Monday, February 20, 2012

South of Center: Potts Ranch Hot Springs

I'm not exactly sure where to start on the way to ending up at Northumberland Pass and the Northumberland caldera, so we'll start at The Geographic Center of Nevada and work more or less backwards in time. MOH and I had taken two trips to Austin, with major and minor side trips into the caldera and to Spencer Hot Springs on both trips.

On the second trip, we ended our second day at the sign for the geographic center. We started in Austin, drove over Austin and Bob Scott Summits on snowy roads, went down old Highway 8A (now NV S.R. 376) in a dust storm, crossed Big Smoky Valley on the graveled Northumberland Mine road, and meandered into the central and south part of Northumberland caldera on good and cruddy dirt roads. We then proceeded back to the Northumberland Mine road, went up Northumberland Canyon, crossed Northumberland Pass, and headed down East Northumberland Canyon into Monitor Valley. It had been a long day. My photos began at 9:40 a.m. in Austin and ended at 4:35 p.m at the north end of Monitor Valley after a road trip of more than a 100 miles, not counting our side trip into the caldera.

Our first stop on this backward trek is Potts Ranch and Potts Ranch Hot Springs, located about 16 to 17 miles nearly due south of center.
Potts Ranch ranch house.

We drove into Potts Ranch from the south, following tentative directions heard the night before at the International bar in Austin, which assumed that we'd be coming in from the north via the Pete's Summit road. Fortunately, I also had a set of printed out topo maps, although the ones I had didn't name Potts Ranch or give a name to the nearby hot springs. Potts Ranch is shown on the 7.5' topo map of the area.
A stone building just behind the ranch house.

Our verbal directions mentioned this stone building, so we knew we were on the right track.
It was a frigid afternoon, and ice covered the flat north of the dirt road approaching the ranch house, where the creek flowing north from the hot springs must have overrun its banks. Other ranch ruins can be seen in the distance on the right, and cows are grazing in the far field on the left. Sastrugi shapes in the snow suggest a dominant wind direction from the north whenever the snow was blowing, though the wind was blowing from the south while we were there.
Here we're looking south at the frozen creek and at two reddish brown hills of Tertiary ash-flow tuff. To get to the hot springs, we'll drive just north and then east of the closest hill, then we'll follow a rutted dirt road all the way to the south end of the far hill.
The tub was empty when we arrived, so we moved the three black plastic pipes onto the metal rail so the filling process could begin. We also plugged the drain hole.
I think the idea is that you can fill the tank with one, two, or three of the pipes depending on what temperature you prefer. We wanted the water to be as hot as possible.
While waiting for the tank to fill, we walked around and looked at the marshy, grassy wetlands, which is drained by several steaming hot creeks. The Toquima Range is in the background.
A second hot creek in the foreground and a distant hot creek in the background give off steam, again with the Toquima Range in the background.
Another view of the same hot creeks.
Here I've walked around to a small warm or hot pond that may be fed by the same spring feeding the bathing tub. The Monitor Range, on the east side of Monitor Valley, is in the background.
Frozen grasses on pond's edge.
About this time, with the tub almost half full, we realized that neither one of us wanted to face the chilling wind or experience the icicles that would hang off our hair and face after bathing in the not-quite-hot-enough water (reported at around 100°F). We pulled the three black plastic pipes off the metal rail, unplugged the drain hole, and got in the truck.
We stopped at the spring source of the hot creek that supplies water to the soaking tub, before driving out and back to the main road north.
Green plants growing along (and in) the hot creek downstream from its source spring; ice on grass or sedge.
Green to light bluish plants or algae, waving or rippling in the flowing water.

7 comments:

Utemike said...

Okay, just a little too weird. A 30 year friend visited this weekend for my son's wedding. We each have large dirt bikes and decided to plan a spring or fall trip. He wanted to go to Berlin ichthyosaur park and I wanted to see some new country south of hwy 50.

Began perusing my Nevada benchmark atlas for ideas. Tracing dirt roads east of Ione, I saw Spencer's, Potts ranch and northumberland cave. Had not heard of the cave so googled. Your blog had been posted 45 minutes earlier according to google.

Thanks for the info, but the synchronicity surprised me....

Gaelyn said...

Hot springs and caving sounds like a great combination. But with it being so cold I'd want a warm camper to crawl into after the soak. Great shots of the steaming waters and ice shrouded grasses.

Silver Fox said...

@Utemike - Don't think I've been to Northumberland cave, and couldn't find it's location online.

@Gaelyn - Yes, we would have stayed if we would have had a camper with us!

The Bobs said...

My favorite hot spring in Nevada. What a great place.

Silver Fox said...

The Bobs - I guess my favorite is probably Spencer, though since I've never soaked at Potts, maybe I can't really say.

Dan McShane said...

Wise move about not soaking. I took a dip in a northeast California hot spring in a snow storm. Took a good half hour of driving to warm up again after getting out of the hot spring.

Silver Fox said...

Dan, I've had the icicles-dripping-off hair experience more than once. It's fine if the hot spring is really hot or if you have a warm camper nearby. In this case, neither condition applied.