Find Them Something Special

Sometimes you hear people complain how difficult it is to find the appropriate bride and groom gits for the couple whose wedding they’ll attend. It doesn’t have to be the case as there are really many choices out there once one starts to think and look around.

Most young couples these days may prefer cash as a gift. It allows them the freedom to spend the money as it suits them. Instead of receiving a gift that, although given with much love, may not be exactly what they want or need, the cash is useful in terms of choosing something one may have better use for. It may even help them towards a deposit for a first home!

Not everybody necessarily wants a gift that they can use or display in their home. Some couples may appreciate bride and groom gifts that would allow them to pursue a hobby or passion. There are plenty examples. If the couple enjoys doing things together, think of giving them a gift certificate that will make it possible for them to attend cooking classes, or maybe tickets to the theatre for a fixed period, provided of course that they enjoy that kind of activity. If they enjoy attending sports events, buy them season tickets to their favourite game. There are many possibilities.

However, some couples, especially young ones, may prefer a gift for the home which they can’t yet afford. Should they need something big or special for their home, it could be a great idea for friends or family buying them something as a group. Here one thinks of pieces of furniture, that built-in oven they’re looking at, lovely curtains, bed linen. The list goes on. If they have space outside, think of buying them a set of garden furniture, or even garden tools and maintenance equipment. If they live in an area where barbeque is an option, a barbeque set is a good idea too.

A group of friends or family members may even decide to treat the couple to a city break for a long weekend, or some away time in the countryside at a destination that they like. Of course, those who contribute to such as gift for a bride and her groom will have to be absolutely sure that the couple will like the destination. It is also good to keep in mind that a fixed date for this kind of gift may be unsuitable. It should have a number of possible dates that the couple can choose from.

Often a good idea for bride and groom gits could be something which they can remember for a long time even if it’s not all that expensive. Here one thinks of personalised items such as a set of towels, or a table cloth, or a set of smart glasses with their initials or names embossed on those. Some people are a bit more sentimental than others; personalised gifts may warm their hearts.

Another idea that could be good when one has to consider a good bride and groom gift may be to buy them something they actually never thought they would need but will be grateful for once they have it. At some point everybody, not only enthusiasts, will go on a road trip or picnic. Buy the couple a gift that will be useful at such a time. Examples include maybe a small tent, sleeping bag, mosquito repellent, a first aid kit, a special picnic basket or items such as bottle openers, small containers in which to keep drinks and food cool and fresh.

The important thing to remember when one considers bride and groom gifts is, of course, to establish the couple’s tastes and needs.

The Great Basin’s Lehman Cave

“There are two kinds of rocks in Lehman Caves,” the park ranger told the group. “Headbangers and kneeknockers. Watch for both when you’re in there.” Then she led us through a heavy door and into a long concrete tunnel. The patter of our footsteps raced and collided along the tunnel’s length. The placid, 50-degree Fahrenheit (10-degrees Celsius) air chilled us as we passed through the door that completed the airlock, and we finally entered the subterranean labyrinth.

When the sun is setting, Great Basin National Park in east-central Nevada lies in the shadow of the Snake Range’s Wheeler Peak, which, at 13,063 feet (3982 meters), is the highest point wholly within Nevada. Millions of years ago, magma intruded into the joint between the quartzite, constituting most of the Snake Range, and the limestone along the range’s eastern flank. The magma’s heat metamorphosed some of the limestone into marble. That was the crucial first step in the formation of the caves.

At one time, the climate of eastern Nevada was more humid than it is today and, consequently, the water table was higher. Rainwater, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the air to form carbonic acid – the weak acid of soda pop – soaked into the ground and dissolved the marble. As the climate dried, the water table dropped, and the trickling water emerged into vaulted rooms and passageways. Losing its carbon dioxide, the liquid deposited its burden of the mineral calcite (calcium carbonate) at the slower than snail’s pace – an inch per century – to form soda straws, stalactite daggers, stalagmite stumps, mysterious shields, graceful draperies and columns resembling the ruins of ancient Greece. To keep the difference between cave features clear in your mind remember that the word “stalactites” has the letter “c” and this feature comes down from the ceiling, and the word for the other well-known feature “stalagmites” has the letter “g” and comes up from the ground. So it’s “c” for ceiling (stalactite) and “g” for ground (stalagmite).

Actually, stalactites turn out to be soda straws that became plugged up. Soda straws have mineral-laden water dripping down through the center and leaving behind rings of minerals that can extend great distances if left undisturbed, up to 30 feet (9 meters). If the end becomes plugged, however, water can start dripping down the outside of the straw leaving minerals on the outside of the straw that continue to grow in an outward direction, thus becoming stalactites, as the former straw now starts to thicken.

Into the Gothic Palace

As the ranger led us past the cave’s natural entrance and into the Gothic Palace, she paused to tell us about Absalom S. Lehman. The proprietor of a ranch on the eastern slopes of Wheeler Peak, Lehman discovered the cave in 1885. In that year, he guided 800 people through its rooms and passageways; visitors had to climb down ladders into the vertical entrance, using only candle lanterns for illumination, according to the ranger.

When our group was a little farther along the path, the ranger turned off the electric lights, leaving only a candle lantern as our light source. As she raised the lantern from the ground, haunting shadows shifted across the somehow enlarged chamber. “Can you imagine exploring the caves this way?” she asked. After the lights were switched back on, we continued our six-tenths of a mile (1 km) journey through the white complex of narrow, twisting passageways and voluminous chambers. Some corridors were like art galleries displaying their sculptures openly. Other corridors obscured their treasures in confounding folds.

The Wedding Chapel and Beyond

After the Gothic Palace, with its arching ceiling and tall columns, we reached the spacious Wedding Chapel, which was actually used for five wedding ceremonies in the 19th century. In the adjacent Music Room, early tour guides would produce musical notes by tapping on the stalactites with mallets. However, this practice was discontinued after some of the stalactites were found crumbling.

Up past wooden stairs, our group came upon the Tom-Tom Room, which has the most famous geological feature of Lehman Caves – saucer-shaped plates called shields or pallets, angled out from the walls. No one knows exactly how shields develop. They may form when water, under pressure, emerges through cracks in the walls to deposit thin films of calcite, creating numerous pairs of facing plates that seem to defy gravity. Gradually, water builds columns underneath many of these shields. They only occur in one percent of all known limestone caves; so Lehman Caves would be special if only for its abundance of shields.

Going past the Dragon’s Den and the Queen’s Chamber, the ranger reached the Lodge Room at the crossroads of the trail system in the caves. She described how Clarence T. Rhodes, the first custodian of the cave after it had become public property, had urged members of the Knights of Pythias and the Boy Scouts from nearby Ely, Nevada, to hold their meetings here. Since the government didn’t have any money in the state budget to pay him. Mr. Rhodes was entitled to any fees he might charge for admission and, thus, had a vested interest in promoting the caves. Unfortunately for the Lodge Room, those visitors knocked down some of the ceiling formations to provide headroom, and the soot from their fires is still visible along the walls.

On through a tunnel, the ranger led us to the Inscription Room. A glance at the sooty letters and numbers on the ceiling and walls immediately told us the reason for the name. After pointing them out, the ranger shined her flashlight beside the tunnel we had come through to show us a low crawl space. “This is the old way to get into this room,” she explained. With only an 18-inch (45 cm) clearance, the passage earned the name of Fat Man’s Misery for those early visitors who made it through. To celebrate their quest, they marked the room with their initials or the date, the earliest of which is from the 1890′s.

The plunking of water greeted us in the Cypress Swamp. Miniature gods of Mt. Olympus might have luxuriated in the delicate, rimstone-diked pools along with a few curious, calcite creatures. The largest pool was named Lake Como, by Mrs. Rhodes after the famous lake in the Italian Alps.

The ranger saved the best for last. The Grand Palace offered us a gopher’s-eye-view of orange carrot-like stalactites, beet-shaped stalagmites and other root-like shapes in this veritable garden of natural rock formations. On some columns, contorted stubs called helictites – looking as though someone had included wax beans – pointed every which way, defying gravity.

The Parachute, the symbol of Lehman Caves, was frozen in time with its shield catching the air above dangling stalactite cords. We continued thinking heavenward on seeing the Angel’s Wing, a vertical shield overflowing with a tapering column, and on passing by fluted columns called the Pearly Gates. The Glacier, composed of flowstone where water deposited calcite while running over a sloping wall, crept in from one end of the chamber. Elsewhere, lacy crystals of aragonite, another form of calcium carbonate, decorated the wall. On our way back through to the exit tunnel, we were again reminded that Nature’s artful hand had graced Lehman Cave.

The Nature Trail

Outside the exit tunnel, a nature trail begins. By following it, you can learn more about the history of the park at the old cabin where Clarence Rhodes once lived, and get acquainted with the trees and shrubs of the park. Actually, the Snake Range gives you the opportunity to explore five different plant communities, representing the changes in vegetation from Mexico to Alaska. The first community, the upper Sonoran, named after Sonora, Mexico, surrounds Lehman Caves with piƱons and junipers and extends down toward the Snake Valley.

By driving 12 miles (23 km) toward the Wheeler Peak Campground, you can see the rest of the life zones. The transition zone of ponderosa pines, white fir and mountain mahogany begins around the Lehman Creek Campground, which has the largest mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) in the world. Quaking aspens are here and on up the mountainside.

Higher up the steep, twisting road, near the Peak overlook, the Canadian life zone begins, with Douglas fir and Englemann spruce predominating. From the overlook, craggy Mount Jefferson Davis is to the left and Wheeler Peak is to the right.

In a sense, you’re nearing the Hudson Bay by the time you make it to the Wheeler Peak Campground at about 10,000 feet (3048 meters). Limber pine, Engelmann spruce, and aspens shade the campsites. A trail system leads you to timberline, the highest margin of the Hudsonian zone, where an interpretive trail shows you the oldest living things on the planet – bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva). The oldest bristlecone, at almost 5,000 years, grew on the slopes of Wheeler Peak before being cut down in 1964.

It was named Prometheus by locals, who gave individual trees names including Buddha and Socrates. The story has it that a geographer studying Ice Age features tried to take a core sample of Prometheus in order to find its age. When the core sample boring tool broke, he resorted to cutting it down, with the Forest Service’s permission. It was only afterward when he counted the rings that he realized he had cut down the oldest known tree on Earth. It was later determined to be 4862 years old. Older bristlecone pines have been measured over the years since, but for a time, Prometheus held the record.

Lastly, the Arctic-Alpine zone extends up to the summit of Wheeler Peak, attainable by ascending 2,600 feet up a strenuous four-mile (6.5 km) trail. Little grows in this zone, except lichens, mosses, some hardy wildflowers and grasses in protected places.

On the way up to the campground, turn at an interpretive trail that tells the story of early gold mining in the area. To facilitate placer mining, the Osceola Placer Mining Company constructed a 30-mile (48 km) long ditch from Lehman Creek around the mountains in the early 1880′s. Their most notable find was a 24-pound (10.9 kg) nugget. The trail leads out to some of the remains of this project.

Another interpretive trail lies along the dirt road to the Baker Creek Campground. The Forest Service has laid out a trail of rock art made by the native culture pre-dating the present-day Paiute, Goshute and Shoshone tribes.

The best rock art in eastern Nevada, though, is the sculptures that Nature herself created in Lehman Caves.

Resources

To get to Great Basin National Park, drive about 68 miles (110 km) east from Ely, Nevada, along combined U.S. Routes 6 and 50 to their junction with State Route 487, then south to Baker and, finally, west along Route 488. Cave tours, which last an hour for the Lodge Room tour to an hour and a half for the Grand Palace tour, cost $8 and $10, respectively for adults, or $4 and $5 respectively for children 5 – 15 years old and seniors, but are free for children under 5 for the Lodge Room tour. Children under 5 are not allowed on the Grand Palace tour. Today, a paved path and tunnels make spelunking skills unnecessary but it still helps to have some level of fitness for these tours.

The park has five developed campgrounds and seven primitive campsites. The town of Baker has a motel and two private campgrounds, while additional accommodations are available in the cities of Ely in Nevada and Milford and Delta in Utah. Trails lead through these forests, to mountain peaks and to lakes and creeks of the Snake Range. The visitor center is outside the park in the town of Baker, so you can check on getting a campsite while arranging for your cave tour before you arrive at the park itself. For more information, write to Great Basin National Park, 100 Great Basin National Park, Baker, NV 89311 or call (775)234-7331.

The Great Basin National Park website is at: www.nps.gov/grba. Cave tour reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov.