to Wheeler should be called Lingam Mountain
- Baker is at 5300 feet and Wheeler Peak is at 13,500 feet
- To see sort of what this mountain area looks like, try Sweetgrass, a great documentary showing sheepherding (the non-fiction vs of Brokeback Mountain). No narration!
- The picture of the flower is the only one we saw in bloom on the hike
- The room at Silver Jack is $69/night. The Peppermill: $130, which included a $10 “resort fee” WITH a 11.3% tax on the resort fee. Who knew!

Dinner is again at the Silver Jack, and this time we are pleased to announce that the no-dessert vow has not yet gone into effect, hiking makes the pumpkin chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich 100% guilt free. Pesto with chicken, pizza, salads, TWO beers for THB, wine. Total $65.

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