Like most curious travelers, we have an extensive wish list of places to see. We visited a handful of those places this year in spite of the dumpster fire that 2020 has been. Not with much success, however.
Almost all of our destinations have been fraught with challenges. Not in the over-used cliche’ of “it’s not an adventure if nothing goes wrong” sense. But in the we-really-never-got-to-start-the-adventure kind of way. Because we kept having to deal with issues just trying to stay afloat as full-timers living in 200 square feet.
The best-laid plans
One of those wish-list places is Great Basin National Park. It’s Nevada’s only national park and it’s tucked away on the far eastern edge of the state, pretty much between nothing and nowhere. And it’s spectacular.
We’ve both been to Great Basin individually on several occasions but have wanted to explore together for years. When a window of opportunity opened up, we jumped on it. With a couple of planned bunny hop stops along US 50 at Bob Scott Campground and Cave Lake State Park, we set out.
It felt great being on the road. We were ready. I rode my GS to get some seat time and to reduce the weight in the toy hauler. Our stops on the way were places we’d been before so we weren’t going in blind. We knew the parks well—the campground layout, our favorite campsites, what resources were available. It was a great plan.
A for effort
And our transit rhythm worked. After feeling so rusty earlier in the summer we’d found our travel groove. Cool, right? We were pretty pleased with our ability to recover our travel skills.
Except we got yet another surprise: stowaways.
We picked up mice at Cave Lake and spent basically all of our time there trying to manage the situation. We were already exhausted from constant cleaning, sleepless nights, and being on guard all the time.
With our move to Great Basin, we were hopeful for rodent relief. How silly of us. And surely the three miles of washboard road to get to the Baker Creek Campground would cause them to jump ship. Right? Oh, no no. Hardly.
We scored the site with the best view in the campground. We deluded ourselves that this had to be a sign of better times ahead. Until the camp host told us it was an explosive year for mice at Great Basin. Insert an unparalleled string of Val profanity here for the full effect of my reaction to that news.
Same problem, different place
Instead of improving our situation, it had gotten worse. Our mouse traps were working but we were outnumbered by a long shot. Our trailer was a rodent highway.
We were exhausted. Every day was an exercise in cleaning up the mouse mess, reworking our food storage, and figuring out how to get in front of the problem—including 140-mile round trips to Ely for mouse hunting supplies and deterrents. That was after no sleep from the stress of watching them poke their heads out of the stove grate every night and hearing them scurry about behind the cabinet doors. And returning to find other invaders had decided to get in on the fun.
It didn’t take too long to realize we needed to bail on Great Basin. Our situation couldn’t improve there. But we were too tired to think about towing. Or even decide where to go from there. We felt stuck and miserable. Sleep deprivation combined with stress is one nasty place to be.
So we took a break. Mouse and chipmunk infestation be damned. There was nothing more we could do at that point. And we were near the limits of our sanity. We needed some relief, a way to step out of the negative feedback loop that was consuming us.
A trip up Wheeler Peak Road was just the thing. We stopped at overlooks and pullouts to take in the scenery and, you know, actually enjoy the park. What a concept. That outing went a long way towards helping us decompress and step out of our troubles. We could think more clearly.
It’s a good thing we took the break when we did. The next day smoke from the California wildfires rolled in, blanketing the landscape. Our great view was obscured. Our eyes stung. Short walks around the campground left us coughing from the poor air quality.
I looked at J over happy hour that night and sarcastically asked him, “Are we living the dream yet?”
It seems that 2020 is the “lost year” for pretty much everyone, us included. We’ll give Great Basin a do-over. We’ve said that about pretty much every place we’ve been this year but the Great Basin disappointment took the cake. It was one of our top wish list destinations and it ended up being one of our worst experiences. We can’t leave that as our last memory of a place we love so much.
We will, however, not bring the trailer. Between the mice infestation and the three miles of washboard to get to Baker Creek Campground that nearly rattled it into six million little pieces, no thanks, we’ll pass. This is a job for the truck and the complex build we’ve been working on to serve as an overlanding-ish camping vehicle. That opens options for us at the Upper and Lower Lehman campgrounds. Our truck and trailer set up together is too big for those.
Sadly, we’ll leave Toby with his favorite sitter for the next attempt. Dogs aren’t allowed on trails at Great Basin, severely limiting what we can enjoy together. There is a sitting service in the nearby town of Baker but Toby requires special care in meeting other dogs. It’s not worth the time investment and energy when he’d be happier with his canine homies back in Carson City.
We’ll also be prepared to be offline. Cell signal is inconsistent and spotty in the park. We spent most of the time just frustrated. It was often just enough signal to tease us into thinking we could get something done but not enough to actually do anything. We weren’t ready to check out for the time we were there. We still needed to be able to work, even in the midst of our crisis. Our next visit will be purely for recreational purposes.
Oh, and we won’t go during peak rodent season.