Some of you who follow along with my journey on social media may have seen a few posts regarding my new love for the state of Nevada. This is no joke, I'm in love with the state of Nevada. My first glimpse of the wide-open state was back in January when Alison and I traveled with our Manitoban friends to Alkali Hot Springs. In the blog covering that segment of our journey I noted under one of the photos that somehow I had failed to take any more pictures of the sweeping landscapes that we drove through. Well, this time I made sure to correct that mistake. From minutes after I crossed the state line into Nevada till the last hours I spent in the there I was in and out of my truck constantly, taking pictures whenever and wherever my heart desired. It was completely out of my control it seemed, purely compulsive I tell you. On some stretches of road, I kid you not, I would get out of the truck to snap some photos, return to the truck, drive a few hundred feet down the road then repeat. It all made for very slow travel.
Not only did my time in Nevada provide great photographic opportunities it was also a wonderful time of contemplation. Because I had a fairly open agenda I could choose to come and go as I pleased. When you don't have wifi or netflix it's amazing how much time you wind up just thinking. While I contemplated I came to some interesting realizations about my life and who I may become as a person and where my place is. I know what I'm saying sounds maybe a little meta, but I do believe that people these days don't stop to think enough and for long enough when they do. It was like my own kind of meditation. I've also taken up writing again, a little bit at a time, but I've started again and that's really good for me.
My first stop in Nevada was Fish Lake Hot Wells near Dyer, NV. This spring features a well-built concrete tub nestled into the foothills of the Sierra's. The water gets to somewhere between 105-120*F, you can camp right near the spring and a local dirt bike club has built a sink where you can wash your dishes (VERY handy). I stayed two nights at Fish Lake allowing myself time to ride up one of the neighboring mountains then meet and visit with a nice couple from Portland, OR.
From Fishlake I went North to Spencer Hot Springs located just South of highway 50. My experience there was interesting to say the least. Upon arrival there was already a group of, at first glance, hard (other synonyms would be: scary, colorful, rough, intimidating) looking people. I found a place to park then retreated to the confines of Casper in hopes that they would leave the tub vacant so I could take a dip. A little under two hours later, after my computer battery had died from an editing frenzy, I decided to venture out to the tub. They still weren't gone, so, as the saying goes, 'if you can't beat them, join them.' This is what a lot of travel is about, breaking down borders, overcoming apprehensions, etc. Long story short, it was close to morning that I finally departed the tub for the comforts of my bed. Those colorful people turned out to be colorful in a wonderful way that I wouldn't have expected, it was a new and interesting experience. My new hot spring nickname is simply, 'Canada,' by the way...
The next morning after some deliberation and a long soak I decided to press on towards Smith Creek Hot Springs located just East over a neighboring mountain range. Two and a half hours of driving I was in the Smith Creek area, I will leave you with this excerpt I wrote immediately after my 'fun' experience there...(This blog is going to get a little long. It is covering a week and a half of travel though...)
"I’m sitting down right now to write this while the memory is still painfully real in my mind.
After a night spent at Spencer Hot Springs I left this afternoon to make it to Smith Creek Hot Springs. My route from Spencer Hot Springs consisted of a short drive on America’s Loneliest Highway (hwy 50), through Austin, NV where I had a brief moment to contact my family and notify them of where I was and where I was going, then onto Highway 722 which would lead me to Smith Creek. After passing through one of many Nevada’s great valleys I crested a small rise and before me was a lake, one of which google maps had never mentioned was there (found out later it only shows up on the satellite image). Not thinking much of it, I continued on my way. As I drove along I continued to check my map, which seemed to lead me around the lake; however, at one crossroad the map veered off onto a road that wasn’t there and from what I could see would take me uncomfortably close to the lake (ei. in it). I saw a couple other roads leading in the same direction but they seemed to be mostly for ATV use and seeing as I was on a perfectly safe gravel road I opted not to take these trails and risk the possibility of geyting stuck in the middle of nowhere, that would be stupid. Instead, I made my way further around and eventually hooked back up with where the map was instructing me to go. By this time I’m getting quite near to my destination and I can see, just barely, where I might be going. The last stretch of road I turn onto immediately shows signs of disrepair; however, there’s enough gravel for me to drive on and work my way around any of the fissures opened up by traveling water from past rainstorms. As I bump down this continually degrading road I begin to see more and more water and coincidently I’m also heading straight for the lake.
I’m within 400 meters of the hot springs and before me lies what looks like a soggy, flat, field. There are tracks leading through to higher ground on the other side, but in one particularly soggy section, I can see tracks going around some ruts. Instincts say, get out and check the consistency of the ground. Do I listen to instincts? Nope. Yeah, I kept on driving, I imagine you can guess what happens next.
What I’m guessing happened is Google doesn’t show the lake because it doesn’t exist most of the year, but seeing as this has been a considerably wet winter there is considerably more water running down into the basin which forms a temporary lake, needless to say I’m driving into a rather soggy place. Very quickly I begin to lose traction on my back wheels, still feeling confident I can get out, I stop and switch into 4wd. Nothing. I’m officially stuck, out in the middle of some desolate valley in Nevada with no one around for miles and no cell service. First reaction: a little bit of panic, a ferociously sunken heart mixed with frustration at myself for being so stupid But, none of those things are going to help me in this situation. I’ve been 4x4’ing and driving tractors a lot in my life and know my way around being stuck, so at least I have that. You’d think that I’d immediately start trying to get myself out, nope, I had to check the temperature of the hot springs first to see if it was worth me going for a dip. Turns out they were only tepid and far better suited for some warmer weather. Ok then, end goal totally not worth it, no need to go forward, so let’s go backward. Long story short, with the fortunate addition of my shovel and a bunch of wood placed around the area by other unfortunate drivers I was able to get the truck and trailer backed up to safety and turned around.
I wish I could share my feelings of elation when I got back out of the truck, once I had un-stucked myself it’s a great feeling. Lots of adrenaline and a handful of glee had me hooting and hollering in the wind, I would not be staying the night in the middle of a bog, then I broke out into maniacal laughter as I realized how stupid I was and how long I would have had to hike to get to the nearest homestead.
My initial thought after I began to drive out was that I’d return to Spencer Hot Springs, maybe there’d be people there, I could relax after a somewhat stressful moment in my life, but then as I ascended a small hill I kept on looking out at the grand vista that surrounded me. This was the point that I realized that where I was at that very moment, was exactly where I wanted to be. I am here, surrounded by mountains, sky, wind, earth, water and solitude, these things are the reason I’m out here. So I decided to stay right where I was, parked the trailer, cracked a beer and sat down to write this.
This experience was by no means negative, it was perfect in every way. It reminded me that I’m vulnerable out here by myself but I know I can work a problem and find a resolution. I didn’t get stuck to the point where I had to call for help and nothing was wrecked. It’ll always be a reminder to be smart and cautious and slow and to think first before driving somewhere I’m weary about. Next time I go out I will be better equipped for the same situation and others like.
It’s now 5:30 PM, I will make myself dinner, read and let the wind lull me to sleep.
From Smith Creek Hot Springs the next morning I continued South, arriving late at Frog Pond Hot Springs North of Gerlach, NV. It was very cold and the 'hot' spring was a lot closer to a 'warm' spring so my time spent in the water was short. The next morning I woke to snow, about 1.5", decided not to stay any longer and left. Bumping down the road leading back to Gerlach from Frog Pond was a lot better done in the day. I stopped at Pyramid Lake to take in as many photographic opportunities as I could, then made a break for Reno and the long, slow, scary stretch of snow covered highway beyond that.
I'm currently in California doing some work with Alison's old team, a week from now I will begin my journey North towards British Columbia.