I don’t often visit National Parks when I’m out traveling. It’s not that I hold the No Puppy Service in low regard but Sprocket’s my adventure buddy and quite frankly, I’ll skip the crowds for BLM or Forest Service land just outside the park to hang with him.
Since he didn’t join me for this trip, I was free for National Park adventures! I spent some time in Arches but my next stop was Great Basin National Park. I’ve been wanting to go to Great Basin and visit the bristlecone pines for ages (and more recently, I’ve really wanted to climb Wheeler Peak); these high mountain adventures were on hold though since the upper slopes of the park were still pretty packed in snow. Instead, I signed up for the Grand Palace Tour in Lehman Cave.
Reservations for the tours are highly recommended so I made mine about a week and a half before I left on my trip. I’m not much for specific time points to be places but I’m really glad I made space for this! The cave tour was just the right length and our ranger was really informative.
This wasn’t my first tour in a limestone cave (I visited Shasta Caverns in 2009 and Carlsbad Caverns in 2010) but I was impressed. The cave was beautiful and the tour was really interesting.
I really liked this cave bacon:
I was having a really hard time making all of my knowledge of western geology come together while trying to fit in the formation of the cave. The final answer was: I don’t know anywhere near enough about Great Basin geology and I need to fix that before I come back to Nevada. #sciencenerdproblems
I’ll definitely be back to Great Basin in a different time of year to check out the upper part of the park!
This morning, bright and early, we left our cushy digs in the truck parking lot of a motel in Artisia, New Mexico in search of huevos rancheros. Artisia let us down and Carlsbad very nearly did. We finally found the “Pecos River Cafe” which seemed to be doing brisk prework business. Forrest had the huervos rancheros he’d been craving (“They’re a little different style, but still good.”) while I tried the eggs and green chili (I wish I would have gotten the cinnamon rolls that I spied on the way out the door). A half hour later we were pulling into Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It was early on a Monday morning so I ran Sprocket up and down the parking lot for a bit before settling him into his crate while we visited the caves. The weather was nice and cool and he had a brand new cow hoof so he didn’t seem too put out by our having an adventure without him.
The caverns were really pretty cool. Forrest had been there before so I think it was a little anticlimactic for him, but we both enjoyed poking around. We did both self-guided tours: the natural entrance and the big room. We took lots of pictures, some of which turned out and some of which didn’t…but over all they’re pretty good for cave pictures!
After our tours we returned to the parking lot where Sprocket got to do some more running around before we loaded up in the ol’ red rocket jeep for the drive to Texas. About the only things of note on the drive from Carlbad to Fort Stockton was the house with all the old tractors lined up (Andrew would be so proud), my first oil derrick sighting (followed by many more), and a vista that just never changed. In Fort Stockton we were hoping for some good steaks or BBQ and perhaps a cute and historic downtown…we found none of these. In fact, we found some subpar Mexican food and bought some ill advised two-for-one Blizzards at DQ (“I was sucked in by the marketing!”). We gladly hit the road east away from Fort Stockton (if you’re ever on I-10…don’t stop).
We hopped off the road again just north of Sheffield (which proudly lists their soldiers serving under “The Commander in Chief: George W. Bush”…obviously things don’t change too quickly in Sheffield. We were hoping to be able to check out (and perhaps camp at) Fort Lancaster State Historic Park. We were foiled by a gate that a McRancher could be proud of. So, I write this at our campsite (to be posted at the next wifi) in a wash on private property off some county road off of Texas Route 290. Got to run…need to keep Sprocket away from the deer carcass on the other side of the wash…
We got up bright and early and explored around our campsite a little more…we both managed to get stung by yellow jackets on a bridge…so we hit the road.
After a nice coffee break in Greenville we were headed for Lassen Volcanic National Park. After a perhaps misguided summit of Mt. Lassen we abandoned plans to hike Bumpass Hell (something I kind of regret) and headed north out of the park.
After a yummy hamburger in Old Station we made a pit stop at Subway Cave, a lava tube. I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was with the Ape Caves but it was fun all the same. A bit down the road we stopped and stretched at Bridge campground at Hat Creek. Hat Creek was deep and GORGEOUS–I almost went swimming.
We pushed on a little further, trying to see the falls at McArthur-Burney State Park but deciding that the $9 day use fee was a little steep passed by and made a stop at Lake Britton. We headed north a bit more and camped southeast of Bartle.
Day 6: ~153 miles
Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.