June 4: Disinfecting my shoes to protect the bats

Alpenglow on Wheeler Peak from my campsite.
Alpenglow on Wheeler Peak from my campsite.

I have to say, after last night’s incredible stars, that I can believe Great Basin NP’s claim to have some of the least light-polluted skies in the lower 48 of the U.S. Amazing.

This morning I took an hour and a half tour of Lehman Caves, which are one of the high points of this park. I discovered, to my delight, that my new (as of last winter) camera takes much better low-light photos than my old (as in ten years old) camera did. Both of the cave photos in this post were taken sans flash or tripod. Some of the others weren’t so great, but I’d say at least half of them came out well.

I had a little time between changing the ticket I’d bought several days ago via phone from this afternoon to this morning and the start of the tour, so I went for a walk along the nature trail on the surface above the cave, where I saw something really pretty called a cliffrose. I also saw the natural entrance to the cave (which isn’t used for people anymore, but is kept open for the bats), and the entrance and exit used for the tours, which were blasted out by the WPA in the thirties, before people knew better (I suspect this was about the same time the elevator that goes down into Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico was installed, too).

Cliffrose.  Smells kind of orange-y.
Cliffrose. Smells kind of orange-y.
This is the rifle that was all over social media in 2014 -- it was found up on Wheeler Peak, where apparently someone had just walked off and left it 100+ years ago.
This is the rifle that was all over social media in 2014 — it was found up on Wheeler Peak, where apparently someone had just walked off and left it 100+ years ago.  It’s now on display in the visitor center at Lehman Caves.  

Then I put my sneakers into a (very shallow, only the soles got wet) Lysol bath, to disinfect them and protect the bats that live in the cave from something called white nose syndrome, a fungus brought over from Europe that has killed millions of bats in this country and that they’re trying to keep from spreading. If you’ve worn your shoes into a cave before, you have to have them disinfected. So because I’d been in one of the caves at Lava Beds, my sneakers now smell ever so faintly of Lysol <g>.

The cave tour was cool, and not just because it was 50dF inside, while it was pushing 80dF outside. It was beautiful in there, from teeny-tiny soda straws (they’re long and skinny and hollow) to huge columns, elegant draperies and things called popcorn and shields. We walked through for an hour and a half, and every minute was interesting.

One of my better photos inside Lehman Caves.
One of my better photos inside Lehman Caves.
And another Lehman Caves shot.  I really  love this camera.
And another Lehman Caves shot. I really love this camera.

After the tour was over, I headed southeast across yet more lonely highway about 150 miles to the town of Cedar City, Utah (my fifth state of the trip), where I am tonight. One thing I did not expect was the acres and acres of the same desert globe mallow I saw in Oregon, in full bloom. It made the entire landscape orange in places, almost like the California poppies down in the Mojave Desert do, except the globe mallow is a darker orange. Just lovely.

Globe mallow carpeting the landscape in western Utah.
Globe mallow carpeting the landscape in western Utah.