Saturday, September 1, 2012

Yellowstone Road Trip - Day 03

“Not all who wander are lost.”  ~J. R. R. Tolkien

Early this morning at around 12 am Fannie Mae got to experience her first thunderstorm. She woke the two old buzzards with one loud bark, soon followed by another. Turns out she was shivering with fright at the loud noises going on outside our cabin. At home she barks when the neighbors are retrieving their trash bins and this was like a giant banging a huge bin against the walls. After a few minutes John got her calmed and we all went back to sleep until the alarm went off. It was set for 6:30 but John's phone thought we were in Utah (we are really close) and woke us up at 5:30. We didn't realize what happened until after finishing our breakfast (RBTT for Linda and Post Honey Bunches of Oats for John) in the room. It still seemed to be pretty early in the day, not far to go to the park and we were ready to go when John figured out what must have happened.  His phone was confused because we are so near the Utah border (where the time changes). So, John has now set his phone from “automatic” to “manual” as far as time zones go.

We headed south on 487 to go to Great Basin National Park.  After a while we realized that we hadn't seen any signs directing us to the park. When we passed the border into Utah it seemed pretty clear that something was amiss. Sure enough we had headed the wrong way on 487 so we made a U-turn at Garrison, Utah and soon began to see lots of signs directing us to the park. The good news was that Linda spotted an interesting design made out of horseshoes and was able to photograph it for you.

Soon afterward, John spotted a group of turkeys meandering near the road and stopped for Linda to capture as many as she could. She got a back end shot of one that you can see in today's photo gallery.  The rest had already made it into the bushes where they were well camouflaged.

As you might expect from last night's weather, there were lots of clouds in sight, some of them pretty gray. We had a few drops on the way to the park's visitor center where we saw two short interpretive films about the geography and history of the Great Basin. John had commented yesterday how it seemed that driving across Nevada was one set of hairpin turns up a hill, then down the hill followed by many miles of flat, straight-as-an-arrow road. Then, repeat that. Then do it again. You get the picture. Well, now we know why. We learned that Nevada has more mountain ranges than any other state in the USA.  Count 'em, more than 300! So, there's the explanation for John's observation. Then we headed out for a drive on the paved and winding road leading to Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the park, and in Nevada. While we were stopped at Mather Overlook the sprinkles increased to a regular thunderstorm complete with lightening and a bit of sleet.  After it slowed down we resumed our climb (in Wilma) on Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. The sun was soon out again and, looking down,  we could see we were above the storm clouds. We could also see several parts of the road we had traveled on below us. Because of the rain they looked like shiny ribbons. We saw few other cars inside the park so it was a very calm relaxing visit to one of the National Park System's relatively new parks, as of 1986.

Bristlecone pines are one of Great Basin Park's most notable features.  They appear between 9,500 feet and 11,000 feet. They are masters of longevity, living for thousands of years. Some bristlecones in the park are over 3,000 years old. They grow very slowly, a branch at a time, their needles living up to 40 years. Even after they die there is beauty in their gnarly, twisted shapes. And their wood's high resin content prevents rot. For bristlecone pines, beauty comes with age, a trait that the two old buzzards have not noticed in buzzards.

We arrived back to Baker in time for a lunch of sandwiches at the Lectrolux. John had grilled chicken on sourdough bread. Linda had an ice cream sandwich made with pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. She had seen it highly recommended in her Fodor's book (not to be confused with Frodo's book) about National Parks of the West. It did not disappoint.

Fannie Mae has made friends with a Chihuahua who lives nearby. Fannie decided to name him Pancho. He greets her each time she comes out for a walk. They sniff and romp for awhile and then he accompanies us as our guide to wherever we choose to walk. He is not on a leash and seems very comfortable as top dog of Baker, Nevada (population 100). This afternoon he showed us the Baker Hilton. Look for it in today's photo gallery.

John went to use the table at the Lectrolux (our “efficiency #2” has no table or chair or desk) to process the photos taken so far today. He returned about 2:30p.m.

Next, we went north on 487 to the Baker Shortcut, then turned right on Highway 50, and headed to the Border Inn and Casino, where we initially had our reservation. This was just to check it out. The Welcome to Utah sign is in their parking lot. Some of the cabins seem to be located in Utah while the Casino is clearly just inside Nevada. Linda went in to check out the restaurant as a dinner possibility. After walking through a part of the smokey tiny casino she found the restaurant and a ho-hum menu compared with the Lectrolux or the T & D place in downtown Baker.

On our way back to Silver Jack's we again took the Baker Shortcut Road and stopped to visit an archeological site belonging to the Fremont Culture. It was only recently excavated (1991 – 1994). Archeologist have learned much about the people whose main period of occupation was from A.D. early January 1220 to late December of 1295. Hey, we are just joshing about the months. We threw them in to see if you were paying attention.

Because of the excavations, archeologists can determine (they call it informed speculation or archeological inference) that settlers of Baker Village farmed, built stable, permanent structures and made pottery and arrow heads. There are remains of a big house and several smaller buildings at the site. They were not just placed randomly. They were located in such a way that shadows from the Winter and Summer Solstices cast shadows in a configuration that was helpful in planning their sowing and harvesting schedules. The shadows cast by the sun at certain times of the year created what could be called a Horizon Calendar. The repeating pattern of shadows on the doorway of the big house helped these ancient people select the proper time to plant and harvest. In the photo gallery you can see Fannie Mae and Linda just outside the big house.

As a follow up to Day 01, we need to be entirely transparent for our Mileage Madness Players. Some information you didn't yet receive is as follows: From South Lake Tahoe to Genoa, NV and on to Carson City, NV we took Hwy 207, Hwy 206 and Hwy 395. Now, you have what you need to know.

Apparently there was some sort of community bar-b-que going on in town from 4 to 6 but the old buzzards opted to try T&D Restaurant. John had a Super Burrito with refried beans, ground beef, lettuce and tomatoes and topped with guacamole. Linda had a Mexican Salad which had tortilla chips, salsa, olives, shredded cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. We both enjoyed our dinner.

And now, today's photo gallery contains 54 images. Many of them were taken in Great Basin National Park on the road up to Wheeler Peak. Lots were taken in the environs of Baker, NV. You can view the photo gallery by clicking here.

It was certainly a day of Happy Trails!

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