Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ely Excursion 2011 - 7/30/11 thru 8/3/11

The First Day in Great Basin National Park
Nineteen hiking club members took a trip to Great Basin National Park hoping to get at least a few of those nineteen members up to the summit of Wheeler Peak. At the time of this writing, there was no word on this particular hike which was to occur on the first morning of the trip. However, these beautiful photos and report were offered by Cindy W. who participated in the alternate hike on the Alpine Lakes Trail and into the old bristlecone forest that still grows at the foot of Wheeler Peak's rocky summit.

Cindy reported that she believes there were eleven hikers on the Wheeler Peak successful attempt. Eight other hikers left an hour later with threatening skies and some showers in the area to hike the Alpine Lakes Loop. At the trailhead, we had some sprinkles and very high humidity. But, then the sun peaked out for a little while just as we got to Stella Lake. Feeling playful, most of us participated in a rock skipping contest.

Between Stella Lake and Teresa Lake we found beautiful gardens of Parry's Primroses. Teresa Lake was a beautiful green color under overcast skies but offered nice reflections. This was a much smaller lake than Stella Lake. Taking a trail which headed off to the right, we headed toward an old bristlecone forest. A cold breeze was blowing so after a quick snack and loop around the ancient bristlecones, we headed back down the hill.

We were very lucky to all get tickets to the afternoon tour in the Lehman Cave. This cave is a little known treasure to the national park system. The formations inside the cave are nothing short of magnificent and must be viewed only by a guided tour.

Then it was a delicious dinner at a Mexican Restaurant before returning to the hotel to recharge for tomorrow!!

Wheeler Peak
The eleven person team who tackled Wheeler Peak were a tough bunch as they faced temper- atures in the forties and winds in the 50's and 60's. They said they could see the wispy clouds blowing up one side of the ridge, over the ridge and down the other side of the ridge as they made their way up the 13,000 plus foot peak. The group separated as they climbed but all made it to the top. On the welcome descent, the group made their way around the beautiful Alpine Lakes Trail to finish their day.

The Second Day at Cave Lake State Park
On the second day of our trip we awoke to beautiful sunny skies. After a short drive we arrived at Cave Lake State Park. We crossed the marshy upper end of the reservoir and entered a cool stand of aspen. But then we climbed up and up and up to the ridge top, winding around outcrops of limestone which we could see in every direction. The hike alternated between juniper/pinon pine forest and sagebrush fields. After our snack break, we made our way back down the hill and were rewarded with beautiful views of Cave Lake.

After we returned from the hike, everyone scattered to explore on our own for the afternoon. Some of us went to the overlook for the huge open pit copper mine. Then some of us went gem hunting on Garnet Hill. The garnets were very tiny but the view over to the mine showed just how huge an operation it is.

After most gathered at a Chinese restaurant for dinner, we went to nearby McGill to visit the Historical Drug Store. The curator of the store kept us very entertained with stories and history. Everything in the store was just like it was in the 50's and brought back a lot of memories!!. Afterwards we indulged in an ice cream cone, the only thing for sale in the store and it's way of generating income to preserve the museum.

The Third Day at Ward Mountain Recreation Area
At the Ward Mountain Recreation Area (which is not the same as the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park as seen above!), the nineteen hikers minus two (Cindy and a friend) hiked some of the eight miles of hiking trails offered there. The beginning and end of the hike was in a nice forested area, however, somehow the trail got lost underneath low growth foliage and the group ended up hiking on a gravel road for some of the time. Apparently, these trails are meant to be used for cross country skiing and are not kept groomed for hikers in the summer.

Cindy's Day
Cindy's day sounded a little more relaxing and somewhat more exciting. She did her own explorations and offers these photos and story of her day. I tried to hike the third day but my feet said "NO". So drove 30 miles west and 70 miles north crossing the Pony Express trail on the way to Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

It was not the prime season for birdwatching but the scenery was gorgeous - until the thunderstorms chased me out. Even got caught in a cattle drive!

The Long Valley is appropriately named!! We are always very happy to see Cindy's photos on our website. Great job, Cindy!

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