Tag: great basin national park

Basin & Range Road Trip, Part 1 – Great Basin and Zion

IT’S not the California Alps, no. Rather, it’s the yin to the Sierra Nevada’s yang. We’re talking about the Basin and Range and it’s well worth your time and effort to check it out.

WE made it back to the Sierra a couple weeks ago Saturday, and have fully recovered from our trip. Stowed the last of the gear today, in fact: sleeping bags that we recently picked up from the cleaners. They were a bit reeky after a week in the wilderness. Camp fire smell, too. No bueno.

WHAT a trip it was, our transit through a good chunk of the Basin and Range. Our first stop, as you may have seen in this post, was Great Basin National Park.

FROM there it was off to Zion and then we hit up Capitol Reef, for seven (7) total nights of camping. Moab was the cherry on top, especially after doing the campsite shuffle for a week; that hotel was SWEET (not quite as sweet as the shower at Ruby’s – keep reading – but close).

THIS post covers the first week of the trip, Great Basin and Zion. My next post will wrap things up with some petroglyphs, some reef (Capitol, that is), and some Moab, including Dead Horse Point State Park.

CAMPING is work. We had kinda forgotten that. Now I’m talking “real camping” not RVing or trailering. No disrespect to any of you that take that road – that too is pretty sweet. For us, though, it’s about budget, and storage considerations, so for now we’re sticking with the tent ‘thang.

OUR rig was packed to the max. Too max as it turns out. We were out of practice. It had been a bunch of years since our last camping trip and we never really did camp light anyway, and so we brought too much food, not enough beer and tequila, and too many things we thought we’d use.

WE did realize we needed a bigger tent, so we’ve got one on the way. And, my old white-gas-powered Coleman finally coughed up its last gasp of fumes during the trip, and so and we just tested out our new camp stove yesterday morning. Bacon and pancakes on the deck. Good stuff.

TWO items that seemed at first to be a bit much made the camping much better.

The first was a Dometic Sanipottie toidy, and the second was a contractor’s heater that attached to a 5-gallon tank.

ZIPPER burns began to form after several days of zipping in and zipping out of our casbah, as well as our gear tent.

Our home away from home at the Watchman Campground in Zion.

So zipping less, thanks to that toilet inside the tent (just so we’re clear…no doing #2 in the tent), was a welcome respite for our sore thumbs and index fingers.

AS for the heater

FIRING up that sucker in the a.m. kept me warm as I made the coffee.

YUP, campfires are a big part of the camping experience, and we certainly helped the local firewood economies with our purchases, but you can move and direct the heater. And it doesn’t produce smoke nor need to be doused.

BIKES? Sí! We brought two (2) bikes on the trip: a Trek Rail eMTB (Bessie) and my beloved Trek Domane, Roscoe, which was converted to a gravel bike a few years back.

That’s my boy, Roscoe, taking in the sights at Arches National Park.

I had planned on bringing a road bike too but ’twas one bike too many, and since I had a set of road wheels for Roscoe I went with that instead. Three (3) bikes for the price of two (2), if you will.

FROM the Sierra to the Wasatch the Basin and Range runs. It’s an amazing piece of geology and geography that I highly recommend experiencing. Up and over a pass, to then roll across an expansive valley, and then do it again and again, was akin to hitting the rollers on a nice ride, with some added flats to space things out until the next climb.

WITH our atlas in hand, and some books on roadside geology, we learned as we hauled ass across America’s Loneliest Road. The trip was made far less lonely because of the nuggets put forth by my copilot. From rock formations to geologic anomalies to various landmarks, the “B&R” doesn’t disappoint, and having our own personal library helped us glean more knowledge than we could have with just the nav.

AFTER Great Basin, which is an amazing place, it was off to Zion National Park, which while also incredible, was PACKED.

LESSONS learned– October is the busiest time of year for this area of Utah, and it’s easy to understand why. The weather was perfect, the fall colors were popping, and the historical and geologic sites are sublime. Our sardine packed shuttles were made more so by the fact that it was fall break for kids in Utah. Oh, and an annular eclipse added even more fish to the frier.

Up there! It’s an annular eclipse!
Wait. Do these glasses make our heads look big?

GOT in a nice ride, two actually, while in Zion, both in the canyon. My first ride of the trip was the day after arrival and I took Bessie up the canyon for a recon cruise.

IF you have an eBike that is the ticket in Zion. They can be rented in the nearby village for $100 a day, too. We didn’t move the truck much at all from our campsite. Too much congestion, and getting back into the park was a 1-2 hour wait in some cases. I could see the lines of cars as I made my way out of the park, to the local market, on Bessie. Just flashed our pass to get back in.

TAKING a bike up the canyon is itself a fantastic experience but the added bonus is that with one you can avoid the shuttles (other than pulling over for them – required in Zion) and instead lock-up at each trailhead. Zion does a good job of accommodating bikes at all trailheads and the canyon is closed to vehicles, other than the shuttles, with the exception of those going to the lodge. After the lodge there are no cars and so there are miles of road full of just us riders, like ants following a scent trail, with broad smiles and hellos all around.

Adding a little light and color to camp, thanks to our chargeable (inc. solar) light strings from MPOWERD.

AFTER a couple days of forced relaxation (one of my knees balked post-recon ride and swelled up like a melon) I was able to do the same ride on my own power, this time on Roscoe. It was chilly in the a.m. (40’s), and even more so in the canyon, so I went with knickers, a vest, arm warmers and full-fingered gloves. Two laps was the ticket as it turned out. The views change often as the sun rises or sets in the canyon so coming back up the second time was a different experience. Find and follow me on Strava, by the way (search “bikedalps”), if you’d like to see the routes, stats, etc.

EVEN with the crowds, five days in Zion was just what we needed: no TV, no email (there was service – Verizon). We used our phones for the most part only as it related to the trip, and tuned out the tech. as best we could. I actually finished a book and was able to beat my lovely wife in a couple games of scrabble, too. We worked our butts off doing that camping shtick. Time flew and we were having fun. One day morphed into the next and then it was time to go. Breaking camp was quite the adventure. We were anxious though, to get a shower, so that helped move things along.

Editor’s note: Gravel opportunities abound in “the B&R.” I drooled often as we saw some of the roads that had gravel potential. I mean there are options EVERYWHERE! Had some experience with that? Pass it on!

FROM Zion we took Highway 12, one of America’s Scenic Byways, about a four (4) hour drive, to Capitol Reef. We had hoped to stop and do a quick hike in Bryce Canyon before we made camp in Capitol Reef but that didn’t work out. It had been many moons, you see, since we had a shower. Our navigator (Mrs. CAC in case you hadn’t guessed) had done her homework and found for us Ruby’s Inn RV Park and Campground and for $16.00 we each nabbed a shower. That roll of quarters came in handy for the laundromat. Both experiences brought back memories, one better than the other. That shower was, we agreed, one of the best we’d ever taken in our lives.

WHILE the laundry was spinning we headed up the road for supplies. Beer, lunch and most importantly, tequila. It was an interesting experience getting my cactus juice in Utah. I had forgotten. So after some direction, and unlocking of the cabinet in “that lobby over there” by the attendant who looked very much like a gambling attendant in Nevada, vest, name tag, and all, we had our necessaries and back to Ruby’s we went.

Honey, I brought us a gourmet lunch of pre-made sandwiches, ruffles and beer. Oh, it’s so good, she says.

LAUNDRY folded. Stomach filled. Truck puzzle re-worked. Off we went to Capitol Reef. We hated driving past, and not into, Bryce, but time was of the essence. We very much dislike pitching tents in the dark so we had some motivation. See you next time, Bryce.

AND see you next time, too, and we’ll continue our adventure into Capitol Reef and Moab.

Graveling in Great Basin – How a Short Loop Turned Into a Long OaB

MRS. California Alps Cycling and I finally got out the door last Sunday, and started our oh so overdue vacation. A two (2) week roadtrip to Great Basin National Park, Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park, with other Mighty Five parks hit up as time allows.

OF course some bike riding would be involved. Initially we had planned on bringing a road bike, a gravel bike and an e-MTB but after a consultation with Momma California Alps, and a bit of good natured ribbing from same about the sheer quantity of gear we were bringing, we went with the latter two (2) only.

GETTING in fairly late to Baker, NV, and checking in to the Stargazer Inn and Bristlecone General Store with Liz and Rachel, left us no time to do anything that night, except watch our beloved Niners open a can of whoop ass on those Cowboys. A great way to start the vacay, for sure!

ON Monday the trip started in earnest (after a leisurely morning due to our late night of celebrating both the whooping, and the start of the trip) as we “excurzed” into the park and hit up one of the Lehman Cave tours – the Grand Palace.

DAY two (2) was reserved for a bit of a.m. gravel riding for me (and reading for Mrs. C.A.) and then a trip up to the bristlecone pines in the afternoon.

STRAVA had a nice route suggestion of about 13.5 miles. Head east and just outside of town I’ll turn onto National Forest Development Service Road 589 (“development“should have been my first clue), and then head up a bit towards either Rowland Ranch Road or Baker Creek Road, either of which connects to Lehman Caves Road (the main road into the park). From there a super straight Champs Elysses kind of decent, but longer, back to the main highway and the hotel.

I headed out about 8 a.m. with plans to be back by 10 a.m. so we could get up the the Wheeler Peak/Bristlecone trailhead by lunch time for a picnic before the hike.

‘TOPHER would have, and still will, have my ass. You didn’t upload the ride to your bike computer? Nope. I’m good. I’ll just follow the road(s) and signage. They’ll be marked like they are in our neck of the woods. WRONG.

MISSED the turn to NFDS 589. Not really my fault, though, there are a lot of dirt roads out in these parts.

I turned back and found the road and up I went for a blissful couple of miles, and then a bit of steep stuff, and then a fork in the road. I whipped out my phone and checked where I was – yup, that right fork is the one. Off I went.

STEEPER and rockier IT went. Definitely some hike-a-bike sections…at least for me. Some nice roads still, though, as you can see.

ROWLAND Ranch Rd. must be coming soon, I tell myself. I’ve already gained about 1000 feet after all. Hmmm, maybe I passed it? Yeah, that makes more sense. I’ll just keep going to Baker Creek Road. Off I went.

BUSHIER and more overgrown IT went. None of my maps apps had the sufficient detail, either because this was not a trail/road, or the signal wasn’t strong enough to handle all of those damn packets, or both. Then inspiration struck. I’ve got a signal and can make a call! I’ll call M.C.A., she’s got internet at the hotel, and she can tell me exactly where I am.

AFTER some frustration on both sides, either due to her lack of understanding of technology, or my lack of patience, or both, we hung up. I have an Apple Watch and a Wahoo ELEMNT Roam. If nothing else I’ll just hit “back to start”, I told her. I hate doing that though so the bushwhacking continued. Oh, and I neglected to mention to you loyal reader, that I had been pushing my bike for the last 1/2 mile or so.

HUBRIS is the word that comes to mind. Panic was another. I was rocking the first and holding back the second. I’ve got to be just below NFDS Rd. 590. I just went past both of those other roads and now I just have to bushwhack a bit farther and I’ll hit it. Again I call the Mrs. We can’t tell how close I am to 590. “Have you crossed Baker Creek yet?”, she asks. Well, I did go over a creek a bit ago. That must have been it. “Then you’re just below the road.” Off I went.

NON-EXISTENT IT went. Brush piles told me I was in an area where they were cutting up those ladder fuels for winter burning, which meant I had to be close. Now I’m carrying the bike over logs and brush, and gathering some decent scratches (battle scars, arrgghh) on the lower legs, too.

NOW I did learn a trick some time ago from a hunting-sensei, Fred Weitlauf. He taught me that most people get lost because they never look behind them as they walk. I had been doing that at least, and I had my computers, so I’m not really lost.

UNLIKE Scott or Chris, I am severely DIRECTIONALLY challenged. As such, learning to use the technology would be of utmost importance. See mistake #2.

APPLE WATCH – Yes, you can retrace your steps but you have to start it so it knows where to return you. Idiot! Me, not the watch.

WAHOO ELEMNT ROAM – Correct me if I’m wrong (please!) you technoheads out there, but one problem is this: you have to be on a route (see mistake #1) to navigate back to the start of the route.

THE other problem I’ve discerned – again, all help appreciated – is that you have to know how to use the shit. Those three (3) dots on that map screen give you options, including as I’ve just learned while writing this post, one that is “retrace to start.”

WHAT a knucklehead.

HONEY, I say as I call her to tell her I’ve made the smartest decision I’ve made all day. “I’m heading back to where I started.” I’m running out of road, er trail, and I’m no where near anything, other than those amazing views.

BACK I went, and just like my wonderful wife said, it was really fun because I could enjoy the vistas, and the ride. Some more hike-a-bike back to the road, then off I went.

AFTER those few sectors of babyheads (which for me meant walking again), down and sweet IT went.

1828 feet of stress-free (kinda) descent it was, and at last I saw that water tower and knew I was going to survive. My sould began to rise. Yeah, a bit dramatic but that Bob Seger song (Roll Me Away) came to mind so I went with it.

  • 13.6 miles
  • 2255 feet of ascent
  • 1:55 ride time
  • 3 hours elapsed time
  • 3 phone calls
  • Many WTFs
  • Several “dumbshits!”
  • Oodles of fun, nonetheless
  • Countless giggles (raging laughter, really) from M.C.A.

WE did make it to the top of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive about 1:30 p.m., give or take. This after a lovely picnic on the patio of the Stargazer.

PARTAKING of lunch in town made sense at that point because it gets cold up there (the trailhead is just under 10000’ of elevation) and due to my extra-lengthy sojourn we would likely get there too late to enjoy the mild part of the day

TURNS out I was right, on this occassion at least – it was cold and windy. 🤣

IN my defense, had there been better signage and such we would have been there sooner!