Friday, May 9, 2008

Road Trip to the Hot Springs

springs viewWe didn't know it, as we headed across Big Smoky Valley in central Nevada, that we would soon be at the barely visible hot springs - seen above in the distance across the valley as the white, horizontal line to the left of the Pete's Summit dirt road.

We didn't know it, because we weren't planning on going there. It was our first time taking the new-ish Prius onto a dirt road. MOH gingerly drove the Prius onto the gravelly, washboardy dirt road, and almost turned around before deciding that we could make it, albeit at 15 to 20 mph, a road perhaps more commonly taken at 35 to 45 mph. [MOH had the good fortunate and great sense to trade in his diesel pickup for the Prius a couple months ago, and he has been driving it ever since. His mileage average has been over 50 mph for about 3000 miles.]

Spencer's Hot Springs (above, a photo of the "northern" spring, the one that used to feed the main cabin, which was burned down before the end of the 1980's) is one of the "destination" spots for travelers of the Nevada section of Highway 50. The spring was a favorite of locals and geologists alike long before the stretch of highway between Fernley and Ely was designated "The Loneliest Road" [in America] by Life Magazine in their July, 1986 issue. Their article doesn't say much - one very short paragraph in which they quote "an AAA counselor" or "AAA rep," who said, "It's totally empty.... There are no points of interest. We don't recommend it," and "We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they're confident of their survival skills." This was said at a time when I would see someone I knew every single time I drove through Austin, NV.

A view from the northern spring, looking southward toward Kingston Canyon in the Toiyabe Range, which forms the western side of Big Smoky Valley.

A view from the same spring, looking eastward toward Pete's Summit in the Toquima Range, which forms the eastern side of Big Smoky Valley.

Almost sunset above the Toiyabe Range to the west of Spencer's Hot Springs, with the low area on the right side of the photo being Bob Scott Summit and Austin Summit, the pass on Highway 50 west into Austin.

The Prius at the hot springs, Toiyabe Range in the background. As you can see, it was a dark and stormy afternoon and evening, with verga all around and rain or snow hitting the tops of the high peaks in places.

When we left, after our restful soak, we passed by the group (herd?) of burros that we have often seen while camped at the northern spring. Often a group of 5 to 8 burros, sometimes with one wild horse, walks by the spring in the late evening. As we left that afternoon, we saw 6 or 7 burros, kind of widely scattered, grazing. Above is a burro colt to the left of the mama (?) burro.

Above is old "white nose," a burro we have seen at the springs several times. Although no other burros were close by, he stood facing us, the way wild stallions often do, the entire time we drove by (it took awhile, especially what with stopping to get non-blurry photos). It was as though he was single-handedly protecting the rest of the burros from us.

And last, as we approached Highway 50, we saw one antelope in the darkening distance. It turned and stared as we drove by, also watching us carefully.


ReBecca Hunt-Foster said...

Awesome pictures!! Good to hear about your Prius. I have been thinking about getting one after the Big 'W' debt clears (aka next year) ;)

Silver Fox said...

Thanks, ReBecca. The hot springs area is a place for great photos - this is one of the few times in recent years when it hasn't snowed while we were there!

Yes, the Prius is really a pretty neat car - reminds me of my old Accord, which before they had to make them heavier for air bags and safety would get >40 mph. The Prius is a little smaller, but comfortable, and with the seat down in back, there is a lot of room for packing stuff like camping gear or whatnot.

I guess you'll be keeping us informed about the Big W! You must be getting excited!

Unknown said...

The great "Smoky" Valley is one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Especially during a spring time storm such as you experienced! Stormy day, hot springs, sweet!

Been over the road to Pete's summit a couple of times, did not know those springs were there. Is there still hot water in Diana's punchbowl? The springs east of Tonopah on the way to Railroad valley used to be nice.

HSG said...

Beautiful! Thanks so much for the great pics and for sharing.

Silver Fox said...

Steve, in case you're reading - I must have missed this earlier. Diana's Punch Bowl still has water in it AFAIK, though I haven't been there since maybe 2007 or 2008 to check it out.