Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Great Basin

This weekend we took the kids on a trip to Great Basin National Park. We have wanted to visit for years, but when we had free time always seemed to have other destinations that won out. We went into the trip with three objectives:
  1. Take the kids backpacking (heretofore they have only car camped)
  2. Tour Lehman Cave
  3. Climb Wheeler Peak (this was a solo objective, not something I wanted to do with kids)
We were successful on all three counts, though not in that order. We arrived Saturday night and found a campsite. Sunday morning I got up early and drove to the Wheeler Peak trailhead. Traveling solo, I was able to move as fast as my fitness would allow, reaching the summit at 6:40 a.m.

Sunrise on Wheeler Peak

Looking south toward Pyramid Peak

Looking west over one of many wind blocks on the summit

Jeff Davis Peak from the east end of Wheeler summit

After returning to camp and having breakfast, we loaded up our packs and drove to the Johnson Lake trailhead. Whereas Wheeler Peak took three hours round trip, the hike to Johnson Lake with kids and heavy packs took about three hours one way. Nevertheless, all three kids made it, the older two carrying packs and with little difficulty.

A curious thing happened during this trip: most of our meals were evaluated in the context of whether it was good enough to serve on a hut trip. It seems that the hut trip bar has been set high, because in each case but one, there was at least a tweak or two needed for them to be truly hut-trip-worthy. The one exception was the peach cobbler Rachel made in the Dutch oven. Sadly, the huts are not equipped with Dutch ovens, and I'm certainly not about to haul one in.

Johnson Lake fills the hollow left by an extinct glacier at the bottom of the headwall of a U-shaped canyon. Three sides are bounded by a steep, rocky ridgeline. Although the glacier is gone, snow still makes its effects known, as all the trees surrounding the lake were snapped off at the trunk about 2.5 meters above the ground. I would not want to have been on the business end of that avalanche.

After hiking out on Monday morning and stopping along the road to harvest some pinion nuts (which were abundant), we toured Lehman cave. On the long drive home, I was left wondering how we could possibly have packed any more into the weekend than we did. I don't think we could have.


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