Our ten days in California began with three nights in Los Angeles visiting Charlie and Kevin, who had just moved there from Chicago and were still settling into their apartment in Marina del Rey. Sean and I were excited to see them in their new life.
In late May 2017, my cousin Andrew, who had been our fellow adventurer in Death Valley National Park, proposed to his girlfriend, Yesenia. This happy development ensured a fifth return to California for Sean and me in barely two years. At first, we’d assumed that this trip would be separate from any National Park adventures, but then our Chicago friends Charlie and Kevin announced in late 2017 that they were moving to Los Angeles in early 2018. As the wedding plans came together, Andrew and Yesi chose July 6 for their nuptials in San Diego. And as we began to put together a trip that would include some time with Charlie and Kevin in LA and the wedding celebration in San Diego, Sean pointed to the two National Parks in southern California that remained unvisited on the map that hangs in our home office. “Which are those? Can we visit them when we’re in California for Andrew’s wedding?”
We saw quite a range of species during our trip to Great Basin National Park, which is unsurprising given the huge elevation differences in the Park. This list also includes species we saw in Snake Valley, outside the technical boundary of the National Park.
After the morning’s solar eclipse, Sean and I decided to spend the afternoon of August 21, our final full day at Great Basin National Park, exploring one of the only remaining major sections of the Park that we hadn’t yet visited: the Snake Creek Canyon area. Like most of the other reasonably accessible portions of the Park, it is reached from the Snake Valley side of the Snake Range.
As our visit to Great Basin National Park moved into its final third, the only thing defining our remaining time was the solar eclipse that would occur on the morning of August 21.
After our midday hike on Sunday, August 20 to Lexington Arch, Sean and I returned to Baker and drove over to Baker Archeological Site on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land just north of town. The site was the location of a Fremont people village, which had been excavated in the early 1990s. The Fremonts, named after a river in Utah where their sites were first discovered, lived in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, and Colorado from roughly 1 to 1300 CE.
The nice thing about giving ourselves ample time in a relatively small National Park is that by the morning of our third day in the Park we had done quite a lot of the must-do experiences. Now any Park could withstand a visit of a week or more, but staying a couple nights (as we had at Badlands, Wind Cave, Bryce Canyon, etc.) can at least be a rock-solid introduction to the main features of a Park. But we had allotted more time to Great Basin than we had to Yosemite…or Grand Canyon…or Death Valley. We’d allotted it the same amount of time as Denali. The result was that we were able to get a little more off the beaten path.
On Sunday, August 20, that meant getting off the beaten path and on to the destroyed path to Lexington Arch.
August 19 was our Saturday at Great Basin National Park. While we had not mapped out any day-by-day approach to exploring the Park, we suspected that if the weather were nice, we’d likely climb up something. From the campground at 10,000 feet, Wheeler Peak at 13,063 feet looked intimidating. Being unused to elevation was clearly an issue for us at this point in the trip. I suggested that we do the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail from the campground and also hike up to the saddle between Wheeler Peak and Bald Mountain. From there we’d have a view of Spring Valley on the other side of the range. Then if we felt like it, we could hike up Bald Mountain to its 11,562-foot summit.