Fifteen minutes later we arrived at the Visitor Center in Baker, NV, on the edge of the park. We stopped there first to see about cave tour tickets for Lehman Caves but were told we'd have to drive up to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center to purchase tickets.
So we immediately headed up there...we'd come back and check out Great Basin Visitor Center later. Lehman Caves Visitor Center is six miles into the park...
(Click on photos to enlarge)
View from the Visitor Center. That faint vertical white line in the distance is the road to our campground...
This is a leisurely walk in the pinyon-juniper forest. The trail guide (available for loan at the visitor center desk) describes the geology and ecology of the area...of course, we forgot to get the guide. The elevation here is 6825 feet with a gain on 80 feet on the trail.
We originally thought this was the entrance to the caves tour...turns out it is the exit...
The cabin was built in the 1920s by Clarence and Bea Rhodes, who were Forest Service custodians of Lehman Caves at the time. It is one of several built to provide accommodations for visitors to Lehman Caves. Today it contains interpretive exhibits.
The cabin measures 19 feet long and 11 feet wide with a front door, a side door, and four windows. It has been moved from its original location, restored, and placed on a concrete foundation. The logs, originally chinked with mud and concrete, are now chinked with cement made to simulate mud. The original roof was plank and sod supported by log beams, and the original floor was dirt.
The Rhodes Cabin was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 because of its association with the early tourist industry at Lehman Caves.
After our hike, we decided to take a drive to check out the campgrounds. Unfortunately, our truck is too big to drive all of the way up to the end of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Vehicles longer than 24' are restricted and we're 26'. It's too bad they don't have a shuttle service available. The campgrounds are as far as we can go and it's an 8% grade.
After we finished our tour of the campgrounds, we decided to drive back down to the Great Basin Visitor Center and check it out.
A little about the Lehman Caves...
Lehman Caves attracts tens of thousands of visitors to eastern Nevada yearly, a trend that began not long after their discovery in the late 1880s. For over 60 years, Lehman Caves National Monument protected these underground wonders, with their unique geology and ecology. And today, they remain protected as part of Great Basin National Park.
The human history of Lehman Caves is both interesting and insightful. The discovery of such a natural wonder only 130 years ago is thrilling, while the abuse the cave endured during its early years causes many people to cringe. Learning about the early years of Lehman Caves provides context for the cave today. History remains the great teacher.
Shortly before 2:00, we joined folks congregating in the area behind the Center for the tour. We had booked the "Grand Palace Tour"...Grand Palace Tours are approximately 90 minutes long. The Grand Palace Tour travels 0.6 miles, and children must be at least 5 years old to join the Grand Palace Tour (except on tours November through February). This tour visits the Gothic Palace, the Music Room, the Lodge Room, Inscription Room, and the Grand Palace sections of Lehman Caves, including a chance to view the famous "Parachute Shield" formation. Tour is limited to 20 visitors.
Then it was "tour time". We had a wonderful young lady leading the tour...I think her name was Becky. She was very knowledgeable and informative...and a great tour guide!
As you can imagine, Steve took A LOT of pictures...