June 3: Great Basin National Park

So. I’ve been on the road for a week as of today. Man, it’s going fast. I made it across the rest of Nevada today. Actually, I really rather enjoyed the whole “Loneliest Highway in America” thing. It was beautiful and desolate and greener and more floral than I thought it would be. And not nearly as lonely as I thought it would be, either. I probably passed at least three dozen cars in the 100+ miles I drove today. Oh, and six, count ‘em six over-sized loads, two of which were so wide that they had the Nevada Highway Patrol running interference for them. They actually had me pull over onto the shoulder and stop until the two giant pieces of what I think were probably mining equipment went by (Eureka, one of the two towns I passed through today, was basically just an overgrown lead mine), because each one of them took up the entire width of the two-lane road.

I still don’t know how to pronounce the name of the town of Ely (it’s either Ee’-lee, or Ee-lie’ — I asked, and it’s Ee-‘-lee), which was the “big city” of this part of the world. I’ve been topping off the gas tank whenever I hit a town of any size ever since I left California, because they’re so few and far between around here. I don’t think I’ve put more than $20 in the tank at a time since I left home, which is about 5/8ths of a tank.

Oh, and whoever heard of a rest area without a toilet??? I have now. Ridiculous. It had a garbage can. A pit toilet wouldn’t have been much more effort.

"Rest area," right.
“Rest area,” right.
Orange globe mallow all over the place.
Orange globe mallow all over the place.

I arrived here at Great Basin about 12:30, and the first thing I did after checking out the visitor center was snag a campsite. As it turns out, this early in the season (?) only one of the three main campgrounds is open, and it’s only about a dozen sites. I got the last one. Second time that’s happened on this trip.

Entering Great Basin National Park, on the eastern edge of Nevada.  Wheeler Peak in the background.
Entering Great Basin National Park, on the eastern edge of Nevada. Wheeler Peak in the background.

This afternoon I drove up the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, which goes up to 10,000 feet on 10 miles of switchbacks up the side of a mountain (not the peak itself). It was gorgeous, if a bit white-knuckly (I had to downshift on my way back down to keep from braking constantly). Unfortunately, the bristlecone pine trees the park is famous for (they’re the oldest living things on the planet) are a three-mile one-way hike along a still-snowy trail (nothing was even budded up there – it still looked like winter), so I guess I’ll have to satisfy myself with the exhibits in the visitor center.

But it was still well worth the drive up there. Just beautiful. And you can see forever from up there. One of those curvature of the earth things.

A closer view of Wheeler Peak, from the Mather Viewpoint along the winding steep road.  Stephen Mather (the first director of the park service) has his name *everywhere.*  He's like Philetus Norris in Yellowstone :-).
A closer view of Wheeler Peak, from the Mather Viewpoint along the winding steep road. Stephen Mather (the first director of the park service) has his name *everywhere.* He’s like Philetus Norris in Yellowstone :-).
The view east into Utah from near the top of the Wheeler Scenic Drive.
The view east into Utah from near the top of the Wheeler Scenic Drive.

I’m really looking forward to touring Lehman Caves here tomorrow.