Oh, man. I almost wasn’t going to even blog about this park visit because it was ultimately a pretty massive failure. OOPS. But, we got our stamp and our sign picture, so I’ll blog about it in the spirit of ‘this is reality.’
So my very best friend Meech and I had been talking about doing a trip in her van for a while, and we thought Labor Day would be a good weekend to give it a whirl. We wanted to go somewhere close, but also wanted to make a national park visit out of the deal, so we decided to go to Great Basin (in hindsight, Capitol Reef may have been a better choice, OOPS). Brady wanted to come, but had to work Sunday, so we decided we were going to drive our car out in the morning and Brady would head home that evening while I stayed with Meech in the van, and then Meech and I would drive home Sunday evening.
To start off, the night before we were supposed to leave, 1. I discovered that my camera battery was dead and I could not find the charger ANYWHERE (we resolved this by stopping by Best Buy in Orem on our way, but it didn’t open until 10, which did slow down our plans), and 2. our air conditioning unit died for the second time in three weeks. Woof. We should’ve taken it as a sign, but we hadn’t been on a trip in almost a year, and hadn’t been to a national park since the previous July, and I was so determined to make something happen that I just powered through it.
Overall, the drive out was pretty pleasant – Erik the Red doesn’t have air conditioning, so that was a little less fun, but we listened to a bunch of The Adventure Zone and talked a lot about the new jobs we were both settling into. Knowing that it was less than four hours definitely made it easier for me to feel like going back is super feasible. We rolled up to the visitor center, got our stamp and souvenirs, listened to the very enthusiastic volunteer (who LOVED my shorts – who wouldn’t, though? They have cougars on them!) tell us the story about the 100 year old shotgun discovered in the park a few years ago, and then headed up the Wheeler Peak road.
All of the campgrounds were full (significantly less stressful with a van, for sure) but we enjoyed the incredibly gorgeous drive before we found a spot to relax for a while and make dinner. It was extraordinarily pleasant to just sit in the mountains and chat with the creek babbling nearby and no bugs whatsoever. That, I think, would have been worth it if that had been all there was.
Eventually, it was time for Brady to head out, and Meech and me to go to the astronomy ranger talk. When we ventured over to the visitor center for said talk, though, we were blown away by the number of cars (the parking lot was beyond full and there were cars parked on both sides of a very narrow road for well over a mile) and ultimately decided we’d be better off just finding a place to camp and settling down for the night.
We adventured through the desert before finding a sweet spot on some BLM land to camp, pulled out a camp mattress, and laid under the stars talking for hours. The stars were absolutely unbelievable, and the conversation was wonderful – something I had been desperately needing and definitely made it completely worth it for me.
However, around 11pm, I got a call from Brady (we miraculously had service, praise Gaia) that our car was overheating and that he was stuck about 20 miles from Nephi (which is still a good 2-2.5 hours from home). Meech and I piled back in the van and headed out to collect him and go home, which we did, leaving the car on a safe stretch of highway where it could be picked up by a tow truck (it ended up being the thermostat that had broken, and a really nice shop in Nephi took amazing care of us, but wow what a suck-fest).
All in all, we ended up rolling into our driveway around 4am, where Meech parked and slept in the van and we went to bed in our disgustingly hot house. *cries* Brady had a slow workday from home the next day, we got our air conditioner fixed, and we resolved to return when we could do Great Basin real justice.
Our Great Basin National Park “Must Do”: (besides ‘have a car that isn’t a piece of junk’) Stargaze. I’m serious. All of the dark sky maps in existence put Great Basin as one of the darkest places in America, and the sheer number of stars you can see out there is legitimately staggering, it’s almost incomprehensible.