Archive for the ‘National Parks and Monuments’ Category

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

The Majestic Basin and Range…

One of my favorite National Parks – a hidden gem.

From the website:

“In the shadow of 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, 5,000 year old bristlecone pine trees grow on rocky glacial moraines. Come to Great Basin National Park to experience the solitude of the desert, the smell of sagebrush after a thunderstorm, the darkest of night skies, and the beauty of Lehman Caves. Far from a wasteland, the Great Basin is a diverse region that awaits your discovery.”

Driving east on the Loneliest Highway through Nevada (which is not so lonely and rather interesting), will lead you to the Great Basin National Park. Having visited numerous National Parks, I’m always surprised at how little press you hear about this amazing jewel. While driving along the highway to the park, I was treated to a huge heard of elk crossing the road. Upon entering the park, you are greeted by 13,000 foot mountain peaks covered with snow. Also keep an eye out for the semi kitschy but kind of cool local art along the fences leading into the park. There are numerous campsites and beautiful aspen trees to enjoy. This particular visit, I decided to drive to the top, which is around 10,000 feet. The parking lot at the end of the road has bristlecone pine trees. It was late May when I visited and the mountains were covered in snow. On the entire drive to the top, I didn’t come across any other cars and this was leading into a holiday weekend! There is something magical and majestic about these mountains towering over the Great Basin below. I can only imagine the stargazing opportunities along the viewpoints leading up to the high mountain parking lot. There is truly something special about this place.

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More Guides to the Southwest

A few more recommendations if you are headed to the southwest this summer – or winter (which in my opinion is even better – no snakes and cooler weather).

Ancient Ruins of the Southwest by David Grant Noble

Canyon Country Arches and Bridges by F.A. Barnes

The Utah Guide by Allan Kent Powell  – I love this guide for the “on the road” portion of the adventure. It gives you great information about the areas you are driving through from history, to where to stay, good places to eat, landmarks, museums etc. If you have a co-pilot, it’s great to have them read about the areas you are driving through. It makes the adventure even better.

Day Trips with a Splash: Swimming Holes of the Southwest by Doll and Freely

Albino Redwood

When I first heard of the infamous Albino Redwood – I was definitely a skeptic. But, after careful research and a little luck I found one! Located north of Myers Flat in a smaller grove – there is one hidden amongst the taller trees. Albino redwoods are pretty rare. It’s estimated that there are around 50. The needles are completely white. They are lacking chlorophyl and must tap into a host tree to get their nutrients. The bark or stems are a pinkish red color. A pretty awesome find – I’m hoping to find more on future Redwood adventures!
Picture coming soon-

Cooke City, MT – A Hidden Gem

This winter we made another exciting trek to Cooke City Montana – officially the highest town in Montana. Most probably think that it’s in Wyoming, but it’s pretty close to the border. In the winter you can only access Cooke City through Yellowstone’s Northwest Entrance. Most people when visiting Yellowstone stay on the “figure eight”, but leaving Tower Junction heading northwest is in my opinion the best part of the park. The Lamar Valley is a treat any time of the year. Animals congregate there – from Elk, Wolves, Big Horn Sheep, Coyotes, and grizzlies (during the non wintry season). If you are lucky, you might spot a moose or two right outside of the park between Silver Gate and Cooke City.

Ahhh…it’s always magic for us. The wolves were exciting to see this time – and we learned a new trick. Look for the Yellow Xterra and you are pretty sure to see wolves. On our trip we watched the Druid Pack and did get the opportunity to see a lone wolf – pretty exciting. Within in 3 days we spotted 3 Moose, Wolves, Big Horn Sheep, Buffalo, countless Bull Elk and herds, Coyotes- including 2 eating on a kill, and some Bucks when we entered the park at Mammoth. Not too bad for a winter feast of the eyes!

Staying in Cooke City is always awesome! We love the Elk Horn Lodge and the High Country Inn. The bar is fun for a burger or pizza in the evening and a great lunch at Beds-n-Buns. Our favorite thing to do is leave Cooke City early in the morning, spot wildlife all morning, eat lunch at the Dining Room in Mammoth and then head back for an afternoon of more spotting. If you are looking for a wildlife viewing respite then I highly recommend this adventure. I would advise a vehicle that is good in the snow as it makes the journey easier and pulling off to spot a snap. I also recommend a spotting scope, good set of binoculars and warm clothes. I have to say too that when spotting, I was really impressed with how friendly and generous people are who have scopes – Pay it Forward!