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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Great Basin

July 9th, 2010 · 2 Comments

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The Great Basin covers all of Nevada except the state’s southern corner around Las Vegas. It also covers the western third of Utah, a sliver of California east of the Sierras, the southeast corner of Oregon, and a bit of Idaho.

The Great Basin takes its name from its lack of drainage. Finding no outlet to the ocean, the water in its streams and rivers collects in shallow salt lakes, marshes, and mud flats before it evaporates in the dry desert air.

My friend Mark Bobb and I met here for an extended Fourth of July weekend. Specifically, we met at Great Basin National Park just over the Nevada state line from Utah.

Actually, Great Basin in the park’s name is something of a misnomer and caused me to expect a big hole in the ground. Instead, it is a highland oasis within the Great Basin. One of its mountains, Wheeler Peak, reaches 13,065 feet and is Nevada’s highest.

But like the entire Great Basin, this national park is a dry and isolated land. The park is 635 miles from Boulder and 570 miles from Los Angeles, where Mark now lives and works, after his company transferred him there from Boulder last year. Mark, a faster driver than I am and with limited vacation time, made the trip in one day. I took two days to get there.

En route I captured this shot of a raven at a rest stop before reaching the town of Delta, Utah, population about 3,000, the main settlement and only gas station in the 280 miles between the town of Green River and the area around the park.

A Raven Framed

A Raven Framed

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Then, 32 miles west of Delta I spotted a small sign for “U-Dig Fossils.” The quarry was 20 miles north on a dirt road, but the detour was worth the effort of my first experience as an amateur archaeologist. For about two hours in the blazing sun I used a geologist’s hammer to chip away at the limestone shale and eventually found some of the quarry’s many trilobites.

This extinct marine life consists of many-legged arthropods that roamed the sandy bottoms of the seas and coral reefs that once covered this area. Living about 550 million years ago, these trilobite fossils are common, but have the distinction of being the first invertebrate life on Earth.

My Trilobites After Cleaning

My Trilobites After Cleaning

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At the quarry little exists besides rock. But like everywhere in the desert, lizards thrive.

A Lizard Lives in the Fossil Quarry's Shale

A Lizard Lives in the Fossil Quarry's Shale

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Coming from opposite directions, Mark and I reached our destination within half an hour of each other on the mid-afternoon of Friday, July 2. Mark had made reservations for us at Hidden Canyon Ranch, a guest ranch that is indeed hidden, six miles down a lonely dirt road and some 20 miles from the park’s main entrance.

Both of us greatly enjoyed the ranch and hope to return, perhaps in the fall, when the trees change their color. Our hosts, Robin and Ron Crouch, are both warm and interesting people. Robin’s ancestors settled in the area many years ago, but she went away to school. After earning a law degree, she returned home. When I first met Ron, he was helping with dinner, but over the meal I learned that he is an M.D. with a urology practice in Cedar City, Utah, the nearest city of any size (population about 28,000), some three hours from the ranch.

Robin and Ron raise lambs and chickens at the ranch. I appreciated their truly farm-fresh eggs for breakfast. The other livestock is an old llama named Mario.

Mario, an Old Llama, is Retired

Mario, an Old Llama, is Retired

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Robin and Ron own the entire canyon, some 384 acres. It includes many buildings, but only five years ago did they build the lodge where we stayed.

The Lodge Sits Below the Canyon Wall

The Lodge Sits Below the Canyon Wall

Looking up Hidden Canyon to Mt. Washington, Elevation 11,658 Feet

Looking up Hidden Canyon to Mt. Washington, Elevation 11,658 Feet

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We immediately set off to reconnoiter Hidden Canyon and the park’s roads. Driving as far as we could up Hidden Canyon, nature favored us with a rainbow and this tree illuminated against the dark sky.

A Rainbow over Hidden Canyon

A Rainbow over Hidden Canyon

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Last Light

Last Light

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When we first planned to visit the desert of Nevada in July, I had some concern that the weather would be too hot. July is indeed the park’s hottest month with an average daily maximum temperature of 86 degrees. But we never got too hot and indeed on our early morning and late afternoon hikes (when the sun is best for photography), where we were often above 10,000 feet, we had to wear our warmest clothes.

During my week-long trip, I limited my photos to just over 1,300, a few of which will follow in my next photo essays. I logged 2,391 miles without a single speeding ticket — and only one warning.

I have now experienced 32 of America’s 58 national parks, including all but one of them within 600 miles of my home. High on my list, therefore, is Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, 594 miles from here. I’m thinking of a trip next summer to visit that park en route to Glacier National Park in northern Montana, just 960 miles from Boulder.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Frank Carroll // Aug 2, 2010 at 8:21 am

    We also enjoyed Hidden Canyon Ranch this past weekend (7/30 – 8/1), though I am a bit shy of your 1300 shots at only about 1000. I am a photographer from Boulder City, NV, and really enjoyed my first foray to Great Basin. I am planning on returning to HCR and the NP in the future. I checked with NP and one can make reservations for a private photo session of Lehman caves for up to six ppl. I was considering putting together a photoworkshop at HCR for Lehman caves, Alpine Lakes, an Bristlecone Pine Forest. Care to chat about this idea further?

    Frank

  • 2 David Mendosa // Aug 2, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Dear Frank,

    What a good idea! This will give you a chance to catch up with my photo output! Feel free to call after Thursday. I’m off on another trip in a few minutes.

    Best regards,

    David

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