Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Weekend in Great Basin Nat'l Park

An old building we found along the way

Last year, another of our road trip excursions included a trip to Great Basin National Park in Nevada. It was a few hours away and we had the opportunity to take some roads that we don't normally travel on which provided an interesting drive even though we discovered that there was absolutely no food options for hours. (We ended up backtracking to civilization to grab one last fast food meal before heading off into the unknown.) Because we've never visited before, we were unsure how secluded it would be, but we did discover that the visitor center at Great Basin has a great cafĂ© with great food and ice cream options which we took advantage of.

Inside Lehman Caves

The big draw at Great Basin is Lehman Caves. They offer two tours with different lengths: the Lodge Room (60 minutes) and the Grand Palace (90 minutes). We opted for the shorter one which was recommended for younger kids. The website stated the tours were for 5 years and up, so we double checked before booking the tour to see if younger kids could go too. They were very helpful on the phone and we learned that the age was more of a recommendation than a restriction. The two tours are pretty much the same except the Grand Palace included two more rooms. We didn't feel like our tour was lacking though and were happy we picked the Lodge Room tour. It was the perfect amount of cave for us.

The result of the children's cave activity

Great Basin was a great place to visit with the family. The park rangers held free children's activities daily including a cave building activity that Jadon really enjoyed. It definitely helped him remember all the different names of the rock formations and he loved showing off his creation. We also attended another activity for pictographs where the kids got to learn and draw their own. There were less kids at this one so it was basically one-on-one time with the park ranger which was nice. Great Basin also boasts some of the darkest night skies because it's so secluded, but we never managed to attend any of their stargazing parties. Maybe next time around.

Along the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail

Stella Lake

The only real hike we went on was the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail which was only 2.7 miles long but it still proved too much for Isabelle. Andrew ended up taking her back to the car before reaching the lakes which was a good thing because we encountered torrential hail and rain on the way back. Apparently, the weather here is unpredictable and it isn't uncommon for this to happen which we didn't expect and were not prepared for. We ended up getting pelted by the rain while running from tree to tree to seek shelter in between the spurts of hail. We couldn't run down to the cars fast enough. In retrospect, it was an experience that was worthy of being told, but at the time it was pure pain and fear. Andrew and Isabelle on the other hand were enjoying the weather from the comfort of the car while eating snacks.

A view of another lake through the storm

On our last day here, we went on the Mountain View Nature Trail (0.3 miles) which the kids really enjoyed. It's a self guided trail with a guide you can borrow from the visitor center. There were numbers through out with information that was semi-interesting. The kids loved it because it was themed for the junior park ranger and the kids took their jobs very seriously. Before leaving the visitor center, the kids were able to turn in their junior park ranger activity books they had gotten when we first got there. In exchange, they were presented with their junior park ranger badges and they took their oaths. It was so cute.

Original entrance into Lehman Caves

We learned from the pictograph activity that there were pictographs in the park. We decided to look for them before heading home. It took us a little while to find, but we were able to find them right off the road along some hidden caves in the mountainside. We found two caves not too far apart with one being significantly larger. The caves were closed off though so we could only see from afar.

Hiking another trail

We stayed here for two nights and we were definitely able to get our fill of Great Basin. We stayed at a reserved group camping site which was huge and secluded so we didn't have to worry about quiet hours. We did get rained out one night though which goes to show that this place really does have unpredictable weather. All in all, this trip was a good weekend getaway with educational elements. The kids enjoyed the activities and Andrew and I had fun visiting a low key national park.
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