President Ronald Reagan declared Great Basin National Park an official National Park in 1986, the same year the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, Mike Tyson won his first title, Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” was released as the years highest grossing movie, & yours truly, Eric A was born. Great Basin, home of the Lehman Caves, founded by Absalom Lehman in the mid 1880s, was home to America Indians for over thousands of years. Currently, farmers, ranchers, mormons & sheep headers call it home, & for three days over Labor Day 2019, so did we.
A lot of National Parks are near smaller novelty towns that usually house seasonal bars, gift shops & what not. The small town of Baker, Nevada, which sits right at the entrance to Great Basin has Kerouac’s, a great little diner with a full bar, opened by Kate Claeys & Jake Cerese. Kate has a lot of experience in the dining including running the dining hall at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, which was great because we were only about 2 1/2 months from going to Antarctica ourselves. We also made good friends with their bartender Nick who coincidentally was also from Chicago & makes one heck of a cocktail.
After spending out first night drinking at Kerouac’s we decided to spend the night in the Lehman Caves Visitor Center parking lot, in our rental car. This ended up being the perfect situation. We were able to get up in the morning & brush our teeth the next day & we were exactly where we needed to be for our cave tour that morning.
Whitney & I have been to other caves, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, & Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, but what made this one special is that I finally brought camera gear that would allow us to get a useable shot inside of a cave! I now bring with a Sony A7sii with a series of lenses, varying from wide to tight, an Olympus OM2 with a similar lens package, & two 6 inch Quasar tubes that have 4 different f- stops of light in both daylight & tungsten temperatures. I cannot stress enough how great these tubes are. You’re not allowed to have flashes most of the time, so to be able to pull one of these little guys out of my pocket like a 6 shooter is essential. Other people taking IPhone photos always love when you help them out by quickly side lighting them for their photographs.
Wheeler Peak at 13,065 feet is the highest point in Great Basin & second highest peak in Nevada. The Alpines Loop Trail is a 2.7 mile loop, giving you views of Lake Stella & Teresa, the poster children for the park. It also has some great lower elevation views of Wheeler Peak, & everyone knows, I like seeing mountains from the bottom! When Whit & I were there, the water level was very low, giving a nice clear view of the rock bed below, & if you happen to be there at a time where there aren’t a lot of people around… even better.
Backwoods camping is very easy in the park, you can pretty much go anywhere, except basically, the three places I just mentioned. If you look at the Great Basin Park Map you’ll see a big purple circle around these three landmarks. The NPS says “Absolutely not,” when it comes to camping up there. Something I just learned from one of the rangers there, was they aren’t only looking out for the safety of the park, but your photos as well. They know this is one of the most photographed places in the park, so they don’t want camp litter scattered about in your memories. Thanks Park Service!
In all, it’s a little bit of a tough park to get to, but it’s totally worth it. I have to say that each time we visit one of the lesser visited parks, I feel special. I know we care & want to experience something the masses usually don’t want to put the effort in to go see, plus the random relationships we make along the way are always an added bonus. Thanks Great Basin!