The bar you can camp at in Baker, Nevada

22 Aug

Drive Highway 50 long enough across Nevada, and you’ll eventually end up near Baker, Nevada (you’ll have to detour south about two miles on Highway 487).  Baker is the gateway to Great Basin National Park (more to come on that). But let’s stop first in Baker.

Baker isn’t much of a town, it just seems to exist because Great Basin National Park exists and every park needs its gateway city. You can see from one end to the other. There’s not much happening. There’s a bar. The bar seems to be the epicenter. We missed participating in the bar’s horseshoe tossing tournament by a day. Maybe next time.

Anyway, this bar. It’s a bar, like you’d expect, but it’s not what you’d expect. The beer cooler is on the public side of the bar. If you get impatient waiting for the attentive bartender, you can just cut out the middleman and grab another yourself. There’s a quarter-operated pool table, but it’s been taken apart so that it doesn’t need quarters to function. Pool is free. And the beers — they’re cheap. Two local brews set us back $5.50 for the deuce, not per. Amazing. It’s the only bar in town (that we saw) and its prices are practically wholesale.

And, as the title implies, you can sleep here. Technically, it’s a campground-bar combo business. In practice, it’s a bar that just happens to have a campground in the back. The campground is an afterthought. The campground bathrooms are as clean as bar bathrooms. The grounds are as tidy as a barroom floor. It’s neglected. There’s even a line of six or so motel rooms you can rent. Sketchiness is free with the purchase of a room, of course. Bar/campground/motel … business synergy indeed. Well, I just realized we’re in Nevada, land of legalized prostitution — maybe there is some synergy to this after all. But it feels like the owners are spread a little too thin — like the thin film of grime in the bathrooms. The soap dispensers in the bathrooms haven’t been filled in ages — the remaining soap has dried and cracked thanks to the Nevada heat. Same thing with the paper towel dispensers — they’re empty too.

But the bar is great. The bar is where the park rangers hang out after work. One of our fellow patrons had sold us a ticket to the Great Basin cave tour earlier in the day, another had introduced the park’s newest junior rangers to the gathered masses inside the visitor center. They look different without their ranger hats and crisp uniforms.

Register at the bar if you arrive at the campground after 4PM. Have a beer before venturing into the campground bathrooms or taking a shower. The showers spray hot water, the campground is cheaper than a California State Park, and there’s a bar you can walk to — it’s not a bad place. It’s just a case of Comet and a bit of caring away from being perfect.

The bar.

The bar.

The cash register of a great bar -- note the bullets, moonshine.

The cash register of a great bar — note the bullets, moonshine.

This is what neglect looks like -- a long-empty soap dispenser at the campground.

This is what neglect looks like — a long-empty soap dispenser at the campground.