Welcome to Nevada, folks! Home to casinos, wedding chapels, and- as it turns out- the hidden gem of Great Basin National Park. The history of this area goes back 12,000 years, to the Paleo-Indians, followed by the Fremont and Shoshone tribes, and finally the immigrants on the California trail, on their way to California for mining. It became a place for ranching, mining, and- as we all know, conservation. Many paths have crossed in this desert land and when our dirtied hiking boots finally set foot here, we must be ready to follow their lead and brave the wonders that the Great Basin has in store.
Carved out of the lands by glaciers, this desert landscape encapsulates terrain that begs exploration and appreciation. The forest of bristlecone pine trees contains some trees that are over 3,000 years old! As National Geographic points out, those trees were around when King Tutankhamun ruled Egypt- a long, long time ago. But that’s just the thing about Great Basin National Park- while it might not have been around as long as Yellowstone or Yosemite, it has been in the works for far longer, as you will see when we explore further.
Perhaps the coolest part of Great Basin National Park and what sets it apart from other places we have visited are the incredible caves open for people to explore. The Lehman caves, the most visited of the caves here, were formed thousands of years ago, when the Ice Age created pockets in the formations of limestone in the mountains. What are left are one and a half miles of underground pathways filled with limestone stalagmites. The caves are open to the public, but the main goal of the park is to preserve their delicate environment so they remain for generations to come. Visitors may not be wearing any clothes that have been worn in other caves and are led by a park ranger at all times. The most important priority is to keep both visitors and the cave safe.
To take a look at another ancient relic, though not quite so old, I would suggest taking a look at the Upper Pictograph Cave, just a short drive up the mountain from the Lehman Cave Visitor Center. Here, you’ll found rock walls decorated by Fremont Indians about a thousand years ago. These cave paintings have given researchers a glance into the lives of people from a long, long time ago and for visitors like us, are well worth taking a look.
But after plenty of time underground and in caves, a little bit of time in the outdoors might do us some good. I would suggest starting at the bottom of Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in the region, and taking a survey of the land. Maybe go fishing at Stella Lake, take a hike up one of the trails and get a great vantage point to look over the beautiful landscape. Or just explore the park! The best thing about the National Parks, as I’m sure you’ve come to see, is that there is something for everyone. Find a ranger, ask around, and find the perfect adventure for you. A place like Great Basin National Park is a pity to waste.
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