Saturday, October 24, 2020

Great Basin NP

Great Basin!  We had planned to visit at least once previously but got sidetracked and veered off.  Finally, we were parked reasonably close to it.  Considering how remote this National Park is, a drive of less than 3 hours could be called "close".  John had a bit of time between jobs and we prioritized the trip.

We're glad we did - it's a beautiful place.  The cave is currently covid-closed, but the trails are open and there's a big mountain to explore.  Here is Wheeler Peak (in the background on the right) from a park overlook, with a wonderful hands-on sculpture for another way of "seeing" it:

A bit of aspen color in the valley below - we've been lucky to see yellow-leaved aspens here and there this fall:

Oh, and this beautiful carving of a bristlecone pine graces the back of the sculpture:

Next mission = find those bristlecone pines in person.  We drove up the hill and set off on a hike in that direction:

There's one!  So gnarly and interesting - and old!  Some have been living for thousands of years.  Hard to imagine.

Mail check:

Reminds me of our Dad and his wood carvings - love you Dad!

Not tall but very majestic:

Hammerhead cones:

The trail continues up the valley toward the only glacier in Nevada, at the base of Wheeler Peak.  There is also a "rock glacier" here, which we've never heard of - this seems to be it:

We ate a snack and admired the scenery, and all the while John was making suggestions about taking a shortcut up to the top of Wheeler.  Initially I told him "no way" because we didn't have a topo map and I couldn't tell if his ideas would result in some ridiculous side-traverse adventure.  We planned to go back down and around to climb up on trails.

Then we saw this scree slope that seemed to lead up to the top of the ridge in between rock spires (with an airplane pointing the way for good measure):

Sure, why not, I'll try that.  Good training for rogaining, or something.  So we started up the steep scramble.  The rocks were loose but didn't slide far, and the slope was manageable for me.  We usually descend scree instead of trying to climb it; this was a different and interesting experience:

From there we could see the tiny glacier down in the shade:

A closer look at the glacier:

John took a couple photos, because he's a mountain goat and had plenty of time while I was working my way up the rock pile:

Made it to the big rock pillar!

Checking out the path above us, as it narrowed but didn't pose any particular obstacles:

Taking a minute to admire the fingers across the way - there's some great scenery around here:

Isn't it grand?!

Looking down the chute, just one long slope of scree scrambling:

We topped out on a small ridge and it was all easy rock-hopping from there over to the trail.  Nice!  Well, there were major wind gusts that threatened to bowl people over, but the trail itself was straightforward.  Some more climbing and eventually we were at the top of Wheeler Peak.  Lots of rocks up here too:

Excellent views, which would be even better on days without smoky haze (we've been getting wildfire haze off and on, but nothing nearly as bad as people in California are dealing with):

John contemplating other routes to the top (for another time):

The multitude of protective alcoves at the summit should tell you something about the amount of wind that typically blows through here - good place for a snack:

We followed trails back down, eventually (finally) making it off the windy ridge into the sheltered valley.  Thank you, Wheeler Peak!

Yep, we were there, and we enjoyed it!

We'd like to go back to Great Basin again someday, if our travels ever took us through that area (or if we nudged ourselves in that direction).  The campgrounds look nice, there are more trails to explore, and hopefully the cave will reopen eventually.  It's always worth a visit to a national park.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Zion NP - Kolob Canyons

Just a quick post for once!  We've done a few random things in the past several weeks, so I'll share some pictures and short stories.

Starting with the west side of Zion at the Kolob Canyons entrance.  It's so close to I-15 and we've driven past multiple times but never had the chance to stop.  It's not an easy place to access while towing a travel trailer, for one thing.  While we were staying at the Three Peaks park near Cedar City (which I can recommend - $5 sites, great views and fun rocks to explore), it was only a short drive and we took a morning to do that.

The main focus was a hike up Taylor Creek.  What a lovely trail, through autumn-colored trees and along running water.  And best of all, through lots of great rock layers and Zion-scale views.

So much geology to see along the way:

I didn't realize how much I missed running along actual running water.  It was cathartic.

And there's one of those views I was talking about - giant rounded formations with flat, vibrant sides:

One of the most colorful trees on the trail:

More views on the other side:

At the end of the trail is the Double Arch Alcove, a dark and cool destination.  We never figured out if there are actually two real arches, or just two arches-in-training, but it's beautiful nevertheless:

Hmm, almost looks like a "slice of Bryce", similar to nearby Bryce Canyon but stuck on the side of a high cliff:

The alcove, where we paused for a snack and to listen to voices echo:

One more great view, this one from the end of the road (with another short hike) and another reason to love Zion National Park.  I don't feel like we truly understand this place yet, but the good news is that there are plenty more trails and canyons to explore another time!