Travels in the American Southwest

Lehman Cave to Bryce Canyon

Sunday, 8/31

Dallied over morning caffeine as the sun slowly warmed our campsite. The air was crisp and clean, as expected. I've heard it once described as the cleanest air in America. We slowly climbed the access road to the Cave's entrance when we saw one of Nevada's neatest off-beat attractions. It's called the Permanent Wave. It began when "Doc" Sherman of Baker, NV filled a glove with plaster and nailed it atop a fence post. Others have followed in the originator's footsteps by making art from the everyday items. A green garden hose becomes a comical snake. A toilet bowl sprouts flowers and an alien poses in ski attire (complete with ski!).

Lehman Caves is contained in the only US National Park in Nevada, the Great Basin Nat. Park. (OK, there's a little, little part of Death Valley National Park in Nevada by Devil's Hole.) Tours of the caves are offered daily in 30, 60 and 90 minute duration. Of course MSO and I chose the 90 minute tour and were glad we did. Melissa was our guide and was a font of knowledge. She touched on the anthropological (Native Americans inhabited only the first 100 feet of the cave system), geological (limestone caves are due to water becoming slightly acidic and eating away the limestone), and the historic (Absalom Lehman discovered the caves in 1885 and marketed them as a roadside attraction).

The tour is not handicap accessible and the short have a big advantage over the tall! After an informative talk from Park Service guide Melissa, we were told that a location considered sacred to Native Americans was located near the cave's entrance. The tribe has requested silence as you pass through the first 25 feet of so of the cave. Out of respect for the tribe's beliefs, a "no talking" zone exists at the very beginning of the tour.

The 90 minute tour covered four main rooms, Gothic Place, Grand Palace, Inscription Room and Lodge Room. Although it is a well worn cliche, pictures don't do justice to this feat of nature. Many types of speleothems can be seen on the tour. Speleothems? Yep, the familiar stalagmites and stalactites are seen in abundance, but so are formations known as soda straws (how all stalactites begin), helectites (small formations which grow in a topsy-turvy way defying gravity's effects), and shields (which look like a half a clam shell). Lehman Caves is famous for the abundance of shield formations contained in the caves. Many times, formations called draperies descend from a shield giving the formation the appearance of a parachute or as a young boy so aptly described one particular shield, "It looks like an elephant's foot stepped on bubble gum." Some of the sights we saw are here. The tour received a taste of total darkness as the guide extinguished all the lights. Darkness - The total and absolute lack of any glimmer of illumination.

When the tour concluded, we headed south into Utah. We took Route 21 which would give US50 a run for the title of Loneliest Highway. From Garrison on the Utah border to Milford some 90 miles east, the highway reminded me of US95 north of Las Vegas. Lots of rolling hills, sparsely covered with scrub. I suspect that many of the trees were sacrificed for the town of Frisco and its charcoal ovens. It wasn't until we approached Beaver that the hills came alive with conifer trees. Lots of them! I can only guess that there were no large-scale mining operations in this area, sparing the trees which surely would have been cut down and used as mining reinforcing timber as were most of the trees in Nevada. Gassed up in Beaver, then continued our travels southward - Destination: Bryce Canyon.

Rolled into Ruby's Inn late in the afternoon. For some reason, the day seemed exceptionally long and all we really wanted to do was cook some supper and then rest our weary heads. Built a small campfire and as the sun set, we relaxed to the sound of crackling wood in the fire. Neighbors to one side came out with their chairs and from their campsite also enjoyed our fire. They complimented us on our pyrotechnic efforts to which I said, "Honey, quick! Sell them tickets!" Their hearty laugh made the silly joke worthwhile.

As the fire burned lower, our other neighbor came over to the fire. "Your pipe below the RV seems to be hanging a bit low," he said. Standing next to the RV, I couldn't see what he was referring to until I walked a dozen yards away. He was sure right! The black water pipe (soil pipe) was hanging no more than a handswidth from the ground; It should have been a couple of feet from the ground. MSO said that we would have to look at the problem in the morning but I would have none of that! Wait? Ha! I crawled under the RV and started looking. First order of business was to raise the pipe to relieve the undue stress it was putting on the holding tank. The last thing I wanted was for the pipe to rip out from the tank. That would have left a smelly mess and rendered the commode unusable (and would have seriously annoyed the RV rental company!). Grabbed some wood and s-l-o-w-l-y tried to coax the heavy, waste-filled pipe back to its intended position. Realized that the pipe would be much easier to move were it not filled with waste, so I hooked up the drain hose, opened the waste valve and the pipe empties into the sewer connection. Well most of it did. Turns out that the darn drain hose had a number of small holes allowing the some of the effluent to squirt out. Like a pig wallowing in its own waste, I crawled on my back under the RV and used some baling wire to secure the pipe in its intended position. Pealed off my obscenely dirty cloths, took a nice long hot shower and called it a night, glad that I wouldn't have to face correcting the problem first thing in the morning!

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