Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Great Basin National Park, May 31 - June 1
I expected Great Basin National Park in Nevada to be all about the desert, given that the state itself is actually one big basin. In this park, however, I focused more on a mountain and a cave. Wheeler Mountain at over 13,000 feet provided a wonderful scenic drive. There was still about 3 to 4 feet of snow at the top of the drive. If I wanted to make the hike, I could have seen some 5,000 year old trees, the Bristle Cone Pine Forest. The campground at about 10,000 feet had been plowed and I considered overnighting there but the altitude was a bit much. So, I stayed at the Lower Lehman Campground, named for the man who discovered the cave.
Similar to the Carlsbad Caverns, many of Lehman's decorations were back lit and provided enough light for my flash-less camera. Some of the formations were still growing, wet from the melting snow above. Very cool stuff -- straws, stalagmites, stalactites, popcorn, columns, and draperies.
But, this cave had other rare decorations -- bulbs and shields. The bulbs grew off of the ceiling in one of the larger rooms and looked like turnips or radishes, but hollow inside. I couldn't get a good pictures of those. But, I did get a picture of one of the more famous shield formations called the "parachute" ... it looked more like a jellyfish to me! Scientists still have yet to figure out how bulbs and shields are formed.
I enjoyed a drive out to the Gray Cliffs where I spied several more caves with signs indicating that you needed a permit to enter. I was told that petroglyph are in those caves but they were off limits right now because bats had returned to roost in them. Cool to know, but too bad I couldn't check them out.
The part of the park that I spent my time in was not at all desert-like. I loved my little campsite next to a small trickling stream lined with river birch where I watched a busy little ground squirrel go in and out of his den ... blissfully ignorant of my presence.
On my way to my next destination I passed by the Little Sahara National Recreational Area in Utah. On my GPS map, however, it said it was a National Monument ... so, I stopped. It's a huge area of sand dunes and an off-road-vehicle riders paradise.