Dardo and I do Hot Springs
My friend Eduardo and I are going to meet at the Navarro bridge at 6:30 PM, no later than 7:00. Two VW busses heading for the hot springs. It's time for "boys weekend off". I know I can't afford it. I know I have more important things to do but I rather drive for sixteen hours across the heart of California to those hot springs I know are waiting, just waiting, for me and my friend, Eduardo.
Navarro to Boonville to Ukiah and out highway 20 to Williams. See how we're feeling by then. It should still be a reasonable hour. Then down I-5 to Sacramento and east on highway 50 a ways and then find some side road away from the highway noise for the remainder of the night, or morning, if it gets that late. Then, up early to continue the grind up over the Sierras and down to Tahoe; hang a right on highway 395 and zip on south to Bishop and then Big Pine. That is where we turn east and disappear.
I don't really get excited until I hit the beginning of the washboard gravel road and see the stunted long needle pines, the huge vista down, down and off into the hazy distance. At the bottom of that huge void is "The Rock". If you find it you are almost there, if you miss it, you are lost.
I hope the sun hasn't set by the time we get there. Watching the sun drop behind the mountains is the next best part after easing down into that warm, warm relaxing water and waiting for the first star. Usually a few other misfits are around too. Ner-do-wells, drop outs, desert rats. Interesting folks. The conversation in the pool is always interesting or completely silent.
Later in the night the burros usually come around to see if anything worthwhile was left out.
Before first light the coyotes will break into song. That is a good time to get up and slip back into the water to watch the sky brighten. Day time is for tinkering, adjust the valves, read a book in the shade. In the late afternoon, maybe a walk off into the distance or, maybe not. Maybe another beer instead. Early evening brings the smell of wood smoke and sometimes pot luck. Later, someone with a harmonica or a song shows up at the communal fire or possibly the evening will just contain a group of folks content to watch the fire turn to embers.
The next day offers the same possibilities and on and on until I can't stand it anymore and want to get back to Greenwood/Elk and the hustle and bustle of coastal living.
I confess I have never reached that point. I hope to some day but, you see, I have never been able to stay long enough to find out. But one of these day...
I know, I know. The Gulf War is going on. Everyone is worked up into a lather but the hot springs are waiting.
Like someone said, "A hero is the first one out the back door when they start hollering for volunteers".
Well, our trip to the desert hot springs was everything I expected and a bit more. After the final fifty miles of bad road I jumped out and embraced the hot springs. During the first night the burros did arrive and digest a couple of newspapers that had been left out. They seemed to particularly enjoy the want ads. The coyotes did start yapping away and fade off into a musical chorus up some distant draw before daybreak. Conversations in the hot spring was about everything and anything except, "the war". The second afternoon Dardo and I drove on up a side canyon and I tore my muffler loose twice. Once on the way in. Again on the way out. Rough road. Big rocks!
The reason for my VW abuse was that we were trying to find the entrance to a remote canyon where I had heard there might be pictographs. At the end of a road and after a hour more of walking, there they were, a cluster of symbols carved into the white chalky rock. Some, I doubt their validity but others looked like they had been there for a long time. I don't know what they mean but I could easily see why they were there. It was a special and unusual place, unlike any other area around.
The next morning it was time for us to leave. Dardo heading on down to Los Angeles and me heading for home. After retracing the fifty miles of bad road, up and back out of the valley, I jumped out of the bus and embraced the black top! I now realize there is something to look forward to no matter which way I am going!
Other Favorite Hot Springs
• Spencer Hot Springs, 12 miles east of Austin, Nevada.
• Travertine and Buckeye Hot Springs, Bridgeport, California.
• Saline Valley Hot Springs (above story).
• Dirty Socks, Owens Valley, California.
• The Tub, north of Crowley Lake, Mammoth Valley, California.
• Crabtree Hot Springs, north of Clearlake, California.
• Canyon Guadaloupe, Baja California.