Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Sierra Hot Springs

I don't like New Year's Resolutions. If something is worth doing, just do it already.. don't wait for the ball at Times Square to tell you its time. So this year, when someone asked what my resolution was I just said I was going "to go to three new hot springs". I am not sure why I said it, I guess because it was cold, in the middle of winter, I like Breitenbush Hot Springs and of course I enjoy Korean bath houses like Olympus.

Last week I made a trip down to California and Nevada with Noah, and visited 3 hot springs in two days so perhaps I was prescient in my ambitions.

We started off in Sacramento and drove Route 50 East and 395 South to Bridgeport CA. The drive through the Sierra's was beautiful. It reminded me of great scenic vistas I've experienced - the view across the foothills to the Drakensberg, the high plains and the hills of the Black Sea.  The scale of the mountains covered in evergreen trees, patches of high meadow white with snow and sudden cuts of rivers carrying snowmelt merits a kind of silence. Its enough to simply be in places like this.  For those not in the US, the Sierra Nevada range is the highest and longest mountain range in the contiguous United States and includes Yosemite National Park as well as many others.

Travertine Hot Springs
We dropped down from the mountains to a wide valley and then turned South to Bridgeport. Bridgeport is really tiny but its near Travertine Hot Springs which is a natural spring up a mile of dirt road. We arrived at dusk - surprising a jackrabbit in the headlights - and came to a landscape of large boulders and low trees, with warm water seeping from the earth and running down the hill in muddy rivulets and bogs.  There are a few large central pools and in a few places, people have cultivated others. We found a pool down the hillside. The night was brilliant with stars.

As I walked back to the car a large animal lurched out of the dark to sniff me.  It was a hippy's dog. Apparently hot springs attract people who are relaxed and live in camper vans and travel with dogs and children who wear colorful clothes and hats.  Because it was dark, I don't have a photo of this Spring but Noah has a photo of the hare and the sky looked like it does from any dark-enough North American earth.

We walked back without lights.  Noah says the trick to walking in the dark is to lift your feet up so you don't kick into things.

Mono Lake
The next day we headed South through the great basin. Mono Lake is a saline soda lake (very salty and alkaline) which forms an oasis, important for migratory and nesting birds. This is not a hot spring but its beautiful and watery so I am including it. We ate lunch at the lake shore and then walked through the towers of tufa which stand like sentinels (or meerkats).

South to Wild Willy's Hot Spring
This spring was a few miles and cattle-grates off 395, South of Mammoth Lakes.  Located under a great sweeping horizon on a ridge above the valley floor, the cold wind peels off the mountains but the sun and water are hot.  You walk from a parking lot down a path and wooden walkway to a series of pools. On the way we passed an unnaturally happy man carrying a six-pack of empty beer bottles and alcohol.  More dogs were hanging around and a vacant-eyed young woman walked by, expressionless. 

The upper pool was a bit milky but a nice temperature.  We had it to ourselves but other people were hopping in and out of the main pools with drinks and children and dogs and communal cheer. As I got out I found an alcohol swab of the kind people use to prep a site for injectables. This was not encouraging and gave rise to "fucking hippy drug user" thoughts in both of us.  Perhaps the sign should add "pack your sharps".

I wish they had specified that human waste should be buried in a land far-far away.

The path to the pools at Wild Willy reminds me of an Andy Goldsworthy piece
Beautiful space.
The final spring we visited was Hilltop. There were three women in bikinis and 2 naked dogs at Hilltop Hot Spring when we arrived. The dogs were friendly. The women were locals.  They were not hippies or drug users but its not that fun to sit in a Spring the Size of the hot tub with three strangers eating crackers.  

This was the only spring I chose to wear a swimsuit.  I guess I didn't need to but I didn't want to get undressed in front of the dogs and the only thing weirder than sitting in a spring the size of a hot tub with three strange women eating crackers and one women eating lots of things, is to sit in it with three women eating crackers and one women eating lots of things when you are the only one naked.  Actually, put like that it sounds like a "fuck, why am I naked" dream.

At Hilltop I learned that one of the women was eating crackers and cookies and chips because she wasn't getting any orgasms.  I also learned that they had been sitting in the hot spring a few weeks prior when they felt an earthquake.  I also learned they were locals and came here often. Noah declined to get in that hot spring which was a wise decision and enabled me to hop out within a short period and say I was ready for lunch (I find I am always ready for lunch in these circumstances).

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