I woke up early Saturday morning to the sound of animals rustling around our campsite. Looking out, I saw a couple of deer walking by. Unfortunately, I only had my cell phone handy and it doesn't zoom, so the deer look so far away that you can't even what they are. They're deer, people! I promise!
For about an hour, I tried to get some water to boil. Like a real suburbbie girl, I had brought a hot-pot to plug into my portable outlet. Unfortunately, the amps it needed were too low, so my portable outlet would shut off whenever I tried to plug it in. Yay, safety.
I had to resort to heating the water in a pot over a very low flame. By the time Dalby woke up an hour and a half later, the water was barely above body temperature. *Sigh*
We packed up and decided to get going. We had heard of a natural hot springs by Whitehorse Ranch in Fields, Oregon that we really wanted to have time to sit in. Before we could think of rest and relaxation, though, we had some business to attend to...a cache in French Glen. Very nearby was French's Lookout. The terrain was very rocky and I stepped wrong on a boulder, twisting my ankle ever so slightly. I lost my breath for a minute, but continued on through the desert, eventually finding the cache and logging another success.
The drive was so immediately beautiful that it took less than 5 minutes for me to pull off the road and whip out my camera (I'd be called a photo-holic more than once during this trip.) I got some beautiful pictures of plateaus and the unoccupied road. The drive went on like this for miles. So many miles, in fact, that we started to worry. There hadn't been a functional gas station in French Glen, like I was hoping, and my tank was nearing empty. As I fell below a quarter of a tank, there were still no towns for as far as the eye could see. Slightly panicked, we navigated the curvy roads between deserted mountains. Finally, with little more than a gallon of gas left, we arrived in Fields, Oregon where there was a gas station/coffee shop/town store.
While the old fashioned gas pumps did their thing (nearly 15 minutes) Dalby and I went in to the little shop. He got a coffee and I asked about the hot springs. The shop owner/gas attendant/chef pointed us toward Willow Springs, which was about 8 miles away, 26 miles down a gravel road. Let me explain. The spring was only about 8 miles away, but to get there you have to take a skinny gravel road for 26 miles up and around then back down the local hills. Some of these roads really required a 4x4. Fortunately, some fancy navigating got us to the desired location.
I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but the hot springs was not it. The words "I thought it would be bigger" formed in my head, but years of conditioning prevented me from saying that phrase out loud. For some reason I was hoping that we'd be the only people there, but that wasn't the case. There were about half a dozen others at the spring, most of them ranch hands from Whitehorse. There was also two veteran type men, sitting in their army tent propping their feet up on the bumpers of their military vehicles. All in all, it wasn't a situation that I would normally want to be in a swimsuit, but I had come all this way to have my first hot springs experience and I wasn't going to ruin it with self-consciousness.
The first thing I noticed was how horrible the water smelled. It was almost as if we had decided to swim in rotten egg. Fortunately, I have pneumonia, so only a little of the stench filtered through. As I slipped in to natures bath tub, I could feel the slimy mud squish between my toes. I tried to imagine that it was some kind of pedicure masque that would make my feet smooth and soft like bunnies, but it was gross - even for bunny mud.
The waters seemed to help my ankle and Mike said they helped his shoulder (which he had dislocated kayaking a couple of days before) too. I was also grateful for being submerged, because I hadn't taken a shower after camping the night before and we were supposed to be in the middle of nowhere again that night. It wasn't until after the soak that I realized that it was probably better to have lived with mild BO than to go to sleep smelling like Mephistopheles.
After getting out of the hot spring, we pitched our mineral soaked clothes in the trunk and hit the open highway, but not before placing a cache on a nearby hill. Unfortunately, the piece of paper that we wrote the coordinates for the cache on was accidentally used as fire-starting material on our last night of the trip, so we have no way of advertising that it's there! Time to get creative.
From there, it was off to camp in Tonkin Springs, Nevada - at least, it was supposed to be. Unfortunately, the time was coming up on 5 pm and we were still more than six hours away. After eating pizza in Winnemucca, we realized that it was about time to find a place to sleep. We drove until almost 11 pm and wound up at a motel in Carlin, NV.
We had some mixed feelings about staying in the motel. On one hand, it was warm and we were able to shower the natural stench of the hot spring off of us. On the other hand, we weren't exactly roughing it, considering that they offered a nice continental breakfast in the morning. In our defense, we *did* have to make our own waffles.