Day 2: Recovery

9/9/20, 9:30 AM

Going nowhere fast today!

Well, last night was hell. When I lay down, my legs started cramping—I guess from the nearly 16 miles of hiking yesterday, which might have been overdoing it for the first day. I rubbed them, tried to quiet them, and drank water, but the only thing that worked was to get up and walk (requiring unzipping the bag, grabbing my parka from the sleeping bag stuff sack which I use as a pillow, finding my shoes, donning my balaclava and gloves). Walking calmed the legs. More ibuprofen and lots of water. Try again to sleep. The night was crystal-clear and the temperature hovered around 29 degrees F.

As soon as I lay down again, the same thing! Got up and walked as the waning gibbous moon was rising and washing out the stars. The road was white in the moonlight, and I cast a long black shadow. As I turned back down to the tent, my knee went crazy again. I decided maybe I should try sleeping in the van, in a seated position. That worked like a charm for my legs, but not for being able to sleep. Ugh. I keep lots of blankets in the car, and wrapped my legs well, but couldn’t get the rest of me warm enough. Back out into the cold to the tent to grab my sleeping bag and back to the van to try again. That at least kept me warm enough, but sleep evaded me.

Finally, at 3:00 AM, I decided to try lying in the tent again. This time, the legs cooperated more or less, and I slept fitfully until 7:30 AM.

My knee is pretty painful, so we drove up the road to the Wheeler Peak trailhead and Bristlecone Campground (closed for the season). B is hiking to the bristlecones and I am hanging out in the van resting my knee. Not what I had planned, but it is fine. Maybe in an hour I’ll walk around some. I’ve been up here a few times in the past to visit the bristlecones and the glacier, and I didn’t want her to miss it.

A glimpse of the remains of the glacier, nestled in the crook of Wheeler Peak

Now, at 10:30, I have combed and braided my hair (not an easy task after yesterday’s hike and the night in my balaclava cap), taken two more ibuprofen, and laid out my waffle pad in the back of the van. Too cold to nap outside—for me, anyway. Lying down for a try at another bout of sleep, beautiful sleep. Aspens surround me, their leaves talking in the breeze. We are at 10,000 feet on what was once an island in Lake Bonneville. It’s quiet, calm and warm in the van.

I slept like a rock for two hours, and woke only minutes before Barbara returned from her hike to the bristlecones and the glacier—or rather the remains of the once-mighty one. Now it’s just a dusty patch of year-round snow and ice, tucked up against the cliffside of Wheeler Peak. Did I mention that on yesterday’s epic hike, we saw nobody else all day long? We were all alone in that area of the park. Today, we are at the most popular spot, and there are lots of hikers, motorcyclists, tourists of all stripe milling about up here.

I took the ADA trail through the Engelmann spruce, limber pine, and aspen. Read all the informational displays and was thankful that my knee seemed to be doing okay on flat ground. At least there’s that (and that’s a lot!).

I learned lots of little factoids from the ADA trail plaques.
This trail wasn’t here the last time I was up here.
Great Basin NP is really an island! So fascinating!
I was so thankful for this little flat trail today, after my knee issues. I love that it makes at least a little of this area accessible to so many more people.
And here’s Lehman Creek, which runs year-round and waters the ranch lands below.
After reading the display about forest fires and the progression of regrowth of trees on my ADA path walk, it was easy to see the mountainside as a patchwork of various burn areas over decades, and centuries, of lightning fires.

On the way back down to our campsite, we detoured to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. The caves are closed this year. I had toured them decades earlier, long before they were a part of a non-existent park, when they were one of the roadside attractions along Hwy 50. I mostly remember that they had colored lights trained on various stalagmite and stalactite “features,” which bore names like “Madonna and Child,” and such. I’m sure it’s not so hokey now that it’s part of a national park! The cafe at the Visitor Center was a revelation, and I had a delicious, fresh salad and B had world-class chili.

Did I tell you that on our arrival to the park, we saw a ringtail cross the dirt road in front of us? So cool! It was gone in a flash, of course. They are also known as miner’s cats and ringtail or civet cats, though they are members of the raccoon family.

There’s really not much more to tell about today. We went back to the coffee stand in the morning, and met two dogs who sort-of run the town of Baker. We found out about good hikes for tomorrow.

The chihuahua is the ringleader of this two-member gang, who terrorize the inhabitants of Baker for handouts. Barbara befriended them with treats, and they became our instant best friends.
Sculpture in downtown Baker.
We stopped at the ranching exhibit, midway between our campsite and Baker. Didn’t learn much of anything, but enjoyed the silhouette art.
And of course we had to take advantage of this photo op in a nearby field of sagebrush.

We had each bought beers at the cafe—a Great Basin Wild Horse Ale for me and an Icky IPA for Barbara (named for the Nevada state fossil, the ichthyosaurus). We sat comfortably in the van parked at our campsite and drank. Not the trip we had planned in any way, but full of incredible beauty, and clear smokeless skies. Forecast low tonight will be 32 degrees F. Warming up!

I walked 1 mile today.

7 thoughts on “Day 2: Recovery

  1. Hi, Laurie, While on the trail hiking to the bristlecones and “glacier” a few years ago, I hit an icy patch that wasn’t icy on the way up.  I fell, broke my leg, sat on the trail on ice for over 2 hours feeling the temperature drop to below freezing, waited with eventual mild hypotermia for Search and Rescue , got carried on a gurney down the mountain, and met the ambulance in the parking lot where I was taken to Ely for a hospital – slowly since there were reportedly herds of antelope between the park and Ely.  Great Basin will live on strongly in my memories. Teri Fahmie


  2. Wow! You have had the most severe mishaps! I once slipped on the ice while hiking by myself up to the bristlecones, and chipped a bone in my wrist. Had to drive to Colorado before I could have it examined. There wasn’t anyone around up there, or anywhere nearby. Luckily, it wasn’t life-threatening and I was ambulatory.


  3. Laurie try pickle juice for your leg cramps!!! (Works for my occasional back spasms!)

    -a fan

    On Sun, Oct 18, 2020 at 3:43 PM High Sierra Rambles wrote:

    > Laurie Lewis posted: ” 9/9/20, 9:30 AM Going nowhere fast today! Well, > last night was hell. When I lay down, my legs started cramping—I guess from > the nearly 16 miles of hiking yesterday, which might have been overdoing it > for the first day. I rubbed them, tried to quiet” >


    • All these great suggestions, that I would definitely have tried had I been home. No pickle juice in camp! Thanks for the tip, though. I’ll keep it in mind if I ever have that problem at home.


  4. What I carry when camping or traveling—NUUN electrolytes tablets. Pop in water bottle, fizz, fizz, lemony drink that keeps the cramps at bay. Also great for any time one needs to bump up one’s electrolyte balance.


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