Saturday, July 8, 2017

Exploring Central Nevada-Part 1: Hot Springs

 In mid-June I got a hankering to go exploring. I took some time off off work, and we loaded up, the kids, the au pair, the dog, and me. We headed west on U.S. 50, lunched in Ely, and then took a quick stop at Illipah Reservoir, where the wind was fierce.

Just a little bit further on, we stopped on the side of the road to let these huge oversize loads go by. They definitely take up more than one lane! Being in a mining state, this is a fairly frequent sight on the highways.

After a swim in Eureka's pool, we continued on and exited the highway to head to Potts' Hot Springs, also called Monitor Hot Springs. We found the old Potts ranch and stopped to enjoy the view.

It was still nice and green out in the meadows, and the late afternoon sunlight was gorgeous.

The road to Potts' Hot Springs was marked as 'No Public Access,' so we respected that and continued on to Diana's Punch Bowl, which was about 30 minutes away. I had previously visited this spectacular site, and was eager to return. The sun had already set by the time we arrived, so we set up camp at the base and then wandered up to observe the hot spring under the full moon. Diana's Punch Bowl is a 30-foot deep cauldron that's about 50 feet in diameter. It rises off the valley floor, seemingly without rhyme or reason. The evening primrose was blooming right on the edge. The water in it is reportedly very hot, about 170 degrees F, so we didn't want to go in.

Our camp was simple, and I love primitive camping in the middle of nowhere. We heard some coyotes howl in the night, but no sounds of civilization. It was wonderful.

I awoke early and got some sunrise photos of Diana's Punchbowl.

It was just cool enough that steam was rising. And the full moon was setting.

 With one angle, I captured a lot of steam.

Then I wandered down over the other side, and the shooting stars caught my eye.

The hot water in the nearby creek is cool enough to soak in, but it's not very deep. It looks like at one time someone worked to improve it, but now it's in a fairly natural state.

Orange algae dotted one end, and steam rose along the channel.

I went back to camp and everyone got up and ate. Then it was to the top for a group photo.

Our next destination was to the Toquima Campground, which was totally empty. We set off on the quarter-mile trail to Toquima Cave. I admired the buckwheat on the way.

The trail meandered through the pinyon-juniper to some cliffs.

I got distracted again by flowers!

When I caught up to the kids and Charlie, Desert Boy was scaling the huge gate over the entrance. The kids were so happy to climb.

Through the gate we could see some amazing pictographs. Some call these the best pictographs in the Great Basin. It's very unusual to see yellow coloring in pictographs.

We admired them for awhile, speculating on what they mean. Then we headed back to the vehicle and continued over the pass to Big Smoky Valley to Spencer Hot Springs.

After we soaked in the pool for awhile, we wandered around to check out the other hot springs. The trough was too hot for me, but the others could handle it.

After a bit, we had our fill and headed to Austin for a break at the playground. Austin has the best playground I've seen along Highway 50, and as an added bonus, some folks stopped with their dog, and Maggie had the best hour playing.

Next up...on to fossils and ghost towns!

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