National Park #26: Great Basin, Day 2

Previous Day

We started out early in the morning to summit Wheeler Peak (13,063). (A)  You’re in beautiful forests with comfortable trails until you get about a mile past Stella Lake  It’s pretty tame until you get above the treeline and then you’re in switchback/scrambling/sucking air hell.  For the last 1,000 feet of the ascent, we probably averaged 30 seconds of progress for every 2 minutes of rest.  Breathless, we made it to the top (B) found a friend, a Black Rosy-Finch, one of the highest nesting birds in North America.  The trail is 8.6 miles, round-trip, with about 3,000 feet of elevation gain.  It was quite satisfying from the top but we couldn’t linger too longer as there was a storm the next mountain over.

Mount Wheeler Trail 2

The forest approach to the peak

Mount Wheeler Meadow

The meadow above Stella Lake, the beginning of the switchbacks.

Mount Wheeler Trail 1

Wheeler Peak

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Black Rosy-Finch

Once we returned to the trailhead, we drove down to the visitor center (F) for some ice cream and rest.  Alison took a brief nap in the shade while I explored the area surrounding the building.  Our ongoing joke about the best birding in national parks being the area around the parking lot held true.  As I was walking around, I ran into a Common Nighthawk being harassed by an Ash-throated Flycatcher.  Violet-green Swallows circled overhead and a Black-throated Gray Warbler was spotted behind the cave trail.  Once Aly woke up, she came to join me an ended up finding a second nighthawk right off the main path down from the caves.  Who knows how many people walked right past this little guy!!

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Ash-throated Flycatcher

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… and the offending Common Nighthawk.

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Nighthawk, perched right next to the Lehman Caves path.

Finally, after an action packed day, we head back to our site (D), had a cold beer, and made steak fajitas on the fire.

Upper Lehman Creek Camp 2

Upper Lehman Creek Campsite

Next Day

Here are my eBird checklists from the day:

Wheeler Peak Trail

Lehman Caves Visitor Center

One comment

  1. Shannon · October 5, 2015

    We had the same experience in the Tetons with the birds and parking lots. They were simply everywhere, and people had no idea.


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