Thursday, July 2, 2015

Archive Entry of the First AtBF Ely Excursion - August 2008

This is the archive entry for the first Ely Excursion of the Around the Bend Friends in 2008. It was hidden in the old blog site and thought it might be of interest to some of you who are thinking of going to Ely at the end of July. This old one was photographed and written by Kay Blackwell. There is also an Ely entry in 2011 which can be accessed by using the Search Box at the top right of the current website. The later Ely entry was beautifully photographed by Cindy Wilson. Between these two blog entries, club members should get a good idea of what Ely and Great Basin National Park have to offer. Thanks, Steve, for putting this excursion together for us.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Around the Bend Friends in Ely, Nevada

Thursday - August 21 - About 20 members of the Around the Bend Friends arrived in Ely, Nevada in the afternoon hours. We all checked into the historic Nevada Hotel for a three-night stay. Those that arrived earliest got tickets for the historic train tour which gave an interesting look at the history of the mining town of Ely. The train ride was given a good review as a worthwhile adventure. Later that evening, a few of us went out with camera in hand to try a few photos of the downtown lights.

Friday - August 22 - Several members met for an early breakfast then it was off to Great Basin National Park at 8am sharp. After a short stop at the main visitor center, most of us drove on to the Lehman Caves Entrance. Three very determined men drove on up the mountain where they were to begin an 8.2 mile (2900 ft.) climb up Mt. Wheeler, the second highest elevation in Nevada.

Meanwhile, the rest of us were treated to the absolute wonders of cave decor at its finest! Our guide, a national park ranger, made us feel like one of the Lehman Cave "family" as she described, in well-practised detail and aplomb, the colorful history of the cave as well as the probable description of how the ornate cave was formed over the millenia.

She described how the water dripping down from the ceiling of the cave takes with it deposits of minerals which form stalagmites which grow from the floor of the cave upward. There were even stalagmites beginning to form on the concrete pathway on which we walked. The water dripping down also forms stalactites on the ceiling which begin as straw-like structures with a center which is hollow in the beginning.

After, the straws are formed, they begin filling in with crystalized minerals. This picture shows one of the "straws" that has been filled. The outside of the straw continues growing to make a thick coating over the crystal. We were able to handle one of these seven-inch thick stalactites that had broken off and were able to observe the one-inch crystal inside.

We were warned several times before entering the cave, to not touch ANYTHING inside the cave as we travelled through it. However, the cave touched us intermitently with a drip "kiss!" This picture, to the left, shows how the formations sometimes reach out in a lateral direction forming helictites. This particular formation is called "cave popcorn" describing how the water has bubbled up and out of the rock. Unusual to caves but common in the Lehman Caves is also a formation resembling a shield which was formed by the water spraying out of the rock in a fan-like fashion creating a ridged disk.

By the end of the tour, we were all in awe. What a wonderful world!

After the cave tour, we went by car up the mountain road to hike the Alpine Lakes Trail. This is a 2.7 mile loop with only 600 feet of elevation gain. We were anxious to get started!

Along the trail, we had views of Mt. Wheeler (left) and Mt. Jeff Davis. Both of these mountains tower into the sky with a gaping hole in between. Within the gaping hole, there lies a glacier which exists year-round. There is a trail which approaches the glacier, however, we did not hike this trail on this trip.

There were several aspen groves on the trail. We stopped in one grove for a laugh, a breath, and a drink of water. At another aspen grove, we were lucky enough to spot a deer and a fawn foraging among the leaves. This photographer was only quick enough to get a picture of the fawn's headless body as it dove into the thick forest! She didn't think the reader would be interested.

At almost halfway, we arrived at Stella Lake which lies at an altitude of 10,385 feet.

After several members took an extra hike around the lake, we sat for a snack break and searched the mountain ridge for our three brave mountain climbers. We never spotted them, even with the use of binoculars, but one by one we continued to search until we left the site. We learned later that they were, in fact, there and had spotted us at the lake. The height of the mountain ridge was simply too distant for us to make out the three men.

Continuing on the trail, we hiked through a bristlecone grove and arrived at another smaller lake. Part of the group took a side trail up to the older bristlecone grove that displayed plaques on the trees telling how old each tree had become. We all arrived back at the parking lot at different times. We ate a bite while we waited for the last group to arrive.

We drove to the trailhead where the three mountain climbers were expected to arrive and were there waiting for them as they made their entrance, as seen above, within the next five minutes. (Good timing!) They had made it to the top of Mt. Wheeler and were euphoric for the experience!

Saturday - August 23 - Today, the group split into three. The largest group went to Cave Lake State Park found nearby to Ely. This group hiked the Cave Springs Trail for a total of around 5 miles. It was a very pleasant outing and everyone enjoyed the beauty of the park. These pictures were taken two days before showing the nature of the surroundings.

There were plenty of mountain streams with lush foliage grown around them. The mountains were mostly covered with scrub brush and pinyon/juniper trees. There were many places to camp and picnic in the park. The lake, seen below, was a beautiful clean blue color with rock outcroppings in the background. There were fishing boats afloat with fishermen and kids trying their luck. Rabbitbrush was in bloom all around as it was in many elevations around the wide area.

Two members of the group decided to take the long trip out an eleven-mile dirt road to a 3.4 mile hike (820 feet elevation gain) which arrived at Lexington Arch, a rare arch made of limestone. The trip to the arch first took us out of Nevada into Utah, then back into Nevada and, finally, back into Great Basin National Park.

The hike began by switchbacking up the side of a mostly treeless mountainside. Finally, after about 500 feet of gain, we entered a wooded section of the trail. We were alone on the trail as witnessed by the trail registration book. So, when we got to the overlook and were presented with the magnificence of the colossal arch, we were free to enjoy it all to ourselves for a moment on the park bench provided.

Continuing on the trail, we went down a short ways and up again to the arch. We ate a snack under the arch and were able to see the lake where we turned onto the dirt road in the far distance. The arch was so huge that it was impossible to take a picture of it at close range, even with a wide-angle lens. The trip back out to the paved road was uneventful and we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Great Basin on miles and miles of dirt roads.

At the end of our explorations, we met up with the last of the three groups. This group of four had returned to the Mt. Wheeler trailhead to start there and take a side trail up to the top of an adjacent peak called Bald Mountain. This hike (approx. 7 miles and 1200 feet up) was listed as primitive and, therefore, some of the "trail" was simply non-existent! Opportunities for rock scrambling, trail-blazing and scree-scrambling were provided in abundance but the foursome made it to the top to join the weather station and write in the registration diary.

As a finale to the day, the first group visited the nearby Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park to take pictures of the ovens and have a buffalo burger at the cafe. The second pair also visited the ovens getting there just after the first group had finished eating and left. These ovens were built for use from 1876 through 1879 to produce charcoal for use in extracting silver ore which was being mined in the area during this time.

The sun set on another day in Ely and all members of the Around the Bend Friends club who attended this outing were equally happy, enthralled and exhausted. Sunday morning would find all the members waking late, taking a breakfast and driving back to Las Vegas. More stories to come ... check with one of those 20 members!

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