Saturday, June 9, 2012

There and Back Again

So here, finally, is the story of my little adventure in Great Basin National Park. It wasn't the longest trip I've ever been on, nor the farthest I've ever been from home, but I went places unlike any I've visited before, and pushed myself harder than I ever have before.

Far over...the misty mountains call...
to dungeons deep...
and caverns old

My sister and I got to Great Basin very late Sunday night, and consequently set up our tent in the dark. The next day we took a guided tour through Lehman Caves. The door you see above is the exit, here is the entrance:

Both the entrance and exit are artificially dug tunnels to make it safer for people to get in and out. The natural entrance to the caves is covered by a grate that lets bats through but screens out people.
The cave itself was just...otherworldy. It's one thing to see pictures of stalactites and stalagmites, but to actually be in a place with rock formations like nothing you've seen above ground, in a chamber that appears to have been carved out by an abstract artist, is to experience something, strange, eerie, and beautiful.

The next day we hiked up Mt. Wheeler. The peak is at 13,063 ft above sea level, and our hike, starting at just above 10,000 ft, was 8.2 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 2900 ft. It was the most grueling trek I've ever undertaken. Once we got onto the mountain proper, I was gasping like a fish out of water. When you're that high up, the thin air really takes its toll. My sister let us take 5-10 breaks about every 15-20 minutes, which hardly felt like enough to me.
Once we got close to the top, I was so worn out, my sister suggested she go on ahead, without waiting for me, and I could either wait where I was, start back down, or keep going up as far as I could, and start back when I met her coming back down again. I chose the third option, and pushed myself up as far as I could go.

When I met up with my sister again, we were still close enough to the top, that she thought we could chance me going all the way, and still get off the ridge before dark. So, I dragged my poor, besotted frame clear up to the top of Wheeler, where I signed the register there. Even though I was still barely able to stand, and we had to hustle it out of there before nightfall, I felt like a million, worn-out bucks, having made it all the way! And the view was definitely worth it!

Then of course, we had to go back, while the sun was setting, hoping to get down to the woods where the trail would be easier to see (and not covered in snow). Fortunately we made it out alive, and the next day were able to rouse our tired bodies enough to pack up and head home.

So I have been from the lowest depths to the greatest hights, and it was awesome, just awesome.

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