Early in the morning my husband and I were awakened by the strangest squawking/screeching noise unlike anything we had ever heard. As abruptly as it began, it stopped. Curious!
The answer of what the noise was came as I was walking to the camp “facilities”. As I said good morning to the car-camping couple next to us, they said they were sorry for the racket. They went on to say that a “bald eagle” had come to their camp that morning and was begging food! So what did they do? Fed the “eagle” frozen burrito, that’s what! I was stunned! I couldn’t wait to get back to camp to share the story and a good laugh!
After a quick breakfast, we packed up and headed out to downtown Ely for a ride on the Nevada Northern Railway. Luckily for us, the historic steam engine was running that day (they also have a historic diesel engine).
We bought tickets for the train ride ($27/adults, $16 kids 4-12, toddlers 0-3 free), however, they also offer walking tours, rides with the engineer and other activities that may cost an additional fee. Could be worthwhile if you have a train buff in the family or older children.
While we were waiting for our boarding time, the engineer asked if the kids would like to check out the century old steam engine. Drake stepped right up and received a short lesson on the engineers’ job and to try out the train horn. He loved that! Make sure you ask if that is possible for your kids while you are there. A highlight for sure!
Once on-board, we had the freedom to move between an open air car and an enclosed car. We began the journey outside, however, as the train starts going and the wind is right, little pieces of coal, ash and soot fall on you. Now, this didn’t really deter the boys, however, we girls preferred to spend a little more time indoors.
Half-way through the 90 minute ride, you come to the end of the line. You have a little bit of time here as they have to turn the train around (you do not get off). While waiting, you can enjoy the little mock town including a cemetery and a hanging man. In the distance you can also see an active mining operation. The train returns to the station on the same track so switching sides gives you a whole new perspective! Our family really enjoyed this adventure and highly recommend if your family is close to Ely, NV.
Back on the road, we made the one and a half hour drive to our final destination of the day; Great Basin National Park (the only National Park in Nevada). From the miniscule town of Baker, we ascended over 1,500 feet to the Lehman Caves Visitors Center (There is also a Visitor Center in Baker). Here, we picked up Junior Ranger books for the kids, enjoyed videos, exhibits, and a short nature hike. We purchased our cave tour tickets here as well (for another day).
We decided to stay at the first-come, first-serve, Wheeler Peak Campground and to get there, you must take the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Keep in mind that this road is closed to single vehicles in excess of 24 feet in length (i.e. RV) and trailers in excess of 24 feet in length. (If you find yourself over the limit, there are four other campgrounds to choose from). As we began our ascent, we could see why there are restrictions. The road twisted and turned as we quickly gained altitude. The weather went from warm, almost hot, to blissfully cool. It was slow going but we were richly rewarded when we arrived. An almost empty campground!
Wheeler Peak campground is beautiful! Sitting at an elevation of 9,886 feet, you are in the middle of a lush forest. The campground road rings around a large verdant meadow where deer are often spotted. Campsites are spaced nicely and screened by trees. They include a fire ring and picnic table and the campground offers vault toilets and the best tasting water you can imagine! We chose site 32 which was perfect (although the picnic table was on the opposite side of our door). The best part for the kids was the running creek in our site. They spent lots of time trying to build log bridges and making crossing. With Crocs on, it didn’t matter if they got their feet wet. We even had a doe with her fawn walk right through our campsite!
After dinner, we enjoyed the coming of the nighttime by our campfire. Soon, the sky was a blanket of stars. A perfect ending to our day.