Monday, February 29, 2016

Lehman Creek, Great Basin National Park, Baker, Nevada

With patches of snow still on its forested banks, tiny Lehman Creek winds its way northeast through Great Basin National Park, downhill toward Baker, Nevada.

Most of Great Basin National Park was closed due to winter snow, but I found this little spot by historic Lehman Creek to leave a milkweed seed ball. I think Liz would have appreciated the scenery.

Lehman Creek is named for one of Baker, Nev., earliest American settlers, Absalom Lehman. (I say “American” settlers because Shoshone were already here, as well as the Fremont culture before them.) NPS’ Great Basin National Park subsite has a great bio about Lehman, a failed ‘49er who struck gold in Australia, then wound up a Nevada rancher.

What fascinates me the most about Lehman is his orchard, which he irrigated with the creek. At its height, the orchard had hundreds of apple, peach, and other trees in a region with about 8 inches of rainfall per year. A handful of the trees still live to this day, and park visitors can sample them in season.

When Liz and I visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park, in the Chihuahuan Desert, there was a historical orchard at Frijole Ranch. Like Lehman’s place, the orchard is irrigated by a creek coming out of the mountains. There, too, the orchard survives, and visitors can take a bite. In olden days, the family also produced and sold eggs and dairy.

I find it intriguing – yet obvious when you think about it – that what today we’d call truck or market farms were an important part of settler economies. They couldn’t ship in Chilean grapes, now could they? Yes, wagons, mule trains, or early railroads could bring in dry goods, but if you wanted fresh eggs, dairy, vegetables, or fruit, someone had to farm them locally. Or else you’d have to do it yourself.

We may get back to localizing our produce someday as petroleum becomes more scarce, unless we can find an alternative fuel to cheaply move goods long distances.

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