This years Western Regional of the NSS was being held in Great Basin National park. When I found out Ric couldn’t make it I decided it was time to see how the bug fared on a longer journey. I got off to a poor start as I left Sacramento, despite leaving early traffic ground to a halt on 80. Between labor day weekend traffic and construction there was no way I was getting to the western regional in Great Basin National Park any time soon. After a brief stop in Reno to refuel I was on the road again and arrived at the Hickison Petroglyph site at around 2 in the morning. I pulled into the first open campsite, through my sleeping bag on the sturdy concrete picnic table and slept under the stars. The next day I was up early enough to arrive at the grey cliffs campground after the trips for the day had already departed but I helped set up for and settled in to attend the business meeting of the Western region. That evening we headed down to Baker for the volunteer firefighters fund-raiser BBQ which was a delicious meal and I enjoyed checking out the 57 willys jeep with inline 4 engine that one of the volunteers drove.
The following morning I was able to join one of the regular tours of Lehman cave which was a very enjoyable one with plenty of impressive formations to see, before joining up with Bill and Perry Frantz for a trip out to Crystal ball cave. this was a fantastic cave as the large geode like formations of dog tooth spar crystals really make this a unique cave. Afterwards we headed over to beware cave where despite my constant bemoaning of the fact I hadn’t brought my waterproof camera I had a great time swimming into the small cave behind the short waterfall fed from nearby springs. All cave trips should involve a short swim at the end it was very relaxing. We made it back just in time to fix ourselves dinner and then it was time for the auction. The auction went predictably longer then anticipated but everyone seemed to enjoy it and Marianne’s schnapps kept folks warm.
The next day we loaded the cars up and then headed off to visit the Talus room in Lehman cave where thanks to a lot of volunteer effort they have completed the removal of the old trail and returned the cave to a more natural state. I had a great time taking pictures of the large room and formations. After leaving the cave, Matt and heather took the lead in their trooper and we headed off to a location known as PJ’s camp. Here we found Ron and Lonnie embarking on stupid human trick number ? as Ron attempted to surf on a satellite dish. Once this was abandoned, Marilyn, Tom, Ron, Tracy, Lonnie, Neil, Matt, Heather and I headed off to find the pit Neil had told us about. It was a short, though steep hike to the pit and before long we had two ropes rigged going the 180′ down to the bottom. Heather and I decided to sit this one out though I did shoot video of people going up and down. By the time everyone had climbed back out and de-rigged it was getting pretty dark which made hiking back to the vehicles much cooler then the hike up. Since it was late Matt, Heather and I decided to share a motel room for the night. We got up early and headed out to a small canyon where a cave they’d been mapping was located. While their had been a previous map, they were doing a new one with profile and more detail. It was a fun hike up the canyon, past an old mine and up a scree slope to get to the cave. On the way we passed a couple lizards and I saw an Owl go swooping by. Matt also saw a large bird possibly the same owl or another form of rapture. At the cave Matt proceeded to perform repairs on two formations that had been broken on prior visits to the cave then he and Heather began surveying while I set up lights and tried to photograph the cave. It was well after noon before we returned to the entrance for a lunch break then slid in through the lower entrance to start on the lower section of cave. By five o’clock or so I was feeling pretty beat so we headed out and back down the canyon to where we’d left the vehicles. On the way past a section of loose rocks heather jumped back as a rather large rattle snake came bolting out past her and headed off into the scrub along the stream bed. Matt had just walked past that same exact spot! The rest of the hike was fortunately less exciting and before long we were back on the road heading toward Eureka. Arriving at Eureka though I found myself to tired to think of continuing the trip any further and so opted to drive straight back to the Hickison petroglyph site where I knew I could set up camp easily and go to sleep. Matt and Heather continued on planning to drive through the night back to Woodland.
The next morning I awoke early feeling very much refreshed after a good nights rest and walked around the site viewing the petroglyphs,I was sad to see a lot have been badly damaged by vandalism, but there are still a few good example to see. After walking around enjoying the sunrise I drove to Austin where I filled up with gas and adjusted the bowden tube which had been causing a slight shudder when I stepped on the clutch. With that taken care of I asked how far it was to Tonapah and learning it was only 116 miles I headed off down the road. At Tonapah I had a great time visiting the mining museum and taking lots of pictures. Next stop was Beatty Nevada where I fuelled up the car before finding a spot to camp for the night. The next morning I got up extra early so that I was able to drive down into Death Valley and all the way to the Devils golf course for sunrise.
After that I headed down to bad water and hiked way out on the salt flat. since it was still fairly cool I took my time heading back to Furnace creek, taking the artists drive and stopping frequently to take pictures. Even with my frequent stops I was able to get above Pimantel station before noon and avoid the worst of the heat, though it was only predicted to reach a lowly 106 degrees that day. Since I had just fuelled up in Death valley I took the dirt 4 wheel drive road over to Darwin before heading back over to 395 to begin the drive north towards home.
My next stop was Lee Vining near Mono lake. I spent the night at a small campground where once more I got up early so I could head to the south Tufa area of Mono lake for more sunrise pictures. After a pleasant morning at mono lake I drove up 395 to 108 and tackled the Sonora pass. Here the bug had difficulty as the sharp turns in the road prevented me from maintaining enough speed to make it up some of the steeper parts but after backing down one section I was able to drive the rest of the way without incident. the view at the top was amazing and there was still beautiful wildflowers in bloom and patches of snow. The rest of the way home was uneventful except for a torrent of rain that poured down washing off most of the Nevada dust as I headed for Sacramento.