As Nevada's only National Park, and one of the lesser visited parks overall, Great Basin surely lives up to its name! We arrived in the late morning on a beautiful, sunny day, secured a wide-open campsite with sweeping views of Wheeler Peak (the tallest mountain peak in Nevada rising to 13,064'), and headed to Ely, NV for groceries.
I visited this park once before with my family, we took a weekend trip to the Lehman Caves, and drove along the park's scenic road. This, however, was Ryan's first visit to Great Basin, and hopefully not the last! Great Basin offers a beautiful, emerald-colored alpine departure from the undulating, brown-and-yellow landscape, accessorized with sage and rabbit brush, typical of Northern Nevada's otherworldly landscape. In fact, if you looked in one direction from our campsite, you might be inspired to sing and twirl a la Julie Andrews, and if you looked in the other direction, you might feel like you were descending upon Mars.
The presentation cycled through stellar birth and death, the inter-connectivity of all life on Earth and all of the cosmos, and a brief history of some popular constellations. Following the presentation we lined up to look through telescopes! It was fascinating - we were even inspired to set an alarm for the wee hours to see the Milky Way. We saw it for sure, but unfortunately light pollution from Las Vegas and Salt Lake City is still creeping into the dark skies surrounding GBNP, ever so slowly but surely blotting out views of our cosmic heritage.
Our last day in the park was spent hiking the Lehman Creek trail to the Wheeler Peak campground at 10,000 feet above sea level, and to the Bristlecone Pine forest above that. The roads were closed due to snow, and the trails beyond the campground remained a completely covered wintry wonderland. Despite renting snowshoes, we never made it to the Bristlecone Pine forest. There were few blazes, cairns, or other visible indicators of the trail, and we didn't want to risk getting lost. We did get to see one (maybe two) Bristlecones near the Wheeler Peak campground, but we'll have to come back some summer to gaze at the these 2,000-plus-year-old survivors.
For the second time around, GBNP exceeded expectations. Some say Great Basin is a forgotten National Park. I say it is a well-kept secret!