National Geographic : 1989 Jan
TAKING A RESPITE, hikers pause in a glacial basin (below) near Wheeler Peak, second highest mountain in Nevada after 13,140-foot Boundary Peak. Snow and ice remain year round at the top, feeding alpine lakes and trout streams. Those who venture from the paved 12-mile scenic drive may be rewarded with views of bristlecone pines (left), sanded smooth as a fence post by millennia of rough winds. Or they might be shocked by the sight of roaming cattle or sheep. Great Basin is one of the few national parks to permit grazing, and the only one without a deadline for phas ing out the practice-acompromise with live stock and mining interests to facilitate its founding. While the park has seen a 70 per cent increase in the number of visitors since its opening, totals remain modest. Last year roughly 75,000 travelers used the park. UNDERGROUND ARCHITECTURE dazzles visi tors to the park's Lehman Caves (above), a mile-and-a-half-long string of limestone chambers opened to the public in 1885. Aptly called the Gothic Palace, this room drips with formations: columns, hanging stalactites, draperies, stalagmites, flow stone. While growth averages an inch every hundred years, similar formations may be thousands of years apart in age, depending on water flow and calcite concentration. Those preferring physical challenge crawl into Little Muddy Cave, a maze discovered in 1978.