After a hearty breakfast with American size portions at the restaurant next to our hotel, we were on the road leaving the Bryce Canyon area in UT by about 8 am.
The desert crossings on UT rt 20, then into NV on rt 21 were amazing. Fortunately, the heat wasn’t too bad, so I was comfortable enough to be awe of the scenery.
Taking a break at the first shade in 80 miles.
Crossing into Nevada:
The gas tank on my bike isn’t especially large. I can usually go about 140 miles before the light comes on, and I bet I can go another 40 miles after that if I had to. There are some long stretches out here with nothing, so we’re taking extra effort out here to not run out of gas.
We cut the riding a bit short today, stopping after about 200 miles at just before lunch time, so we could go for a hike in the Great Basin National Park, Nevada. Its interesting to ride up the mountain off the desert floor (which is still at 6000 ft here), and see the change in the ecosystem. Instead of brushy desert, there is a beautiful forest full of evergreens. We set up camp at the Wheeler Peak campground, which is at 10,000 ft. The temperature was really nice at this elevation during the day, so it was actually comfortable to go for a hike.
This deer walked by our campsite not 5 minuted after we’d arrived:
The bristlecone pine trail was a couple mile hike uphill, leading to a short interpretive trail about the bristlcone pine trees living near the peak of the mountain. Bristlecone pines are among the oldest life on earth, with trees several thousand years old. We thought it would be pretty neat to see trees that have been alive longer than recorded human history. Get ready, there are going to be a lot of pictures of trees.
This tree is over 3000 years old.
When 3000 years old you are, look as good you will not:
Since we were there, we continued a little further up the trail to view the remnants of a glacier (apparently, its only recently that this glacier has melted this much):
The peak of Mt. Wheeler is over 13,000 ft. This is high enough for it to create its own weather (which is why there is a totally separate ecosystem at the top than the bottom). Warm air cools as it rises over the peak, causing precipitation. We got to learn about this first hand when it started hailing on us on our way back down the mountain. We’d had the foresight to bring our mostly waterproof soft-shell jackets, and the hail was brief, but everything not under the jackets still got pretty wet. They aren’t kidding when they warn about sudden and drastic weather changes. We’d been sweating not minutes before the hail started.
The rest of the evening was cold and damp. Thanks Mom and Dad for that high-tech sleeping bag we got for Christmas. I would have been very uncomfortable if we’d had our cheap Walmart bags. Good gear makes all the difference.
7/12/2012 – 208 miles before lunch. Even the rain couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the Great Basin National Park.