Lehman Cave in Great Basin NP

I decided sometime during the drive down to Provo that I knew that I had to get into a less driven mode.  Yesterday, I needed to get to Provo because there was a good campground with water, electricity and nearby stores and it positioned me for a short relaxing drive to the Great Basin National Park, where we had never been before.  They do close a gate on the Utah Lake Campground, sometime in the evening. I wasn’t completely concerned about finding a place to stay that night, as I had checked online and there were spots for the evening, but we have been without a place to stay before, and it didn’t turn out well.  As a result there was more of an imperative nature to the ride from Jackson Hole to Provo.  I didn’t like it.  I knew the rest of the drives to places on our list after Great Basin were short, and there will be the opportunity to let serendipity rule the hours on the rest of our travels, but there was a push in that drive to Provo. I’m going to work on a what will be will be attitude, which will be difficult for me.

We started the day with hot long showers.  There was a hookup to city water and plenty of electricity to heat it, and we were visiting her dump station on the way out.  We were easy peasy about the morning, and I cooked a nice breakfast of fried eggs, hash browns, OJ, coffee and toast.  We eat well. We straightened up the RV, figured out where we were going and how, and moseyed around Provo to doing what needed to be done.

First in the order of importance, I discovered that the bird with the call that was a cross between a crow and a red winged blackbird was the yellow headed blackbird.  There was a ‘song’, if you can call it that, coming from a nearby bush, and I flushed out the songster along with a billion of the mosquito like insects.  Unfortunately, I found out where the bugs hide during the day.

We disconnected and packed all the utility lines, visited the necessary and headed into town for fuel and provisions.  I liked the Conoco fuel, so we went there first.  An explanation first. The area of Provo is arid, but when it rains they have gulley washer storms.  There are relatively deep depressions between the traveled portion of the roadway and the curb so that in an aforesaid gully washer, the road should stay above the water.  No guarantees.  We have a bad shock, and I didn’t realize how bad it was until we hit that transition between the road and the gas station.  Storage cabinets blew open, there was stuff blown all over the inside of the RV, and I thought that damn thing was going to roll over.  I think that I don’t panic easily, but that was darn close to breaking a sweat.  We got gas at the Conoco and even with the speed, wind and change in elevation the day before, I got over 15 MPG almost 16 MPG in fact, for the drip down from the Tetons,.  This thing is into the shop as soon as we get home because the MPG’s aren’t that good on the flat and level at lower altitude.

We hopped over a couple of blocks to find a Smith’s Supermarket, a very nice chain, and discovered Smith’s has gas stations, and their diesel was substantially cheaper than the stuff we bought.  If the fuel is as good as the groceries, the fuel should be top notch.  The store was large, beautiful and the prices were at east coast level, or possibly cheaper. The produce was good quality and affordable, and the staff was first class.  We updated the larder, stocked the groceries into the RV, cleaned the RV windows and we were off.

I’ve had more and more to say about coal fired plants since we visited Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah several years ago and found the skies fouled, the views hazy and the air filled with stench.  The air in New Jersey is now cleaner than the air out west.  Montana used to be called the ‘Big Sky State’.  I’m not sure that it’s still called that anymore.  The air here in Provo was filled with a white haze that obscured the beauty of the surrounding mountains.  If I asked, I’m sure that I would be told it was humidity, but my lips know low humidity, and besides when I squirted on the window cleaning fluid it evaporated before I had a chance to polish the window.

I was in this area years ago, and when you looked at the mountains, there was no haze, or cloudiness. The air was a clean as clear as the finest glass.  No so today, as there are coal fired plants buried out in the middle of nowhere.  They can be detected by the numerous high voltage electrical transmission lines that seem to appear from nowhere, and disappear into nowhere.  The are usually accompanied by railroad tracks that are far from any road, unlike the old railroad lines from the 1800’s and 1900’s that paralleled roads and went through towns. Not today.  I think everyone should be able to look at the mountains and the vast open spaces without a fog of pollution.  The great vistas aren’t so great anymore, they’re about 8 miles now.

It was a very nice drive. We drove south on Interstate 15 and then took Route 132.  The Mormons settled the area we traveled through and  did an excellent job of constructing an irrigation infrastructure for agriculture and farms.  It seemed that in the past there was more water as we saw irrigation canals and weirs in fields that had not seen the hand of man in many years.  We passed through some really small towns, a quarter of the size of the small towns we saw before.  There were beautiful brick houses that were abandoned in towns that consisted of more than 30 structures.  Farming is not an easy endeavor, and lack of water and a drying landscape make it no easier. We passed the Intermountain Coal fired power plant, (this one had a directional sign) which was about 10 miles from the main road and was first visible as a dirty black smudge off near the mountains.  We never crossed the railroad lines.

One of the more strange sites we saw was outside the town of Delta, Utah.  There was a large, what once had been a cottonwood, tree outside town.  The tree may have been dead for more than 50 years.  There was nothing alive of any significance in any direction.  The trees was covered with shoes, boots, athletic shoes, ski boots, sandals, all kinds of footwear.  At first it appeared that the shoes had been tied to each other and thrown up on the dead tree, but examination revealed that many, most, of the shoes had been carefully placed there.  There were shoes that looked like large bunches of bananas, others were dangling in the hard sun by themselves.  A pair of sandals were carefully placed on a lower branch.  All around the base of the tree were assorted footwear, there were some shoes across the road.  I saw only one pair that had an name and this year written on the sole.  I can only imagine that it might have something to do with graduation from high school and moving on to other places far from the constricting nature of vast, lonely, places.

We drove on and came across the dry lake bed of Lake Sevier.  I’d read about lake beds, seen movies and once walked on the salt flats west of Salt Lake City, but I’d never been on a real dry lake bed.  We parked the RV and walked about a half mile to the edge of the lake.  The edge was powdery and fluffy.  It was almost like walking in snow, but not.  Puffed dirt is the best description.  The further out onto the lake bed we went, the crustier the lake bottom/dirt became.  We found one location where there was a depression and there were some very thin salt crystals.  Ruts from vehicles bordered the point where the lake bed became moist and you began to sink in.  It stretched for miles across and up and down the valley.  No fish anywhere. On the way back I spotted something that I believe was a jackrabbit.  It was the size of a small dog and was there one minute and gone the next.  Obviously had a burrow, because there was no place to hide thereabouts.

In the middle of sun bleached sagebrush, grasses, bleached bones and abandoned fire ant mounds, I came across a plant with beautiful orange flowers.  Don’t say Mother Nature doesn’t conquer all.  We went through several passes, one was spectacular with imposing craggy outcrops close overhead.  Once back on the flats we had several cars pass us at well over 100 MPH.  The road is straight as a arrow and runs 30 miles without a curve.  If you have a powerful, fast car, this is the place to take it and have fun.  Watch out for the bumps though.

We stopped at a gas station slash casino on the Utah and Nevada border.  I think the casino was in Nevada and the gas station and motel were in Utah.  We filled with diesel and found the mileage wasn’t what I would like it to be.  We do need a check up. We found the visitor center for Great Basin National Park and talked to the ranger, who is considering a stint at the Great Falls National Park in Paterson and wanted to know what type of Place Paterson was. We filled her in and suggested she not take public transportation to Paterson, but get a car and a nice place somewhere to the west of Paterson.

It became obvious that there were more people than camping sites as three people came in while we were talking to the ranger and we knew that there were only eleven sites on the lower campground.  We headed to the Lower Lehman campsite and found one open, but the grade was more than we could fix with leveling blocks.  We went to upper Lehman and found a spot that was 18 feet long and somehow managed to fit the RV into the spot.  We wound up about 9” from a large tree from the driver’s rear, 4” from a large rock and the sewage tube, and 5” from the end of the pavement.  We don’t stick into the road, the clearance isn’t much, but it’s there and for tonight, it’s home. We were all finished and I found a dime laying in the dirt close against the broken asphalt under the RV and the RV steps. It was a pleasant reassuring surprise.

I was planning on making Chili, but it was too late, so we settled on grilled bone in pork chops, mashed potatoes, green beans, apple sauce and sauerkraut.  Great dinner, great day.  The 12v power outlet next to my seat gave up the ghost, probably from overuse and I popped a fuse in attempting to repair it. Two more things to do.  It is nice to hear the stream close by, and you can’t see any of the other sites.  We plan on being somewhere here until Sunday, in some other site, and then off to Zion National Park to meet up with my cousin Bob.