Mystic Hot Springs, Utah

August 26th and 27th, 2014

South of Manti we meet the Sevier River again and enter the Sevier Valley to find the town of Richfield.  With its 7,500 people, Richfield is the largest town in central Utah. I stay here two days in a motel with a good internet connection in order to get caught up on some work. As mentioned earlier, as I travel I continue to work on translations and corrections of scientific articles.

Currently working on: Sewage sludge application in a forest plantation: effects on trace metal transfer in soil-plant-snail continuum

Like Manti, Richfield is a pleasant town with many nice old houses (many of them even nicer and more characteristic than in Manti), but I’ve already taken enough pictures of houses.  Richfield also has all the services you might want and so I seek some advice about my computer at Intermountain Computer Services where Noah is very helpful. I also get a very good haircut from Julie at Tangles.

One day I drive out of Richfield to the town of Monroe, about 15 minutes south, where an old hot springs resort now called Mystic Hot Springs is to be found. The proprietor, Mystic Mike, took over the resort in about 1996 and also organizes concerts and other artistic activities on the site. However, I get the impression that Mystic Mike is a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of his undertaking. The grounds are not kept up very well, yet Mystic is still an interesting place. I cite their mission statement and disclaimer:

Mission Statement: Mystic Hot Springs creates an authentic environment which raises self-awareness by direct experience with nature, art and antiquities.”

Disclaimer: Mystic Hot Springs is a one of a kind place. You will not find it anywhere else. Some say it’s like stepping back in time to the 60’s or 70’s. Things are imperfect. We realize that there’s a lot we could do to improve it. We understand that things are always changing. We have learned to appreciate it for what it is at this moment.”

You can learn more about Mystic Hot Springs here.

What is remarkable here are the solid rock formations that have that have been created through the flow of the heavily mineralized waters:

1_Monroe_mineral formation

Hot springs parsnips perched upon a giant tomato?


With some background scenery:

5_Monroe_formation4b 6_Monroe_formation5


The waters flow from this spring…

10_the main spring1

…through a series of ditches:

12_waters flow via ditches 15_ditches4



At one point the ditches pass under these greenhouses…


…where we find these plants…

18_inside the green house


The waters soon reach the soaking tubs and pools. But first we are informed of Mystic’s policy:

7c_no nudity, etc.

No alcohol, no glass, no dogs…these are standards at any developed hot springs resort. But no nudity? I find that disappointing as it seems to me that soaking in hot springs while nude is the most natural thing in the world. Yet I understand that, in the midst of a very conservative community, Mystic Mike can’t exactly allow the locals to think that a bunch of people are running about naked just blocks from their homes.

Mystic has many individual soaking tubs that are, in fact, real bath tubs:

7b_soaking tub

One of them is being absorbed by the rock:

7_Monroe_saoking tub in rock

The main pools:

8_main pool with house 9_main pool2

9b_main pool3


The waters finally flow into these ponds:


24b_pond2 24c_pond3


Since it overlooks the Sevier Valley and the town of Monroe, Mystic is a good place to take pictures:



As you can see once again, the desert is never far.

And neither is suburbia:



On its grounds Mystic has a number of bungalows that can be rented:


This one is an old pioneer cabin that has been transported here from elsewhere. Up and down the Sevier Valley I’ve seen many old structures such as this one.

Some of the bungalows seem not to have been finished yet:

28_bungalow_unfinished 28b_bungalow_strange


There are also a number of other inhabitants at Mystic:

29_menagerie1_llama 29b_menagerie2_llama

29c_menagerie3_goat 29d_menagerie4_ostrich


The day’s soaking experience is quiet and relaxing. Mission accomplished.

I’ll soon be leaving this area.  A whole series of national parks awaits me in southern Utah.



Into Utah…

August 24th and 25th, 2014

I drive down the canyon from Great Basin National Park toward the dry valley and small town of Baker below:

1_as I head down into the dry valley

The desert is never far.


On the way I see this ancient wreck in a field beside the road:

2_I come upon this 1920 Dodge and its driver

The driver doesn’t look like he’s fit to be behind the wheel of a car.  Someone has written “1920 Dodge” on the side of the car. I turn around to look at my own 2011 Dodge, some distance back:

3_and I cast a glance at my 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

I have a decision to make. I really don’t know which way I’m going when I get down to the highway, either left to go into central Utah, or right, to southern Utah and the string of national parks that await me there. This type of dilemma will arrive more than once.

I decide that I want to see central Utah too, so I turn left and soon cross the stateline…

4_cross into Utah, yellow flower and desert grass

…where these familiar flowers greet me and the clumps of desert grass are much thicker and more widespread than in Nevada.

We continue to go up over small mountain ranges and then through low valleys, but a new feature soon appears. This is Sevier Lake, a dry or not so dry lake (you decide, based on what you see here):

5b_Sevier Lake bis

Sevier Lake, into which flows the Sevier River…

6_into which flows the Sevier River, or what's left of it

…or what’s left of it after so much of its water has been taken for irrigation.

In the town of Delta the Sevier River welcomes me with those familiar yellow flowers:

7_Delta_the Sevier River with flowers

The Sevier is to become a friend that I will meet again and again.

From here I head north and east through Millard, Juab and Sanpete counties, through irrigated farmlands and neat little towns like Nephi, Fountain Green, Moroni and Ephraim. Moroni, if you don’t know, is the name of the angel who appeared to young Joseph Smith and instructed him several times. Regardless of what anyone may think of the Mormon Church, I’m struck by Mormon efficiency and ingenuity in making this desert bloom. After the dry valleys of Nevada, the town and entire valley of Nephi is particularly impressive with its green fields. Then again, Utah seems to have water that Nevada simply does not have.

Driving down the Sanpete Valley we see the profile of the Manti Mormon temple from some distance–somewhat incongruous in this terrain, yet entirely expected. Once in town I take this close up:

8_Manti temple, on arrival


Manti, named after a city mentioned in the Book of Mormon, is a very pleasant town…

9_downtown Manti-pleasant town

…and a historic one in the framework of the Mormon migration and settlement of Utah. It was the first settlement founded outside the northern Wasatch strip (Ogden, Salt Lake, Provo) and one of the first communities to have a temple…

This statue is of the Indian chief Wakara and some Mormon immigrants. Wakara is said to have invited the Mormons to settle here  to teach his people the ways of farming:

10_a historic Mormon town

I wonder if Wakara knew what he was letting himself in for.


I take several pictures of the temple at different times of the day:

That first afternoon, on arrival…

11a_Manti temple-afternoon

…that evening…

11b_Manti temple-evening

…the following morning, the north profile…

11c_Manti temple-morning

…and the south profile:

11d_Manti temple-south profile-morning


The temple grounds are a good place from which to take pictures of the town and its surroundings:


12a_view north_green fields

…south and west:

12b_view south_green Manti 12c_view west_green fields

Notice the shadow of the temple in the foreground of the righthand picture.

I take a long bike ride around the town this morning, taking pictures of the irrigated fields west of town; everywhere, everything is green:

12d_irrigated fields west of town 12e_irrigated sheep pasture


I take pictures of many of the houses, too. Manti appears to be one of those idyllic American towns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

14a_Manti house 14b_Manti house

14c_Manti house 14d_Manti house

14e_Manti house 14fbis_very nice

New or old, well kept or not, they reflect a period, and an image.  Of course, there are many houses of more modest standing too and also, as all over the US, a number of mobile homes.


Other noticeable buildings in town…

This was once a Presbyterian church, but is now home to the American Legion:

13b_old Presbyterian

The local Mormon church, with its characteristic low roof and short steeple:

15_Manti Mormon church parking lot

Not a very good angle, but it was the best I could do. This is taken on Monday morning. At 4 o’clock on Sunday afternoon this parking lot was full to overflowing.

Later this morning I go for a drive around the valley and take pictures of the countryside…

17a_green countryside around Manti

…and of the town from an overlook:

18a_view of Manti from above_west 18b_view of Manti from above_south


Manti is well known for its annual Mormon Miracle Pageant which takes place every year in the early summer. You can learn more about it here.

And you can learn more about the Manti temple here.

Great Basin National Park, below ground

August 23rd, 2014, afternoon

One of the main attractions at Great Basin National Park is the Lehman Caves.

This afternoon I spend an hour and a half underground. Our guide, Karen, takes us through this door (not the original entrance, of course)…

1_afternoon visit of Lehman Caves began here

…and into a series of galleries and passages…

3_and on we went 2_arrived in first gallery

…and broken stalactites

4a_broken stalactites 4b_broken stalactites

Legend has it that Lehman, the man who theoretically discovered the caves (I say “theoretically” because the native peoples of the region had known about them for centuries), told his visitors (who paid a price to visit the caves): “If you can break it, you can take it.”  So of course many people tried to break off a piece of stalactite, and many of them succeeded.

This formation is called cave wallpaper:

5_cave wallpaper

Karen says that this is called cave popcorn…

9_cave popcorn

…these are cave draperies…

7_cave bacon

…and cave bacon:

6_cave draperies


I call these cave parsnips:

8_cave parsnips


The passages can be very narrow:

10_the passages are sometimes very narrow


I call these guys cave gods:

11_cave gods


Obviously, the colors sometimes come from the artificial lighting:

13_the colors sometimes come from the lights


What would you call this?

14_what would you call this


Here are some more broken stalactites. If you look closely you can see how, little by little, they reconstruct:

16_more broken...notice the... 19_broken...notice the...


When a stalactite and a stalagmite join forces, they form a column:



We move into a new gallery:

17_new gallery


There are just too many formations to comment upon:

21a_too many 21c_too many

21d_to count 21b_too many


A cave organ…

25_a cave organ

…a cave grotto…

15_cave grotto

…a cave altar…

29_an altar


Stalagmites, standing in a pool of water (though the water is difficult to see):



Powdered sugar?

22_with powdered sugar





In yet another gallery, one in which the locals used to have parties, we see this writing on the ceiling:

31_the inscription room

Karen says that even if they wanted to, the cave authorities couldn’t erase these inscriptions without possibly damaging the formations. Thus, like the broken stalactites, these writings remain as reminders of what we have done in the past and to make us think about what we should or should not be doing, now and in the future.


One last photo and then it’s back to the surface:



Back in camp I make an early dinner of chicken, rice and vegetables…

34_and I made an early dinner... 36_an early dinner, before going to the astronomy evening

…before going to an astronomy evening. That turned out to be very interesting under these very dark skies of the Great Basin. But I’m here in a cool and rainy period and at this altitude it gets cold at night. I’m not dressed for it.

Tomorrow I’ll be on my way east again.


Great Basin National Park, above ground…

August 23rd, 2014, morning

After a rainy night, the view above the campground:

22_view from my camp site in the morning light, after the rain

And then a few minutes later:

23_then a few minutes later...

But it clears up again in a few minutes. It’s a beautiful day.


I have a busy day planned, but first there’s morning coffee and some organizational work to be done:

24_morning coffee, getting organized

When you move about so often, packing and unpacking, keeping track of everything is essential. Where do I keep this? Now where did I put that? More on this in a future post.


First I drive up this side of Mt. Wheeler, or Wheeler Peak (the mountain seems to go by both names)…

27_drove up Mt. Wheeler, from eastern side

…from which we see the dry valley in the distance:

28_view from above, another Nevada valley below

I take the nature walk at the Wheeler Peak parking lot and campground where we can see some interesting forest specimens. Great Basin National Park is known for its bristlcone pine trees which can live  from two to three thousand years:

30a_saw some interesting forest

I don’t think this is one of them, though. You have to walk up higher that  9,500 feet to see them and I don’t go up that high.  For some good pictures of truly ancient bristlecones, though, look here.

The trail twists and turns among the pines:

30d_but I don't think these are the famous bristlecones

A stand of aspens comes into view, a good sign, they say, for the evolution of the forest:

31_saw abundant aspens; good sign


Of course, I take pictures of whatever wildlife crosses my path: the ritual deer…

32_the inevitable deer

…and, will wonders never cease, a chipmunk.

33_and I even caught a chipmunk, Katie...

Katie, do you see that ? I actually got a photo of a chipmunk! My career as a wildlife photographer may yet come to be.


Before we go on, let me bring you up to date on that art car we saw at Spencer’s Hot Springs. As of this posting, September 7th, Burning Man 2014 has come and gone. But you can now see pictures and a video of that art car, The Mushroom Patch, here, and here.

And have I told you about my conversation with the bartender at The Major’s Place? It went something like this:

Bartender: You know, I’ve been in Nevada for nearly 15 years and I thought I’d heard of everything, and then this guy comes in here the other day and tells me he’s going to this thing called Burning Man. What the hell is that?

Me: It’s sort of an arts festival, but more. I went there with some friends back in 2006.

Bartender: Well, tell me about it.

Me: Well…guy named Larry Harvey…divorce…big party on beach in San Francisco…big fire to burn the old man and bring in the new…the Man…art exhibits of all sorts…got out of hand…moved to Black Rock Desert in Nevada…gift-giving economy…leave no trace… Well, maybe you should just Google it, here.


Since the title of this post is “Great Basin National Park, above ground…”, you can imagine what my next post will be.


Pott’s Ranch Hot Springs and more

August 21st and 22nd, 2014

I get up early and pack up, but try as I might it is nearly 9 a.m. before I leave the campground. This is a trend that has proven difficult for me to change.  More on it in a future post.

And I make my way down the other side of the Toquima Range into the Monitor Valley where Pott’s Ranch Hot Springs is located a short distance to the south.

Some views of the ranch as you drive up:

1_Pott's Ranch 2_house and out building


The springs are found a bit further along the road behind the house. Once again I find a primitive hot spring that has nevertheless undergone some improvements by kind souls among the hot springs aficionados who pass this way. I’m alone here and so I fill the tank and soak at my leisure:

3_I fill the tank 4_it fills up quickly and I have a soak

The view, while soaking:

5_meadow from Pott's pool

Once again, Nevada, need I say more.

And in the immediate vicinity of the pool:

6_these flowers 8_spring

It’s so peaceful here that I’d like to stay longer, but I need to be on my way. Great Basin National Park is next on my agenda.

Time now for a bit of digression.

In his travel book on the US, Lost Continent, Bill Bryson begins his chapter on Nevada like this:

“Here’s a riddle for you. What is the difference between Nevada and a toilet? Answer: you can flush a toilet. Nevada has the highest crime rate of any state, the highest rape rate, the second highest violent crime rate (after New York), the highest highway fatality rate, the second highest rate of gonorrhea (Alaska is the trophy holder)… I crossed the border from Utah with a certain sense of disquiet.”

Well, I think Nevada deserves better than this shabby introduction from Bryson. Everywhere I find the people friendly and ready to help out. And I need it when Van gets a flat tire after we leave Pott’s Ranch. I’ve changed many a flat in my time, but the difficulty here is to find the spare where Dodge has so carefully hidden it.  I finally find it and manage to get it out with the advice of some Nevada hunters who stop on this desert road to help. When I get into the town of Eureka, there too people are kind and helpful in directing me to a repair shop. I finally have to go on to the next sizeable town, Ely, to get a new tire. Enough said about the tire incident, but everyone I meet along the way is great.

We get into Ely too late to have the tire fixed that day. I need a bath and a beer and so does Van, so we go to a motel.

Moving right along…

The next day, both of us washed, rested and repaired, we head east from Ely, still on Highway 50–the lonliest road. I stop forsome coffee at a place called The Major’s–a restaurant, bar and RV park–where I take this picture of Mt. Wheeler:

10_the next day, Mt. Wheeler, from Major's Place on Highway 50

Mt. Wheeler is in the national park, but the park’s entrance is on the other side of the mountain.

Mt. Wheeler and the open road…

11_Mt. Wheeler and the open road

…with some flowers along the way that I don’t think I’ve seen yet:

13_along the way, flowers not seen before 14_these flowers too


We arrive at the park and find a campsite, with a table and a fire pit…

15_arrived at GBNP and found camp site 16_with table and fire pit

…right along side this stream:

17_and a stream close by

The view above the campground:

18_the view across the valley


The altitude here is relatively high, more than 7,000 feet, and there is a lot of moisture thus the vegetation is lush, with many aspen trees and some serious webbing on some of the plants…

20_and aspen trees, not yet seen 21_some impressive web in the thick growth

…these flowers along the stream…

19_ flowers along the stream

…many wild rose bushes nearby…

21c_back on the surface and back at camp, wild rose bush

…and thick grass on the opposite bank…

21b_one last look at lush vegetation the next morning

But notice the dry hills in the background, sagebrush and stubby pines. The desert is never far.

The bar tender at The Major’s said they’d had a lot of rain lately. Sure enough it begins to thunder and lightning, and it rains off and on all evening. I don’t have time to make dinner, so it’s crackers, cheese and fruit in the back of Van. I spend the evening with a book. I’m reading–or re-reading rather–Travels With Charlie. More on that in a later post.

Spencer’s Hot Springs and the Toquima Cave

August 20th, 2014

I make my way to Spener’s Hot Springs, not far at all from Austin, in the Big Smoky Valley. But when I drive up to the springs, what do I see but this contraption:

30_young and old

And I think, aha, these people are going to Burning Man. The contraption in question is an art car. This one is disassembled, of course, to be transported to the festival in the Black Rock Desert. I chat with its owners as I, too, have been to Burning Man. That was in 2006. You can learn more about Burning Man here.


The main spring at Spencer’s looks like this:

4_main pool bis

There are other springs nearby, here and there among the sagebrush, such as this one:

11_nearby pool

With a second, and much cooler pool nearby, full of goldfish:

12_with gold fish in the runoff pool


I had a nice soak (several, in fact) and interesting conversation with the usual interesting collection of hot springs fans present, and a nice morning walk in the vicinity.

True to the spirit of the hot springs community, someone has made this maze:

6_someone has made this maze

…which leads to this offering:

7_that leads to this offering


But the best part is the tranquility of this place, and the view over Big Smoky Valley:

8_the view out across Big Smoky Valley

As I walked I took a few pictures of the local inhabitants…

10_jack rabbit, lower left, Katie...

…such as this jackrabbit that you can see on the lower left, if you look hard.

But it was soon time for me to go on to my next destination, up in the Toquima Range, in the Toiyabe National Forest, just a few miles distant:

13_on my way to my next destination

As I said, this forest demands a new definition of the word “forest”.

The road behind me and the road in front:

15_behind me 16_before me


But we soon meet the trees:



And I arrive at my destination:

19_I soon arrive at my destination

Shooting practice appears to be a big sport in these parts.

I find a campsite:

20_I find a campsite...

It’s a small, primitive campground, only four or five campsites, probably frequented mainly by hunters. I like it here, it’s so calm and peaceful.


Now I head off to the Toquima Cave and its drawings, a fifteen-minute walk away along an easy trail. As the trail progresses I like this forest more and more:

23a_as the trail progresses 23b_I like this forest more and more

We now approach the cave…

24_as I approach the cave..

… up these few steps…

25_the final steps

…we can’t go in…

26_but we can't go in

…but I can take pictures:

27_but I can still take pictures 28a_and pictures

28b_and more pictures - Copie 28c_and even more

From the information signs posted we learn that these drawings were intended to summon the spirits to bring good luck for the hunt and that no other message was intended.


28d_it is explained that...

Today this cave is a sacred site for the contemporary Shoshone people. You may want to zoom in to get a better view of these pictograms. Or look them up on Wikipedia here.


On the way back to the campground I take an interest in the trees, both young…

29_on the way back... 29b_I get interested

29c_in the different 29d_trees of this forest

…and old.

30a_young and ol 30b_as the old are sculptures

The old are like sculptures.

Back at the campground the evening is beautiful:

32b_closer up

As I said, I like it here. I have the whole place to myself.


The Open Road…out across the desert

August 19th, 2014

As I come down from Johnsville, on the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, I’m already in the Great Basin. I leave behind the thick pine forests and the mountain meadows:

1_coming down from the Sierra


I encounter some plants that will be my faithful companions all across the desert:

2_frequent plants1 3_plants2


The particularity of the Great Basin is this: all water that comes into the Great Basin stays in the Great Basin. All the rivers–the Truckee, the Humboldt, the Reese, the Sevier, the Jordan (yes, there is a Jordan River in the US, in Utah, of course), the Bear and others all flow into inland lakes such as Pyramid Lake, the Great Salt Lake, etc. No water flows to the sea.

To the east of the city of Reno the state of Nevada shows its true terrain…

4_Nevada terrain reveals itself

…including its oases in the river valleys.


The open road shows its true face too:

5_the open road too


On the other side of the town of Fallon (which calls itself the “oasis of Nevada”) the notion of distance becomes very clear:

6_on the other side of Fallon...

(In miles, of course.)


The fabled US Highway 50…

7_fabled Highway 50

…also known as “The Lonliest Road”:

8_the lonliest road


It’s just you and me, Van…

9_just you and me, Van

…and the Nevada landscape:

10a_and the Nevada landscape 10b_landscape

10c_landscape 10d_landscape


The skyscapes can be as beautiful as the landscapes:

11a_skyscape1 11b_skyscape2 11d_skyscape4

Nevada! Need I say anything more?


The road goes on, straight and narrow…

12_road goes on, straight & narrow

…into the town of Austin.


Austin, with 350 inhabitants, has 3 churches:

13_into Austin, church no. 1 14_church no. 2

15_church no. 3

I believe that this last church is, in fact, closed, like half the stores along the main street.

Austin has a courthouse too, presented as a “historic” building :


Three churches and a courthouse, but no grocery store. That’s Austin. No problem, I shopped in Reno before venturing out here.


On I go, to the Bob Scott Campground in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest:

17_on I go to...

After the giant redwoods and the stately pines of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this forest demands yet another definition of the word “forest”.


The campground in the evening light:

19_campground evening light


I make a quick dinner of sautéed summer squash and bulgur wheat:

22_a quick dinner, sautéed summer squash and bulgour


The campground in the morning light:

24a_in the morning light 24b_morning light

We’re in the Toiyabe Range here. Since Fallon we have gone over several ranges and crossed through several valleys. Nevada is like that, up and down, up and down.


My neighbors are from Holland:

25_the neighbors are from Holland


Making breakfast:

26_making breakfast


Desert sage is rampant here, but I also notice this clump of desert grass:

28a_but I notice this one too


And this little fella too:

29b_and this little fella


And now we’re off. And you’ll soon see why I stopped in Austin.





August 18th, 2014

I leave Redding this morning, heading east into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After getting back from the hot springs yesterday afternoon I did some shopping and a few other errands. Redding is the California town that, in fact, I now know the best. It’s where my mother lived for many years until her death in October of 2013. I would visit her here and spend days at a time in town and visiting the surrounding area.

I pass by my mother’s house on my way out of town. The new owners have, of course, changed it a bit. They have removed a large shade tree that was in front of the house, something I would not have done since summer temperatures here regularly reach 35 to 40 °C or higher. Here’s a picture of the house:

32_mom's house2


Van is ready to go:

33_next morning, ready to leave


And I arrive in the aptly named town of Johnsville around 2 in the afternoon, via the Feather River Canyon scenic route. I stop for a swim along the way, but take no pictures.

Here we are in the Sierra, in an old mining town, where a childhood friend of mine, Mark, and his wife Katie, have a house. We visit the old mine and its museum. Here’s Mark and Katie in front of the old asseyor’s office:

2_Mark and wife Katie


Here’s Mark:

1_my friend Mark

The sign on the end of the trough says the we can pan for gold here all day for just 4$. We have other things to do.


The mine facilities, which finally closed during the first World War:

3_the mine

It hasn’t been maintained the way the Assay Office has, or the Blacksmith shop:

4_blacksmith shop 6_inside the blacksmith shop


Johnsville is entirely surrounded by Plumas Eureka State Park, and the town itself is a Plumas County Historical Reserve. Houses must be restored or built respecting the styles of 1880. We take a long walk around the town.

Mark and Katie’s house:

7_M & K's house in Johnsville 7b_their house bis


Another house that was in Mark’s family for a long time:

8_red house in Mark's family 9_red house2


There are many picturesque and attractive houses in town:

10_grey house


These more rustic ones:

12_rustic wooden house 13_another rustic


These, either renovated or newly built in the style of the period:

14_cute farm style house 15_modern rustic house


This one is for sale:

16_house for sale

Mark tells me that there are at least six houses for sale in Johnsville at the moment.


Then there is the old Johnsville Hotel:

11bis_hotel 11ter_hotel


Of course there are a few period structures too:

18_old fire house 19_a period structure

The one on the left was once the Johnsville Fire Department.


The Johnsville Historical Society occupies the old church:




22_inside the old church

…there is a display of period kitchen wares…

23_display of period kitchen wares

…a period organ and piano:

24_organ 25_upright piano


After an excellent dinner we take a bumpy drive up the mountain to Eureka Lake for a swim:



The next morning I take a few pictures of the deer that come near the house. Mark has set out a salt lick for them on a tree stump:

29_deer at salt lick


They soon see me, but don’t seem too afraid:

30_they see me, but...

The chipmunks, however, avoid my camera.

I leave Johnsville just after breakfast.  And now, as promised, I am off on my true road trip, out across the desert.

Shasta County Days

August 16th, 2014

I leave Fort Bragg just after breakfast and drive north along the coast on California’s famous Highway 1:

2_up the coast-2

1_Driving up the coast-1

You can see how the fog hangs over us…

…but it’s still a beautiful drive:

3_up the coast-3


Soon the road turns inland and joins Highway 101 through the Eel River Valley. Here the road is known as the “Avenue of the Giants”, but I take no pictures. We’ve all had enough redwoods. It’s warm and sunny here and there are plenty of places to stop and swim, but I don’t stop yet. As we approach the coast and the town of Eureka it gets cool and grey again, but I turn east on California Highway 36 through the Van Duzen River Valley. It’s warm here and, lo and behold, I find the perfect place to swim (yet another one):

4_Van Duzen River Valley

5_a place to swim

But I don’t stay long.  I have a long drive ahead of me, over mountain ridges and through river canyons, where it will be increasingly hot.  Thankfully, Van is well air conditioned. I arrive in Redding in the late afternoon and check into a motel I know, take a long nap and then go to a Japanese restaurant that I like.


August 17th, 2014

The next morning I get up early and head eastward to the tiny town of Big Bend near which there are some so-called “primitive” hot springs, which is to say undeveloped, not like Orr.

I go to the Kosk Creek hot springs, which are a ten minute walk from the main road, along this dirt road:

6_the road to Kosk Creek


Somone has decided to point the way…

7_someone has pointed the way

…down this trail where…

8_now we follow this trail

…blackberries are ripening:

9_blackberries are in season


These are primitive hot springs, but nevertheless with some restrictions:

10_primitive springs but some restrictions

I entirely agree .


And then, just over a rise…

11_and over a rise

…the first of several pools.

The first pool closer up:

12_the first pool

Notice the convenient platform that someone has built. There are any number of improvements that have been made here over the years, such as the rock and cement soaking pools themselves.

Just above the pool is this convenient bench that someone has built:


One of the best things about Kosk Creek is this swimming hole just in front of the first pool:

13_swimming hole


Kosk Creek as it flows into the swimming hole:

14_Kosk Creek-upper


And now looking downstream where there are two other spring-fed pools along the creek bank:

15_and downstream, other springs


Here is the original spring that feeds the soaking pool:

16_original spring

The water is very hot, and the pool is very small. You can’t soak here.

So I soak and swim, and soak and swim, and chat with two other hot springs aficionados who are at the nearby springs downstream. Hot springs fans are a community unto themselves, sometimes rather marginal and eccentric, but ecologically aware and in search of peace and quiet. We exchange information about other springs that we know.

The swimming hole as seen from the pool:

21_swimming hole, seen from pool

My feet, as I soak in the first pool:



Downstream, near the other pools, someone has built these now-familiar rock structures:

19_in memoriam

But I want to go to another pool that I know, further downstream. These stairs lead the way:



And I follow this trail through the forest:

24_trail to lower springs

No redwoods here!  This forest is typical of the interior regions of northern California: pine, spruce, bay and madrone.


After a few minutes walk I arrive at the lower pools. I came here last September with my friend Richard, aka “Captain”:

25_lower springs with canopy

Someone has put up this canopy for protection against the afternoon sun. But this is mid morning, there is no escaping the sun.

The lower pool, up close:

26_lower springs pool-1


And from a distance:



I have a soak, a swim and I take some pictures. And then I have a little mishap. I’m walking about, taking pictures. I think to put down my camera, but I forget that I’m wearing my glasses.  I plunge into the water to swim and realize too late that I still have my glasses on. Of course I lose them in the swiftly flowing water.  The water is clear and I try to find the glasses, but it’s no use.


This next picture was in fact taken last September by Captain. It’s me swimming, precisely where I lost my glasses.

30_last year bis


Some of my friends at home in Besançon will remember that I lost those same glasses last winter. I waited, thinking they would turn up, but I finally had them replaced. Then I found the first pair and so, fortunately, I have an extra pair here with me.

I don’t think my lost glasses will make their way back to me this time.




On the Mendocino coast

August 13th, 2014

I leave Orr Hotsprings just after lunch and arrive in Fort Bragg at the end of the afternoon at the home of my longtime friend, Louise.  The Mendocino coast in summer is a land of fog and cool temperatures, though a few miles inland Mendocino County is warm and sunny.

Here is Van parked in front of Louise’s house:

1_Louise's house 1


The house is set among redwoods just north of town:

2_Louise's house 2


In her garden out back Louise grows much of her own food.  The area has a very long growing season:

3_Louise's garden


Here’s Louise and her dog, Oso:

4_Louise and dog


Dinner this evening is salmon poached with dill…

6_salmon for dinner

…with vegetables and salad from the garden:

7_salmon, radishes and salad


Louise with her son Isaac:

5_Louise with Isaac


The next day Louise and I drive inland to visit another redwood forest, Hendy Woods:

8_Hendy Woods entrance


I’m not going to show you all of my photos; you’ve already seen plenty of redwoods, but a few of these are worthwhile to give you an idea of the size of these trees:

9_Louise and redwood tree

10_John and redwood tree


Here’s Louise standing inside one of the burnt-out trees:

12_Louise inside burnt out redwood


…and on top of a fallen stump:

11_Louise on top of fallen stump


There are some interesting tree sculptures here too:

14_more sculpture

…and up close:

15_sculpture up close


But we don’t only visit redwoods. We also go wine tasting at several of the area’s many wineries. Here’s just one of them, called “Toulouse”:

16_Toulouse winery

And some of our purchases:

23_some of our purchases at the wineries

Notice the goose on each label.


On the way home we find a perfect place on the Navarro River for a swim:

20_perfect place for a swim

But it’s getting late:

22_but it was getting late


The next day Louise and I take a long walk in the morning, and in the afternoon we go for a bike ride along the Navarro River:

24_bike ride_fog

Notice the fog. We’re at the mouth of the river, just a few steps from the beach.

Louise, after an hour’s pedaling:

25_Louise after an hour's pedaling

And me, looking fat and out of breath:

26_and me, looking fat and...

By now the sun has appeared and it’s getting warm.

The road goes on…

27_the road goes on

…with its share of wildflowers…

28_among the plant life are these flowers

…and the ever-present poison oak:

29_along with the poison oak


At some point we get side tracked onto this trail while looking for a place to swim:

30_we get side tracked on this trail, but...

But it’s getting late and we have to turn around. We must have done about 15 miles.

Evening comes and Isaac makes us an excellent dinner; some friends of his come over, Michael and Alexandra. Unfortunately, I forget to get out my camera. The following morning I leave Fort Bragg, heading north again, but first we go out for breakfast.

Louise and Isaac at the restaurant:

31_L&I at breakfast the next morning

It has been a wonderful few days on the Mendocino coast.