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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Snowshoe to Lexington Arch

On our first day at Great Basin National Park, we drove in all the accessible roads to decide what adventures we wanted to undertake.  (See our blog entry about exploring the park. The first feature we drove in to see was Lexington Arch, in the southeastern corner of the park.  Although the snow stopped us from driving in as far as the trailhead, we knew we wanted to return to try to snowshoe to where we could see the arch.

Well, today was the day.  We headed out to Lexington Creek Road and drove in 10.5 miles to where the snow stopped us previously.  Along the way, we followed the NPS signs for the trailhead:

Our drive had some wildlife encounters.  On the way in, we spotted this lone pronghorn antelope bounding toward the road as we approached.  As soon as s/he realized we were approaching, s/he froze, then turned around and bounded off toward the trees:

On the way out, we also caught sight of a Great Blue Heron who was probably looking for lizards in the Lexington Creek watershed.  Unfortunately, our encounter was too sudden and short for us to get a photo of the beautiful, big bird.

Eventually, we arrived at the beginning of our showshoe:

Our path lay into the Lexington Creek Canyon, toward larger, steeper mountains:

As we continued on snowshoes along the road, we turned back for a look at our Jeep and the golden cliffs above it.  The view was dominated by our snowshoe tracks:

Generally, the snow was less than a foot deep, and, with the warming weather, the ground underneath has started peeking through the melting snow.  In the photo below, a regal, though fire-dead, tree stands in a garden of rocks and points our way with an orange blaze:

About a third of the way in to the trailhead to Lexington Arch, we encountered a cairn which was obviously intended to mark the 4-wheel drive road.  Kathy made sure to contribute her own rock to the pile:

Almost a mile in, we were approaching the trailhead just off the snowy road, when we looked up and spotted the arch in the distance, just above the bare trees (right-middle in the photo below):

Eventually, we made it to the trailhead, where, during warmer months, people who have driven in would debark their vehicles and start a 2-mile climb to get to the arch.  We found the trailhead sign, but it had been worn down to an illegible nothing -- white on one side and black on the other:

The trail to the arch is 2 miles long, and, according to the GPS map and our assessment of the terrain, we would have a steep climb up a canyon, then a long switchback around a rocky knob, before working our way over to the arch.  Frankly, the snowshoeing was already taxing and we wondered what we would achieve by inching our way up a steep trail in showshoes.

We looked for another approach.  Turning to the near side of Arch Canyon, we saw that two large hills offered a less steep climb, and we should be able to reach a shoulder which would give us a good view of the arch.  Even better, most of the climb could be done in bare boots, rather than in snowshoes.  We decided to try our bushwhack route rather than the trail.

As we climbed the steep hills, we looked back down into the Lexington Creek stream valley, where we had started from the trailhead at the snowy road.  We had gained a lot of elevation very quickly:

The hill we picked wasn't high enough to get a view of Lexington Arch over the shoulder of a hill that was nearer to the arch.  So we decided to cross the shoulder of our hill, down through a drainage, and back up to the shoulder of a hill nearer the arch, to see if we could get a view.

Our guess was good.  We climbed to the shoulder of the hill above Arch Canyon and gained a much closer view of Lexington Arch:

Having achieved our objective, we worked our way down the snowless slope of the second hill to a perch where we stopped for lunch and enjoyed views of the canyon.  Then, having feasted and rehydrated, we restrapped our snowshoes and worked our way back down to the road to begin our return hike to the Jeep.

Along the way, we discovered new perspectives on some of the things we had seen hiking in, including this cave tucked up at the base of one of the rocky peaks of the steep hills around us, that somehow we hadn't spotted on our hike up the creek:

Approaching our Jeep, we came into a more open section of the stream valley and, looking up to our left, spotted a snowy peak lurking just beyond the col between two nearby hills:

We were almost back to our Jeep -- in fact we had it in sight -- when we looked down at the snowshoe tracks we had left hiking in.  There, in all his glory, was a Snowshoe Happy Face congratulating us that we had almost completed our little trek:

When we reached the Jeep, we sat for a while, drinking down some hot chocolate we had packed for the trip, and admiring the spectacular views along Lexington Creek Canyon.  As we drove out, we spotted a cloud hovering over the desert where we were headed; it was showering Snake Valley with miniature snowball-type hail.  We thought we would drive through it, but by the time we arrived where it had been, it had moved on:

There wasn't much left to do now but to finish our drive home and look forward to the Veggie Black Bean Chili that Kathy put in a crockpot before we left.  Oh, yes, and perhaps a little Happy Hour Hydration in honor of Leslie's and Risa's birthdays.

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