Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Wednesday, 16th May 2018 to Friday, 18th May; Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

“Forest Waters”
(Great Basin National Park, Nevada)
Oil Study on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
5” x 7”


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To refresh your memory … the campground at Baker Creek, Great Basin NP is down there in amongst the Spring Aspens.

Except for my three weeks down in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, and the couple of days spent in the Sedona area, my Winter and Spring was spent on the Colorado Plateau.  This geographical province, roughly centered on the four corners region, has been rising for some millions of years as a unit, and has generally maintained its layers of strata in the horizontal sequence in which they were laid down.  From the west of this area all the way across the remaining part of Utah, and all of Nevada, to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, lies the Basin & Range geographical province, which I am crossing to reach Oregon, and in which lies the Great Basin National Park, just inside the Nevada border from Utah.  The Earth's crust within the Basin & Range is being stretched and thus thinned, causing north/south faults, which in turn cause the land in between these faults (fault blocks), to be either tilted and uplifted, in the form of “horsts” and mountain ranges, or to subside in the form of “grabens” and valleys between the mountain ranges; there are some three hundred north/south mountain ranges and their flanking valleys within the Basin & Range, making Nevada the most mountainous State in the Union.  I will let you look up on the Internet the terms “graben” and “horst.”  The sediments eroding down from all these mountain ranges have filled the original deep valleys, changing them into broad flat plains, or basins of alluvial soil.

View of Mt. Wheeler
from the Baker Creek Trailhead,
a mile up the road from the campground
… we are at 8000’ here.

Oregon Grape in blossom …
the leaves resemble Holly,
and the berry clusters will be reminiscent
of blue berries in colour and size,
and the clusters like grapes.

Orange-yellow flowers.

The Great Basin National Park has several peaks over 11,000’, with the highest, Mount Wheeler, at just over 13,000'.  Thus as I approached the Snake Range, which these mountains are a part of, they loomed six to eight thousand feet above he roughly mile high valley I was travelling down.  Once you leave the town of Baker, Nevada, within the valley, and climb up to the Visitors Center, you ascend about 1800’ during those intervening six miles; Baker Creek Campground, where I have my campsite is at about 7700’.

In the morning I proceeded to the trailhead at the end of the road above the campground, and after consulting the signs there, decided on a short walk; or so I thought.  I had been thinking of a mile at the most, kind of stroll, and then on to another part of the Park, but it turned out to be 3.2 miles, ascending from 8000' to just under 9000'.  It was worth it in the end, even though I spent four hours doing it, what with all my photo-stops and Nature observations.  At the high point there was a lovely alpine meadow, with a small creek running through the grass.  After time spent taking photos from various spots, I spotted movement on the far side, which I at first took to be a Porcupine, but which turned out to be a Turkey, once I trained my binoculars on it.  Later, on the descending part of the loop trail, I spotted three more, and further observations and photos ensued.

Spring Aspens, near the beginning of the trail.

Manzanita blossoms.

Butterfly absorbing some mineral
or other.

Down at my campsite, a thousand feet below, I had noticed the Aspen leaves were a lovely Spring green, and pretty much full size.  At the trailhead, they were a bit less further along, but still of goodly size and shape.  As I had worked my way up the trail, I had noticed they were less and less developed, until they were just small leaflets breaking out of their buds, and finally at the altitude of the alpine meadow, they were just buds awaiting the right temperature before risking opening themselves to the World; all in a thousand feet.  Interesting to think that these higher altitude Aspens will also be turning colour in the Autumn before their brethren lower down, so their growing season is more compressed.

Spring Aspens further up the trail,
with less advanced leaves.

Now … patches of snow.

On the descent there was a grove of deciduous trees that was not aware of ever having seen before.  They reminded me, superficially, of the Hackberry trees I had first seen at Hovenweep in January.  The bark was a dark charcoal grey, deeply furrowed on the more mature specimens, and a lighter blue grey, and smoother on the young trees.  The leaves were about an inch and a half long, and lanceolate in shape.  The older trees were about twenty feet tall with decent sized boles, and beneath them old fallen leaves were red and yellow.  Later at the Visitors Center, a Ranger and I worked out that it was Curl-leafed Mountain-Mahogany that I had seen; not a true Mahogany, which is a tropical tree; always nice to learn a new tree.

In a grove of Curl Leafed Mountain Mahogany.

Curl leafed Mountain Mahogany.

Mountain Meadow.

Stream in the meadow.

Turkey through the Aspens.


Blue Flowers.

Indian Paintbrush.

After the hike and spending time at the Visitors Center, it was really too late to take the drive up to the Mather Overlook, so I left that for the morning, where I had breakfast.  There at the Overlook you have just crossed the 9000’ mark and have a view across the valley to Jeff Davis Peak (12,771'), and Wheeler Peak (13,063'), the patterns highest in the Park.  Beyond this point the road is closed, being expected to open by Memorial Day, at month's end.  It goes for another five miles and gains another thousand feet to just over ten thousand, to the Wheeler Peak Trailhead.  There you can walk to groves of Bristlecone Pines, a couple of which I saw at Bryce Canyon.  These ancient trees are in eminent danger through Global Warming, for where can they go from their various mountaintops?  Animals and birds and even many plants can migrate north, but you're kind of stuck on the top of a mountain, if that is your only habitat.  I should have liked to go see the better specimens here; perhaps in a future Autumn, when the Aspens are glowing gold, and before the return of the Winter snows.
From Mather Viewpoint …
Jeff Davis Peak on the left, Wheeler Peak on the Right.

Note the barren Aspens down below,
at this 9000’ altitude.


They call this the Thumb, so I’m told …
looks like a finger to me.

An hour later.

At the Overlook I met Tom from North Carolina, who was doing an extensive circular driving tour of Nevada.  He had been in parts of Nevada in the past, and was enjoying the chance to see more of it.  We talked about lonely roads and myriad mountain ranges, desert valleys and the fact that the majority of people, sadly, think of Las Vegas & Reno and gambling when Nevada is mentioned.  He had left his disabled brother at a cathouse near Pahrump, for the duration of his travels, which was the reason for his opportunity to visit Nevada again … his brother needed help to travel to Nevada brothel; bucket list I guess.  I hope he doesn't return to find his brother has suffered a heart attack from all the excitement, when he picks him up in a few days’ time!

Jeff Davis Peak on the right,
from the lower Visitors’ Center in Baker.

Great Basin NP as seen from the
700 year old Baker Archaeological Site,
a mile from town.

Pigments used in the painting:

Imprimatura: Rublev  Ercolano Red;

Drawing: Rublev Cyprus Dark Umber, and W&N Ultra Deep Blue;

Pigments: W&N Cerulean, Cobalt and Ultramarine Deep Blues, Cadmiums Orange & Yellow Pale;

Rublev: Ercolano Red, Purple Ochre, Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna, Cyrus Dark Umber, Orange Molybdate (just a tad) & Lead White #2.

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