|My favorite photo of Yosemite Valley: Half Dome, Vernal & Nevada Falls from Glacier Point|
June 17th-26th: Ten days across Utah, Nevada and California. This trip arose as the answer to a semi-serious question Justin and I asked ourselves upon returning home from the Grand Canyon in January: "Where should we go next?" By mid-February, we had most of the details worked out and by early March, we had secured permits for all of our backcountry outings as well as a day-hike permit allowing us to ascend Half Dome (Half Dome Cables). Additionally, we had reservations to stay overnight at Oak Flat fire lookout tower in the Sequoia National Forest on Friday June 24th. Early preparation truly does reward in an organized and stress-free trip, especially as the demand for permits in Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks is rather high, comparatively. Of course, we still left ample room for flexibility as we know that plans are often subject to the uncontrollable forces of chance and change (choosing a last-minute backcountry site in Yellowstone, Humboldt Peak route-finding, Going-to-the-Sun's delayed opening in Glacier, etc).
Day One, Friday June 17th: Denver to Great Basin, Nevada
Summer is undoubtedly the best season for road trips, namely because the sun does not set until well after 8 pm. Therefore, achieving a crack-of-dawn departure was not at all a high priority for us. Following a Starbucks and Einstein's stop, we left Denver around 7:30 am and arrived in Great Basin (near Baker, Nevada) a bit before 5 pm with plenty of light to spare. We chose a perfect primitive campsite along the Snake Creek, which was flowing high, and cracked a beer.
Before darkness set in, we played several games of horseshoes, photographed beautiful wildflowers, cooked salmon and asparagus for dinner, and chatted with a guy (the only one around) for a few minutes about his bird research -- actually, it probably ended up being nearly 45 minutes as he and Justin seemed to have many things in common. By nightfall, the calming sound of the creek made us tired and we fell asleep within minutes.
Day Two, Saturday June 18th: Great Basin to the Eastern Sierra
The Great Basin includes most of Nevada, half of Utah, and sections of Idaho, Wyoming, California and Oregon and is named as such because water drains internally - all precipitation either evaporates, sinks underground, or flows into saline lakes; there is no outlet to the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean. Great Basin National Park preserves only a small piece of this entire 200,000 square mile region. On our drive towards the Eastern Sierra, where we'd spend the night, we passed through multiple basin-range alternating combinations ... this part of Nevada is quite pretty.
|Black Rock Lava Flow|
By late afternoon, we crossed into California and soon arrived, via scribbled-down directions, at a remote natural hot spring off Benton Crossing Road. Naked late-night hippies and Yosemite locals made this experience all the more interesting ... on the whole, a wonderful and unique way to celebrate two years of traveling, exploring and happiness together :)