Great Basin National Park, above ground…

August 23rd, 2014, morning

After a rainy night, the view above the campground:

22_view from my camp site in the morning light, after the rain

And then a few minutes later:

23_then a few minutes later...

But it clears up again in a few minutes. It’s a beautiful day.

 

I have a busy day planned, but first there’s morning coffee and some organizational work to be done:

24_morning coffee, getting organized

When you move about so often, packing and unpacking, keeping track of everything is essential. Where do I keep this? Now where did I put that? More on this in a future post.

 

First I drive up this side of Mt. Wheeler, or Wheeler Peak (the mountain seems to go by both names)…

27_drove up Mt. Wheeler, from eastern side

…from which we see the dry valley in the distance:

28_view from above, another Nevada valley below

I take the nature walk at the Wheeler Peak parking lot and campground where we can see some interesting forest specimens. Great Basin National Park is known for its bristlcone pine trees which can live  from two to three thousand years:

30a_saw some interesting forest

I don’t think this is one of them, though. You have to walk up higher that  9,500 feet to see them and I don’t go up that high.  For some good pictures of truly ancient bristlecones, though, look here.

The trail twists and turns among the pines:

30d_but I don't think these are the famous bristlecones

A stand of aspens comes into view, a good sign, they say, for the evolution of the forest:

31_saw abundant aspens; good sign

 

Of course, I take pictures of whatever wildlife crosses my path: the ritual deer…

32_the inevitable deer

…and, will wonders never cease, a chipmunk.

33_and I even caught a chipmunk, Katie...

Katie, do you see that ? I actually got a photo of a chipmunk! My career as a wildlife photographer may yet come to be.

 

Before we go on, let me bring you up to date on that art car we saw at Spencer’s Hot Springs. As of this posting, September 7th, Burning Man 2014 has come and gone. But you can now see pictures and a video of that art car, The Mushroom Patch, here, and here.

And have I told you about my conversation with the bartender at The Major’s Place? It went something like this:

Bartender: You know, I’ve been in Nevada for nearly 15 years and I thought I’d heard of everything, and then this guy comes in here the other day and tells me he’s going to this thing called Burning Man. What the hell is that?

Me: It’s sort of an arts festival, but more. I went there with some friends back in 2006.

Bartender: Well, tell me about it.

Me: Well…guy named Larry Harvey…divorce…big party on beach in San Francisco…big fire to burn the old man and bring in the new…the Man…art exhibits of all sorts…got out of hand…moved to Black Rock Desert in Nevada…gift-giving economy…leave no trace… Well, maybe you should just Google it, here.

 

Since the title of this post is “Great Basin National Park, above ground…”, you can imagine what my next post will be.

 

Spencer’s Hot Springs and the Toquima Cave

August 20th, 2014

I make my way to Spener’s Hot Springs, not far at all from Austin, in the Big Smoky Valley. But when I drive up to the springs, what do I see but this contraption:

30_young and old

And I think, aha, these people are going to Burning Man. The contraption in question is an art car. This one is disassembled, of course, to be transported to the festival in the Black Rock Desert. I chat with its owners as I, too, have been to Burning Man. That was in 2006. You can learn more about Burning Man here.

 

The main spring at Spencer’s looks like this:

4_main pool bis

There are other springs nearby, here and there among the sagebrush, such as this one:

11_nearby pool

With a second, and much cooler pool nearby, full of goldfish:

12_with gold fish in the runoff pool

 

I had a nice soak (several, in fact) and interesting conversation with the usual interesting collection of hot springs fans present, and a nice morning walk in the vicinity.

True to the spirit of the hot springs community, someone has made this maze:

6_someone has made this maze

…which leads to this offering:

7_that leads to this offering

 

But the best part is the tranquility of this place, and the view over Big Smoky Valley:

8_the view out across Big Smoky Valley

As I walked I took a few pictures of the local inhabitants…

10_jack rabbit, lower left, Katie...

…such as this jackrabbit that you can see on the lower left, if you look hard.

But it was soon time for me to go on to my next destination, up in the Toquima Range, in the Toiyabe National Forest, just a few miles distant:

13_on my way to my next destination

As I said, this forest demands a new definition of the word “forest”.

The road behind me and the road in front:

15_behind me 16_before me

 

But we soon meet the trees:

14_forest

 

And I arrive at my destination:

19_I soon arrive at my destination

Shooting practice appears to be a big sport in these parts.

I find a campsite:

20_I find a campsite...

It’s a small, primitive campground, only four or five campsites, probably frequented mainly by hunters. I like it here, it’s so calm and peaceful.

 

Now I head off to the Toquima Cave and its drawings, a fifteen-minute walk away along an easy trail. As the trail progresses I like this forest more and more:

23a_as the trail progresses 23b_I like this forest more and more

We now approach the cave…

24_as I approach the cave..

… up these few steps…

25_the final steps

…we can’t go in…

26_but we can't go in

…but I can take pictures:

27_but I can still take pictures 28a_and pictures

28b_and more pictures - Copie 28c_and even more

From the information signs posted we learn that these drawings were intended to summon the spirits to bring good luck for the hunt and that no other message was intended.

 

28d_it is explained that...

Today this cave is a sacred site for the contemporary Shoshone people. You may want to zoom in to get a better view of these pictograms. Or look them up on Wikipedia here.

 

On the way back to the campground I take an interest in the trees, both young…

29_on the way back... 29b_I get interested

29c_in the different 29d_trees of this forest

…and old.

30a_young and ol 30b_as the old are sculptures

The old are like sculptures.

Back at the campground the evening is beautiful:

32b_closer up

As I said, I like it here. I have the whole place to myself.