Natural Causes

We’ve been to Great Basin National Park several times and each time are struck by how much things are the same, and how much they have changed.

Take the Lexington Arch hike, for example. We originally took this hike back in 2010 when, after the long drive in, we hiked about an hour to the overview where we could see the Lexington Arch. It was a great hike, with a great payoff — even a bench, which is always a surprise on these hikes.

This time, we were hoping for the same experience. (Are you starting to suspect it won’t quite turn out as we expected this time?!?) The rough road out was as much fun as we remembered…


…complete with a Pronghorn greeter:


We jostled along, glad we now had a Jeep instead of the huge one-ton crew cab dually, which brushed the close-growing bushes as we made the drive to the trailhead. Before long, we realized things were different. Bob had marked the trailhead and parking area with a GPS, but it was not where we ended up. Instead of the circular area where we’d parked before, we came across a grassy meadow where others had stopped:


This was our first sign. Where was the trailhead sign? We started walking.


Nothing about hiking on stones seemed right. Soon we confirmed what we’d guessed:


We were hiking in a stream bed! The trail (on the left in the photo above) had been washed out at some point.

Eventually, we glimpsed the Arch in the distance, among trees burnt bare from a wildfire, which had also come through since our hike in 2010:


Yep, we were pretty far away. Here’s a zoomed, cropped image:


We hiked for about a mile — and that took us as far as the original trailhead. After tromping along loose gravel, scrambling over rocks, scuttling into and out of the old stream bed, we were ready to turn around. It was a new hike — an extra mile each way — all the result of natural causes.

Later we learned the wildfire had stripped the area of stable ground cover,  so nothing held water from a sudden snowmelt in its usual channels. It gushed and spread, flooding the area, leaving the trail impassable — even the gravel route out to the trailhead had been closed through the summer 2014 season. We were lucky to be able to hike at all.

So what to do? Enjoy what we could, like this wild turkey, on the run from us and gobbling at us all the way…


…and we stopped to appreciate the early June flowers:



After awhile, even the blackened trees took on a stark beauty of their own:


And so it is in nature… you can pass the same way more than once, and it will always look different.


About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
This entry was posted in Animals, Flowers, Hiking, Interesting Stories, National Parks and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Natural Causes

  1. emhelms63 says:

    The only thing constant is change. I’ve experienced the same thing in other places during my wandering days. That cabin is interesting. It makes you wonder who and when lived there. There is (was?) a similar cabin on the South Rim Trail at Big Bend (in the Chisos Mountains). I’ve passed it many times. I believe there was a sign answering my questions above. Ah, for a time machine!

    Happy Trails, Mike

    • Ellen says:

      These are the very questions that compel us to pluck novels out of our keyboards, aren’t they? I’ve never been interested in historical fiction… but that could change because of these very spots!

  2. Ingrid says:

    When we lived in Las Vegas, we always intended to visit Great Basin but never did make it. It remains on the “list”. Sometimes it’s sad to see the lasting effects of a wildfire until the new growth is spotted. I’m always entertained by wild turkeys. Glad you still managed to have a nice hike 🙂

    • Ellen says:

      Hi, Ingrid! Yes, it’s definitely worth the extra miles it takes to visit Great Basin. Your appreciation for great photo opportunities, wildlife, and your willingness to boondock makes GB a great destination for you. Maybe by then the forest will be re-greening 🙂

      BTW, I thought of you when I posted that turkey photo — the quality of your shots is so high….! But sometimes, we gets what we gets, you know? Travel safe!

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