‘Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.’–Walt Whitman
Originally, I was planning on starting in Moab and working east. Since I had to go to Zion first, I looked at the new route to see if there was anything to explore and there was…Great Basin National Park! I learned from the rangers that it is one of the least visited parks in the NPS system, which is a shame because it was so pretty!
Great Basin is on the border of Nevada and Utah. The park itself is massive and I only saw a tiny fraction. The main attraction is their caves but, unfortunately for me, they are closed indefinitely due to Covid. The park itself is free, which is awesome (you should still get a pass). The park is also noted for being incredibly dark at night and one of the best stargazing areas in the region. Ironically, I visited several parks with this designation and always there in the morning! I am fortunate that Bend is very star friendly. There is an observatory here and, thus, lots of designated dark spots. But if you do not live in one of these areas, time your visit to Great Basin, Capital Reef, Bryce, and Canyonlands accordingly.
Since I this was a pit stop, I didn’t explore much of the park. There is a scenic drive up a very tall mountain…over 13,000 feet! Driving up, which is very steep, curvy, and a straight drop, is quite the experience. I had a death grip on my steering wheel (and, as you’ll see, this wasn’t the only time this occurred during my trip) as I made my way up. around 9,000 feet, I became very grateful to my parents life choices. See, I essentially grew up on a plane and my home town of Lake Arrowhead, CA is about 5,500-6,000 feet. Due to this, I don’t have many issues of pressurization with my ears. This was very handy for Great Basin but for much of my trip as I ascended and descended frequently. I mention this so if you travel to Great Basin or any of the Mighty Five, be sure to be prepared with whatever you traditional use to keep your ear troubles away. I have heard chewing gum works well.
At the end of the road, you are about 11,000 feet. There are several trails, including one that will take you to the top of the mountain. Due to the high altitude, there are warning signs to be aware of symptoms of high altitude sickness, a potentially deadly condition. As I was just popping in, I did a short trail and spent about an hour in the area. What was cool was, as I was walking, a deer family walked right in front of me! The day before it was wild horses and the next was deer! That was until a small child started screaming and spooked them. I really enjoyed my close encounters of the animal kind throughout my trip.
Great Basin was a great place to spend a couple of hours. My brother was jealous as he wants to hit all the ‘low key’ parks, lol. My favorite thing was the changing landscape-from a desert to alpine forest over 11,000 feet! The vistas are really lovely and I would definitely go back to further explore!