Hello, Nevada!

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At first we thought crossing the Utah-Nevada state border might be a bit boring, after being totally wowed by southern Utah during the past few weeks.  But on this route into the state we enjoyed stretches of gorgeous mountain ranges, a vast treeless valley floor, and seas of sagebrush on dry desert.

We were so intrigued by the diverse landscape, different than most other states we’ve visited.  As usual, when we want to learn about what we’re looking at I whipped out my trusty iPhone to ask Siri about some Nevada fun facts:

A sea of sagebrush

One of two passes we crossed before getting to Baker, Nevada

I read out loud to Steve a few facts that define Nevada:

  • FACT: “Nevada” is a Spanish word, nieve meaning “snow-covered.”  The state was given this name because of its high mountain ranges where snow sometimes resides year-round.  And yes, several mountains remained clad with the white stuff during our mid-June journey.

    Snake Mountain Range, home to Great Basin National Park – our destination!

Betsy (well, actually Steve) takes a break with Ruby Range in the background

  • FACT: The Federal Government owns approximately 87% of Nevada’s land.

Schell Creek Mountain Range

Wildlife crossings over the freeway

  • FACT: The state is covered by the Basin and Range regions, an area of more than 300 mountain ranges.  Great Basin is the largest desert in North America, and Great Basin National Park makes up only a tiny portion of it:

The Great Basin and Range regions

Hey, we learned something new during our drive!

Great Basin National Park

Visiting national parks not overrun by massive crowds and traffic jams is high on our list, and Great Basin National Park fit the bill.  Snake Mountain Range, where the park is located, looms over the tiny town of Baker – only 5 miles from its entrance.  The town’s population of 52 hardy souls (as of 2018) is anything but a tourist magnet, and the only place with RV hookups to stay when visiting this park.  So we came prepared with the fridge, freezer and pantry stocked up for a 5-night visit.

Is Steve doing a DUI test in the middle of the highway?  Very little traffic passes through here!

Betsy’s down there in the tiny town of Baker, seen from 9000′

Great Basin National Park was established in 1986 to protect the South Snake Mountain Range.  This mountainous landscape is isolated by the desert that surrounds it, like an island surrounded by a sagebrush sea.  It’s notable for its groves of ancient Bristlecone Pines, the oldest known living tree, and for the Lehman Caves at the base of 13,063′ Wheeler Peak (which we could not tour because it was booked months in advance).  We couldn’t see Wheeler Peak Glacier from our overlook, but who knew there’s a glacier in Nevada?

Arriving on June 15th, we were only able to drive 8 miles up Wheeler Peak Scenic drive to Mather Overlook at 9000′.  Snow continued to cover the road beyond that point, killing our chances to hike on the higher trails 😦

At Mather Overlook – Jeff Davis and Wheeler Peak were under a snow mist.  This is June in Nevada?

Shrubby Mahogany trees near Mather Overlook

On the way back down the mountain we stopped to read about the history of ranching, water resources and the land in the Great Basin:

Ranching, land and water displays at a roadside stop

It came by to say hello

We also stopped at nearby Baker Archeological Site, but were disappointed by the displays there:

Most of the trails we planned to hike in the Wheeler Peak area to see Alpine Lakes and Bristlecone Pines remained closed due to snow.  Our only hike within the park was the Timber Creek/South Fork Baker Creek trail, a 5.1-mile loop beginning at 8000′.  It was a steep 1,680′ ascent along overflowing Timber Creek, as we trekked over hard-packed snow that began at around 9,000′.  Glad I brought my hiking poles on this one!

I imagined lots of wildflowers would be here in July

Looking up at imposing Pyramid Peak

A beautiful patch of green in a forest stream

The trail became a watery muddy path on the way back down

What’s unique about the Great Basin is that the huge water runoff doesn’t go to the ocean, but rather stays within the basin to be used by people, wildlife, livestock or to simply percolate back underground and/or evaporate.  In short, the water that falls in the Great Basin stays in the Great Basin.  Sounds similar to a saying I’ve heard about Vegas!

The overflowing creek serenaded us on it’s way down the mountain

The other hike we followed was 15 miles outside the national park at the BLM’s Sacramento Pass Recreation Area.  It’s located on the crest of the Snake Range, with Weaver Creek Basin and Great Basin National Park as a backdrop.  There were three connected loop trails to follow, and we hiked all of them to create a 6.5-mile trek that meandered through unique quartzite rock formations, meadows and a forest.

It was a wonderful and diverse hike, with beautiful views of mountain peaks and some wildflowers to enjoy along the way, and we didn’t meet up with a single person during the entire trek – perfect!  Try to do this one if you’re in the area and want a great hike outside of the national park.

At the parking lot, Blue Flax bloomed by the fence line

The quartzite formations here were amazing

Which loop do we take now?

Our lunch view at Weaver Creek Basin

Sagebrush grasslands dominate the Great Basin desert

The Schell Creek Mountain Range came in and out of view

Of course I stopped to admire the attention-grabbing beauties at my feet:

Turtle or Camel?

Our car remained alone in the parking lot when we returned – yay!

On the last afternoon of our stay, Steve had just finished hooking up the car for our next-day departure when our neighbor informed us that the scenic drive had opened up to the Wheeler Peak Lookout.  Unhook the car, we’re going back up the mountain!  We may never come through here again, so we’d better take this chance to see Nevada’s second-tallest mountain up close!

There was a glacier in that cirque

Wheeler Peak is the second-highest mountain in Nevada, with a strenuous hike that we were hoping to try.  It starts at 10,160′ and gains 2,900′ in elevation.  Just reading those facts made us a little short of breath, but we were disappointed that it was closed so we couldn’t brag along with our friends John and Pam and Mark and Joodie  who had busted their lungs to do it.

That’s Wheeler Peak, where our friends hiked to the summit.  Impressive!

Despite the hiking limitations, our visit here was a win as we were able to check out the park and take a great hike in the area while savoring its isolation and remoteness.

Wendover, Nevada

We moved on to Wendover, Nevada, a small city that straddles the Nevada/Utah border.  We tried to attend their local Beerfest, but it was a madhouse with hour-long Disneyland-like lines for beer samples.  We like beer, but not that much!  We left right away and enjoyed a quiet brew at home instead.

Wendover Will welcomed us

This overlook is supposed to show the curvature of the earth, but I don’t see it.  Maybe the earth is flat!

Betsy appears to be steaming hot!

Jackpot, Nevada

Our final stop in Nevada was highly anticipated for two reasons.  One, many moons ago Steve and his pilot buddies Mike and Rod landed here on one of the stops during their Great Pacific Northwest Flying Adventure.  When we arrived Steve contacted his buddies to reminisce about their flying adventures, and they all agreed that Betsy couldn’t get airborne from this runway 🙂

I was parked there in 2004!

But the main reason for this stop was to meet up with friends John and Pam, who were making their way south heading home.  They arranged their schedule so we could cross paths, and we were very happy to see them.

Yes, that’s the same John and Pam who hiked Wheeler’s Peak

We often meet up in Arizona during the winter, but we chose to be in Florida last year and missed them.  There was a lot of updating to be done, but an afternoon get-together and nice dinner allowed us to get caught up with these great folks that we met early in our RV life:

So long for now, see you later this Fall!

That wraps up our Nevada sojourn!

 

Next up:  Giddy Up on the Oregon Trail!



 

25 thoughts on “Hello, Nevada!

  1. Great Basin is a beautiful NP! We were there when it was dressed in fall colors, but I really enjoy your snowy pictures! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I have lived in Nevada all my life and have yet to discover Great Basin, National Park. Thank you for your post as it has inspired me to take a trip south. More people need to see the beauty of Nevada. Were you able to do any star-gazing while there?

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    • So much unspoiled beauty in Northern Nevad and in the Great Basin. During our stay it was cloudy most nights so we missed the stars.

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      • Reading about your adventures sure gives us hitchitch!! We have been sidelined for almost a year with several physical issues Mike has had including surgery on his spine!!
        Great pictures and what an amazing hike that would be!! I doubt I could get there so my hats off to all you guys!!

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  3. Great Basin NP is one of our all-time favorites—your photo of Wheeler Peak with the spring green trees and robin’s egg blue sky is gorgeous! We’ve been three times to Great Basin and would go again—like you, we love the hiking and the solitude (and the spring wildflowers and fall colors!). Such a bummer that snow kept you off of the trails in the park, but wow, that hike you discovered just outside of the park looks fantastic! We’ll definitely try that one next time we’re in the area.
    So fun that you met up with Pam and John. You guys are ALL so far away from us now! Boohoo.

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    • It’s you and Eric that are far away from us!
      We were bummed we could not hike to the alpine lakes 😦

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  4. We loved Great Basin NP. Stayed there the first week of June 2015 and managed to get 2.5 miles up the trail to Wheeler Peak before the snow got knee-deep with atrocious winds and we turned back. Have always talked about going back in the fall and giving it another try.
    How fun that you managed to cross paths with John and Pam!

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    • In a way I was glad there was still snow at Wheeler Peak, I dont think I can handle the hike to the peak with winds and scree 🙂

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  5. Posts like this about Nevada always surprise me. Who knew such a seemingly flat desert state could have all of this? Great Basin is now high on our list – you had me at “not overrun with tourists,” but it seriously looks like a beautiful spot. I also had no idea the federal government owned so much of the land there. See all the great things I learn from your blog?? Finally, while it’s always crazy to see snow in June and July, it really adds so much to photos – especially in contrast to those bright blue skies and lush greens. Love it!

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    • If you do come, I’d say the sites at the Sacramento Pass Recreation Area are better than the campgrounds within the park. The private park we were in is a bit hinky but its FHU 🙂
      GBNP has its own unique characteristics in addition to being least visited. Fall is also a good time to visit to see the Aspens!

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  6. I agree that it’s hard to seethe curvature in that shot…but I bet it’s more visible from 36,000 feet!

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  7. We so sorry to that you weren’t able to hike the main trails in GBNP. It is a spectacular place. Maybe we can plan a fall meeting there and hit the trails together. We would love to visit again. We didn’t actually get to the top of Wheeler Peak. We got to 12,700 something. The last part of the climb was a narrow trail along the flat wall and it was icy. We didn’t have hiking poles then and another couple advised against it. Besides I was really light headed from the intense climb to that point and this was our first day at this elevation which wasn’t too smart but it was the only completely clear day forecasted. We will go back again, spend time hiking at 10,000 ft, then give it another try.
    I am so glad we were able to cross paths and spend some time getting caught up. We look forward to seeing you in the fall and sharing our trails with you.

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    • Still just going up to where you were was already impressive! That is why I’m sort of glad there was still snow, so I have an excuse why we did not tackle Wheeler Peak. I don’t think I can handle altitude hiking 🙂

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  8. Great info! We’ve stopped at Jackpot passing through. I’ve always wanted to hike Wheeler. It’s always the wrong time. Not sure if our timing will work end of this month when we pass through again but we’ll see. Great pics!

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    • I think there will still a bit of snow dusting at the top. If you have the right gears, you and Steve can do it! I actually thought of you when I saw the peak, for sure it is on your shortlist of summit hikes. Plus it would be a feat to tackle your own peak!

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  9. Driving long, flat roads might be boring in a car, but it’s pure perfection in an RV if you ask me!

    Oh my gosh, I too have been eagerly awaiting this post, and seeing some of those same places through your lens is an amazing contrast to our time there. I am so sorry the snow thwarted your adventures, but you sure made the most of it anyhow. That hike in the Sacramento Pass RA looked pretty darn perfect.

    I guess no one has been caring for the little paper booklets at the Baker archaeological site 😐

    That photo of Steve in the aspens is almost the exact shot I have of TBG, though it was much muddier for you two. The brilliant green rocks in the photo with you are beautiful. What a fun contrast to compare the photos at the different times of the year.

    I say the rock looks more like a turtle than a camel 🙂

    Thank you for the shout-out! After reading your post, I clicked my own link and re-read mine (& John & Pam’s!) bringing back such fond memories of one of our favorite trips of all time. ❤

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    • I know you will catch that particular photo for I also saw it in our post. On yours TBG was among the Aspens, while Steve on the same spot was looking down at our muddy trail 🙂 All our post, yours, mine and J&P were on the different season thus giving us a distinct perspective of the same beautiful areas.
      Someone commented it is a sitting camel, I too see a turtle.
      I can’t believe no one from BLM office inspected that area ever since that pamphlet was placed!

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  10. I’ve been anticipating this post since being identified as one of your to-be-visited locations. Your photos and the descriptions make me want to go back, just not with all that snow. So glad you got to sample some of the terrain.

    Word is the curvature of the earth can be seen only after having consumed beer…

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    • Ah, good point – I always see more curvatures after consuming beer. I should look again when I’m actually laying on the ground!
      ~Steve

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  11. Great Basin really is one of the last “undiscovered” gems in this country. We got there too early in the season just like you guys did.

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