On the Road Again: Springtime in Utah travel blog

Wheeler Peak (with snow) from Mather Outlook

Snake Valley from Mather Outlook

An Alien (Roadside Art)

Cowboy whose legs were too long for the coffin (Roadside Art)

Robot (note the microwave)

Bob Wire

Barb Wire

Bob and Barb together

Panoramic view of Snake Valley from the Visitor Center

MacGillivray's Warbler (we think) at campsite

On trail to arch--pinon-juniper lousewort

pinon pine--look at all the pine cones! Lots of pine nuts!

yellow creeping barberry

Clark's nutcracker

Same bird

Red blossoms on pine trees!

The arch from afar

Strange rock formations along the trail

The arch at last!

View through the arch

Another view--Jonathan hoping it holds

View from below

buttercups

Metallic green beetle

Purple fountain grass

The original cave opening; people had to climb down to the cave...

Stalactites (hanging from the ceiling)

More

More, plus columns growing from the floor

Another column

Narrow passageway, not for the faint of heart

Stalactite

 

 

 

 

 

The Finger

 

Another narrow passageway

This formation is called a "shield"

Jimmy Durante showed up here, too!

We had to stoop to get through here

Stalactites almost reaching the floor

Stalagmites

The Ranger beneath a broken-off stalactite


Thursday was mostly a travel day, traveling to Great Basin National Park outside of Baker (population 54) just inside the Nevada state line. This area is called the Great Basin because all the rain and the snowmelt drains into the basin and does not flow to the sea. The Great Basin itself includes parts of California, Utah, Wyoming, Oregon, and almost all of Nevada—20 percent of the land mass of the lower 48 states! Great Basin National Park is just a small part of the entire Great Basin ecosystem.

We had time to take the scenic drive up Wheeler Peak, the second highest peak in Nevada and the highest peak in the Snake Mountain Range, at 13,063 feet. The last part of the drive was closed by snow; we could only get to Mather Overlook, but that itself was pretty high up at 9,000 feet. Steven Mather, for whom the Outlook is named, is considered the “father” of the National Park System. From Mather Outlook we had a great view of the Snake Valley.

We also visited both the Great Basin Visitor Center outside the Park, and the Lehman Caves Visitor Center inside the Park. We drove out to an archeological site outside Baker, but there was really nothing there to see except low walls of former dwellings of the former occupants, the Fremont Indians, who farmed there before about 1270 A.D. Thousands of artifacts have been found at this site, including pottery and arrowheads.

There is some interesting artwork along the drive to Lehman Caves Visitor Center, a sort of whimsical roadside art gallery. You’ll see photos among the set of photos here.

We are staying at the Whispering Elms RV Park, Motel and Bar. It is all for sale, for the low, low price of $300,000. It needs a little work--well, make that a lot of work-- but it’s not a bad place to stay. Quiet, and there are more birds flying around here than we have seen in one place since we started this trip.

Friday morning we drove a 11 mile four-wheel drive road to the trailhead for the trail to Lexington Arch. You actually start the trail on BLM land and then hike into National Park land. The trail is well-marked and not too difficult—climbing about 1000 feet in 1.7 miles but with many switchbacks. It was sunny but with a cool wind blowing so great for hiking.

The arch is different from those in Arches National Park in that it is composed of limestone, not sandstone. Some speculate that this arch was once a passage in a cave system. Others think this is not an arch at all but a natural bridge. Whatever it is, it is six stories tall and very impressive. We rested underneath the arch, hoping this would not be the time it collapsed, and then headed down. We saw only one other person on the trail, and he or she from a long distance away. It was a quiet and serene hike.

We returned to the Visitor Center and took the last Lehman Caves tour of the day. Lehman Caves are named after their discoverer Absalom Lehman (although cave artifacts show that the Indians discovered the caves long before Absalom was ever in the area). The formations here seemed more intricate than those in Carlsbad Caverns. The tour guide was a riot—told funny stories the whole time. On three occasions he turned off all the lights to give the participants a feel for what it might have been like to be lost in the caves, which people frequently were when Absalom owned the caves and allowed people to tour them and stay at his lodge—he’d come looking for guests who did not show up for dinner, but not until the next day. Yipes--very spooky.



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