City of Rocks and Faywood Hot Springs

September 9th

One afternoon during my stay in Silver City, Captain and I drove out to the City of Rocks State Park and also visited the nearby Faywood Hot Springs.

From a distance City of Rocks looks like this:

1_City of Rocks

 

An island of rocks surrounded by desert:

2_City...closer up

 

This partial view gives a better impression of what City of Rocks is all about:

September_8-9_trip_down_180_and_day1_in_Silver_City 114

There is also a campground and a picnic area.

 

We wander about the many passages…

3_We wandered about

…to be found among this haphazard “city” of rocks.

4_...among these rocks...

 

Here’s Captain walking along one of the “streets”:

5_Here's Captain on one of the main streets

 

Here we are in the very center of the city:

6_from the center of CoR

 

Captain tries to decide which way to go:

7_Captain trying to decide which way...

 

Maybe this way?

8_...maybe this way...

 

A view of the desert from the city center:

9_...view onto the desert

 

 

Here’s another part of town:

10_...another part of town

 

Some of the local vegetation, yuccas, with their blossoms (somewhat faded here) which are the New Mexico state flower:

14_yuccas...

 

After that we went to the nearby Faywood Hot Springs resort which…

15_then we went to...

…on a hot day in the desert may seem a bit strange…

16_Faywood hot springs...

…but it’s really a very nice place and I’d like to give the owners some help and encouragement.

 

I confess that I took these next few pictures a few days later when, on my own, I went back to Faywood on a rainy day and camped over night. The skies are now grey and the canopy has been drawn back:

17_these next few pictures...

18_...I took at Faywood a few days later...

 

I was driven out of the Gila Mountains by some of the remnants of tropical storm Odile…

19b_Gila Mountains as I drive back

…which brought a lot of rain, several days running, to Arizona and New Mexico.  I’m not complaining. These states need the water and I won’t begrudge them whatever rainfall they get. More about Odile in the next few posts.

 

So I camped at Faywood…

21_under equally gray skies

…under grey skies…

20_I camped at Faywood for a night...

21b_grey skies bis

…and had the campground to myself.

During the night it rained heavily. I was awake very early and had a long soak as the rain came down.  I even went back to my campsite and took a shower in the rain. Luckily neither the air nor the rain were cold.

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:

14_forest

 

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.

 

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:

17_bench

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:

22_feet

 

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:

23_stairway

 

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:

27_sunscreen

 

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.

 

 

 

At Orr Hot Springs

I’ve long been a fan of hot springs. With friends, back in our university days I used to go to a place called The Geysers, an old hot springs resort, now no longer in operation. In recent years, in California, I’ve spent time at Wilbur Hot Springs. I like to soak in warm and relaxing mineral waters. It’s good for skin problems and for stress. A few days at such a place is a pause in time, a visit to another space.  This was my first time at Orr.

Northwest of Ukiah, in Mendocino County, the site and grounds are located in an isolated and forested canyon.

1_Orr_entrance 2_Orr_lodge

3_Orr_peace 4_Orr_flowers

5_Orr_gardens 6_Orr_places to relax

I parked Van in their car-camping area.

7_Orr_Van's_parking_place 8_Orr_Van_parked_bike

I would have liked to have a little more space around me, personal space for a real campsite, but Orr is so calm and quiet that this was just fine.  I had access to the communal kitchen to prepare my meals and soI still haven’t used Van’s kitchen.

My bedroom in Van:

Van_bedroom

One morning I realized that there had been visitors during the night:

9_Orr_Van_footprints

There is a lot of wildlife here. Squirrels, of course, but I didn’t manage to get a picture.  And deer wander the grounds freely:

10_Orr_deer

And these cheeky creatures too, especially near the kitchen:

13_Orr_blue_jay_3

Orr has many little bungalows to rent, like this one:

14_Orr_bungalow

But the main attraction is the baths:

16_Orr_the real_attraction 17_Orr_second_pool

Further along there’s a another warm pool, a cold swimming pool, a sauna and steam bath.

Here I am, having a soak:

18_Orr_me_in_pool

One of the best things about Orr is that it’s is very near Montgomery State Nature Reserve where you can walk among groves of old-growth redwoods.  More on than later.