Great Basin National Park is in east-central Nevada, or more correctly, in the middle of nowhere. We stumbled onto this Park a couple of years ago and it is truly a find. The Park is located in the small South Snake mountain range that rises out of the local sage covered plains that make up the western Utah and eastern Nevada landscape. Wheeler Peak is the highest point of this range, rising to 13,063 feet. There are several campgrounds within the park, but the one we prefer is the Upper Wheeler campground at 10,000 feet. Even when the rest of the surrounding area is blistering hot, it’s nice and cool up there.
Still worried I had lost my cooking touch, I attempted another meal but with one major change. The Volcano grill is a collapsible, double-walled steel grill that weighs in around 30 pounds. Given this weight and the continuous jostling in our storage box when we travel, the original cloth carrying bag slowly disintegrated. We got a new bag last year, and more importantly, at the same time also a cooking heat-resistant cover for the grill (Pam got it, but let’s not dwell on the who – lol). I gave it a try and the steaks and potatoes came out perfect. Grilling problem solved. The heat that was dissipating too rapidly without the cover was now retained longer to create a much better grill.
The campground was a combination of forest and meadows. The meadows had a lot of wildlife that we enjoyed in the evenings around the campfire, including deer and turkeys.
I tried to get a shot of the Uinta Squirrels that race around the place, but I’m not that quick yet with the camera.
We did a couple of hikes in Great Basin NP, where one leads to a huge bristlecone pine area. These trees, living two miles up in elevation, are some of the oldest trees in the world. A few of them in the rock-soil “forest” were well over 3,000 years old.
Individual trees have areas that are both alive and dead. However, even a few of the dead ones took over 1,000 years to realize they were no longer growing. When scientists first found the grove, they attempted dating core samples on what they suspected to be the eldest tree. The samples did not make sense to them so they cut it down to count the rings, only to find that it was over 5,000 years old. It’s now in the visitor center to remind us of stupid things we do in search of the unknown.
At the higher elevation, the air was clear and blue. As we descended back to the basin floor, we entered a smoky landscape from the forest fires that have been burning in northern California and southern Oregon. Nevada has these 10-mile wide valleys of sage and grasses between north-south running mountain ranges that ripple the state from east to west. Even in the smoke it’s still beautiful.
We headed north out of Great Basin NP and passed under a wildlife bridge that are becoming much more common throughout our travels. Game can cross the road over traffic, greatly reducing accidents on these lone stretches of highway. Some animals, like big horn sheep, will not use an underpass. State Fish and Game agencies are working closely with the highway departments to identify critical areas and how best to address game crossings. I like that.
We camped in the Ruby Mountain range in northern Nevada at Angel Lake Campground. While we climbed back up to roughly 8,400 feet to get there, it was still a little smoky, but beautiful.
We heard a strange sound from the campsite next to us and looked over to find this grouse calling from its picnic table perch into the local brush. There was also a large group from the University of Arizona geology department camped there on a field trip, exploring the local rock formations.
We crossed into Idaho and stopped in Twin Falls for lunch at a nice Irish pub, Dunken’s Draught House. I never really appreciated a good Reuben sandwich. However, our eldest son sent me a side of pastrami and rye bread from a good New York City deli for my birthday last year. Therefore, I’ve decided to try one on this trip where I can. The Reuben and the local beer there were very good. More testing is required – in both areas.
We camped the night along the Snake River at Banbury Hot Springs. We enjoyed a nice soak in the water, and meeting the 90-year old lady who put our swimming endurance to shame.
The stretch of the Snake River to the northwest of Twin Falls, ID is interesting to see because spring water gushes out of the river rock walls into the river below. There are many of these along this stretch. One is in the picture below just to the left of center. They are not just a trickle, but a small stream of water appearing magically out of the rock wall.
We like to stay off the Interstates because back roads are so much more interesting. We took the back way to Boise, ID through some cattle country. The Roamer much prefers these roads.
After jumping around Boise, we headed north up the Payette River gorge, stopping for lunch along the river.
We camped that night at Big Sage campground along the banks of Lake Cascade in central Idaho. The campground was named for the awesome smelling sage that lined the campground. Personally, I think more than just cooked poultry should come in sage scent.
We scored a campsite right next to the water and watched an eagle and osprey aerial fight over local fishing rights. There was a large forest fire over the next mountain range to the west, which created a spectacular sunset.
We use the inciweb.nwcg.gov website to locate and try to adjust our route around the many forest fires during our travels. We drive by many firefighting camps during the summer as the northwest seems to ignite from June to August, before their seasonal rain arrives in late August – early September. Hopefully one day forest management will be allowed to be implemented in the forest by forest rangers rather than dictated by lawsuits and city folk. One can always dream.
We continued north up through Idaho along the Salmon River. Over the mountain range to the west is the Snake River gorge that defines the boundary between northern Oregon and Idaho, Hells Canyon National Rec Area. We didn’t explore that area this time, so we’ll have to come back this way.
We camped the night along the Snake River near Lewiston, Idaho, on the Idaho – Washington border. Hells Gate State Park is situated on the northern border of the Rec area.
We stopped at a hardware store along the way to pick up some new elastic cord. After four years of traveling, and much relaxation in our zero-gravity chairs, the elastic chord holding the lower seat canvas to the frame was a mass of frayed repair knots. I could only find white, but they look and function much better now.
Now that we have entered the state of Washington, we turn west and head for the Pacific Ocean.