11th Jul, 2011

Arrived in Great Basin National Park, Nevada on June 15, 2011

Total distance driven (includes in-city driving): 18,336.1 kms (11,393.5 miles)
Average gas consumption: 18 L per 100 KM

We couldn’t give up on the legendary beauty of Yosemite National Park so we decided to make the long 1,255 km (779.8 miles) trek across Utah and Nevada to California. Our first stop on the road to Yosemite was Great Basin National Park in Nevada.

The views remained amazing as we departed Dead Horse State Park in Utah and headed to Great Basin.

One really amazing site was the San Rafael Reef – a 30 mile long uplift that created a barrier for centuries. Even early Spanish explorers avoided it with a 20 mile detour. In the 1950’s workers blasted open slot canyons to create a road (part of Interstate 70) through it.

It’s hard to believe there are so many beautiful things to see without needing to be in a national monument or park.

The highway had several pull overs so we could enjoy the scenery without speeding by. We were overwhelmed by the amazing scenery at every turn.

The valleys expanded as we neared Nevada. The picture above shows just one of several salt flats we observed as we drove along.

The roads stretched for miles making it easy to see the lack of traffic. Yes, that’s snow on the mountains in the distance.

Nevada is known for Las Vegas and gambling – so it was neat to see slot machines available at the local gas station…

But, the state has more to offer then Las Vegas and gambling. Check out Great Basin National Park. This park is the least visited park in the whole US National Park system. Entrance is free!

Wheeler Peak is one of the main attractions. There was a late winter this year so the snow hasn’t completely melted and some hikes still required snow shoes.

The late winter meant some really swollen rivers that were beautiful to watch. With all this water it’s hard to believe the park is in the middle of the Great Basin desert.

The water also meant the wildflowers were in full bloom.

And Quaking Aspens were in full blossom too.

Wheeler Peak itself was closed due to the large amount of snow…remember this is the middle of June!! Jason thought it was too chilly to snowshoe but thoughts of skiing planted their roots…

The trees up at the top remained blossom free. In fact, these Quaking Aspens look like they wrapped themselves up in mummy bandages just to stay warm.

A great surprise that we didn’t expect a Great Basin National Park was Lehman Caves. We decided to head into the darkness once again for an underground tour of these beautiful caves.

While not as extensive as Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the Lehman Caves were highly decorated…

…and had numerous shelf formations – these are rare!

These shelves have stalactites merging with stalagmites – also called columns.

Jason manoeuvres through the pathway.

This is the original pathway – notice how many stalactites are broken to allow humans entry to the caves?

After the tour we stopped by the 50’s-style café for an ice cream.

Then we headed out to drive the remote roads in the park. This 4 foot snake decided it was a great time to warm up on the road.

After a few days enjoying Great Basin, we decided to hit the road. Next up…Reno, Nevada and Lake Tahoe, California.

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