Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day two... when your dreams turn to dust maybe it's time to vacuum

    I got out of Susanville at a reasonable hour.  (For me 10am is good.)  My hopes and expectations for the day were so high they nearly went through the roof of my truck.
     My plan was to drive south on HWY 395, through Reno/Sparks and into California to find one of my favorite haunts from the early 80's.  I had a girlfriend back then that was building a house for her parents in the area.  When I visited her she would always take me in her old Chevy truck to miraculous places.  One of those places was Buckeye Hot Springs.  Buckeye is seven miles up an unmarked gravel road.  Once you find the area you can park in it's a harrowing walk down slimy rocks.  Meanwhile right next to the hotsprings the Stanislaus River is crashing down it's bed making melodramatic harmonies.
     The local people who know the area often go down in the spring once the snow has cleared and build up a pool for the 120 degree water that comes out of those slimy rocks.  If you get too hot in the 'pool' it's just a step over a pile of rocks into 40 degree water.  You have to hold on though, especially in the spring because the snow melt makes for a furious current. 
    As you can see in the picture I was a little early.  There is no way my truck was going to make it through even a few inches of snow.   Any sane person would have left it at that.  But my hopes were so high (especially after finding the dirt road), I locked my truck up and walked up the steep and snowy road till I could walk no more (about 3 miles).  A voice in my head was saying 'this is no fun, I'm tired, blah, blah, blah' and another voice kept answering 'just one more hill and if we don't see it we'll turn around'.  (yes, I do talk to myself).  After about an hour the voice who wanted to turn around finally won.  I could feel the tingle of tears start to irritate my eyes.  (Disappointment is one of my least favorite emotions.)
     So I walked all the way back down the road, and took a few shots of the view.

   And a long shot just so I could show you where I was.  (which was about 6000ft up on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Range).
  I drove back down the gravel road and several minutes later I reached Bridgeport.  It's a red-neck town from way back (gold miners and desert rats).  It hasn't changed much in the 20 years since I had last been there.  The only business I could find open was the bar where I quickly met 'Mr. No' and 'Mr. I Don't Have Time For You'.  I asked whether Buckeye Hot Springs still existed.  Mr. No said "It's up there alright but if you drive your truck up that road it ain't coming down till the snow melts".  Then I asked about Bodie.  Mr. No said that was off limits.  That someone was up there last week.  Caught a ride with someone else.  Apparently I have lost my skill at getting information out of red-necks.
    So I got in the truck, drove down to the cutoff for Bodie, went around two roadblocks and when I was a mile and a half away I found this sign with a was a big green locked gate that I couldn't drive around.
    While I was sitting there reading it and thinking about riding my mountain bike up the road a green 4 wheel drive pickup with a man and a woman in it drove up.  The woman jumped out and unlocked the gate.  While she was out of the truck I asked her if I could ride my bike up there to the site.  She said, 'You could if the park was open.  It closes at 3 everyday'.  Major disappointment number 2 for the day.  So I turned around and took a couple of landscape shots.  The sun was just getting low enough to make the snow iridescent.

       If I had gone ahead and broke the rules I would have had some backlit ghost town ruins to show you.  But as they say 'When your dreams turn to dust maybe it's time to vacuum'.
    So I drove down to Mono Lake.  It too has changed in since I'd last been there.  There was a lot more water in it than I remembered, obscuring the majority of the salt formations that make it amazing.

    I then drove to Bishop and checked the pricing on a few hotels.  The cheapest was way out of my price range.  Besides in the 20 years since I had been there it has changed dramatically.  They now cater to people who can afford to have cabins up there and go skiing during the winter.  In the spring they cater to those who play golf.  Cheapest hotel was over a hundred bucks.
     Lone Pine, with a population of 1000 and an all night howling wind turned out to be where I ended day two.  I am happy because I caught up on the blogging and the internet was pretty decent.  Stay tuned for day three which will be a trip through Death Valley and some ghost towns in Nevada.  Thanks for reading....  yona c. riel


  1. Lone Pine is beautiful! Go hike up Mount Whitney!

  2. Even with the disappointments, you are having an adventure. Winter in California has been VERY SNOWY. The pictures are very beautiful and remind me of my travels through the area. Stay safe! I hope Day 3 brings more satisfaction! (I used to send med students to Lone Pine in the summer to work with local docs. They got great experience working with local pop as well as all the hikers/tourists who managed to get injured on their adventures. They all loved that little town.)