THE DARKEST SKY IN AMERICA
This past weekend we ventured to the darkest sky in America. Great Basin National Park. To be honest, I didn't even know this place existed, but lo and behold in White Pine County, Nevada is the darkest sky in America. The drive up to the campsite what a sight to behold in and of itself. Winding up steep hills on a two lane road to 10,000 feet although a little sketchy, it was awesome! We finally got to our campground and set up camp for the night along with our friends and waited for the night to fall so we could experience this night sky. With camp being so high up you don't need to worry about mosquitoes which was nice, and the dear roam freely around your camp unafraid of humans. With a rainstorm the night of our big hike, deer in the meadow, and the biggest, brightest, roundest rainbow I've ever seen, this weekend getaway did not disapoint!
Unfortunately I don't know how to use my camera and didn't get any pictures of the night sky- so I'll paint you a picture and you'll just have to take my word for it. I've never seen the Milky Way, but holy smokes was it a sight to behold! Let me paint you a picture. Tall pine trees surround you but just over yander is an open field, you carefully walk the road to the open field because yes, it is in fact quite dark and just over the massive mountain you're going to hike tomorrow the bright Milky Way meets with the mountain top. Millions of stars strewn across the dark blue sky. The full moon starts to rise. You lay on the ground and start tracing out the constellations and pointing out the brightly beaming planets. With too many stars to count you start counting shooting stars. One..... two...... three.... four.... your wish bank is adding up. Crickets lightly chirping in unison in the background as if the earth is singing the moon a lullaby and your mind drifts off into oblivion thinking about the wonders of space.
Want to go?? You definitely should. The University of Utah's Astronomy department takes their huge telescopes down on the weekends and gives presentations to all the campers and whomever wants to attend. We opted out of the star gazing and telescopes for dutch-oven peach cobbler and some stargazing of our own instead, but if you've never seen the Milky Way this is a great place to do so!
I love to hike, and do it fairly often if you haven't noticed yet, but I have to admit I was pretty nervous (silently of course) for this one. We were camping at 10,000 feet and we were hiking up to Wheeler's Peak which was over 13,000 feet. Hands down the highest hike I've ever been on and the highest in the air I have ever been without being in an airplane. We prepared for an 8 mile round trip hike and much to our surprise it actually turned out to be a 12 mile hike. And yes, those extra four miles make a huge difference. And no, we did not get lost along the way.
I have found (for me) the most important thing is to keep a good pace and to breath as normal as possible to not get light headed, headaches or altitude sickness. Fun fact I also learned this trip was if you get a side ache to breathe out every time you step on the side your ache is, yes it worked well but messed up my breathing pattern. HA!
Now, I'm also pretty stubborn and this hike truly humbled me. It made me realize that
#1: it is okay to take breaks. Take them as often as you want and need. There is no race to get up a mountain and no competition, just the competition within yourself.
#2: It doesn't matter how long it takes you to get up the mountain, just as long as you do it.
#3: It is all a mind game. You need to be confident and believe in yourself! Just when you think you can't do it anymore and your body tells you so, your mind has 40% more to give.
#4: Everyone is struggling to get up the mountain so don't feel like you're the weak link.
#5: Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches are a great prize for the top
#6: So are power naps.
It took us a around 3ish hours to reach the summit and the last 45 minutes of the hike I was done for. I would count my steps and once I reached 100 I let myself rest. The last 10 minutes I put my pride aside and was basically crawling up the mountain to reach the top. Guys, it was totally worth it! The view up that high was absolutely incredible! We ate our sack lunch we pack and I was so physically exhausted that I found a nice rock and fell asleep. haha go figure! I knew I could sleep most places, but Indian style with my body bent forward and my head resting on the ground is a new record! Pretty funny, but I had to muster up energy for the long trek down!
If you're looking for a challenging, but rewarding hike to do I would suggest this one. It is a beast but the accomplishment of doing it makes me want to hike higher mountains! Push yourself and you will be amazed at what you can do!
Have you ever been in a cave that is 200+ feet underground? Neither had I until we made our last stop before leaving Great Basin National Park. This was no disappointment. It is a cold (seriously bring a jacket) hour long tour through the cave with a very knowledgable Park Ranger. The stalagmites and stalactites were pretty sweet along with the Park Ranger's "dad jokes" and the history of the cave. I also recommend checking it out before you head out of dodge!