We made it out of Death Valley. We drove through miles of Mars-like landscape in hairdryer heat (113 F) on seemingly endless roads. The valley’s one mad-made attraction, a 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival villa called Scotty’s Castle, hidden in an isolated desert oasis, was inexplicably closed. Low on gas after taking the lengthy detour to find it, let’s just say I’m glad I’m sitting here to tell you about our next adventure rather than hanging out with the valley vultures.
After spending the night in a quaint small town called Bishop, we set off early towards Mammoth Lakes, California’s answer to the French Alps in winter time. On our approach, by pure chance, we turned off highway down an unmarked road, simply because we wanted to see what was at the end of it (my road trip ethos).
This is what we found…
We’ve stumbled upon the little-known hot springs of Hot Creek. Bubbling volcanic turquoise pools lure us down into the rivene, running like excited children down the winding path, no one else in sight.
These springs were once popular in the 1970s, when dozens of families would gather here to soak in the mixed hot thermal and cold creek water. Then health & safety laws came into play and the area was fenced off and dotted with danger signs.
Today, we are alone in this deserted Hot Creek.
Technically, we’re not supposed to go beyond this point and of course, I wouldn’t dream of encouraging any illegal trespassing, but conveniently for naughty little road trippers like us, there’s a hole in the fence to wriggle through. That’s a good enough invitation for me!
The hot springs are on the other side of the thermal creek, so we hike up our shorts, find a spot that looks easy enough to cross and venture into the water, moving through patches of hot and cold temperatures.
The turquoise pools are deceptively inviting, but one pinkie finger dip and you realise those warning signs aren’t kidding around. This water is absolutely, positively scalding.
Tip-toeing from pool to pool, chunks of the ground are also about to collapse into the boiling depths below.
Every few moments, the pools let out a belch of sulphur, bubbling to the surface.
Dare me to dive in?
While the turquoise pools aren’t even fit for toe-dipping, we do take a nice hot bath in the river before heading back.
Back on the road and we spot a rusty hot rod Beetle in front of us and decide to follow it for a little while. He takes us to the charming town of Lee Vining, a small community overlooking Mono Lake, a large and shallow saline soda basin, or in other words, a dying lake. We decide to settle in to a motel for the night and hit the beach…
But I don’t think we’re in California anymore…
These alien towers of rock are called tufas. They’re formed by underground rivers that carried calcium into the lake from the bottom and bubbled up to the surface, creating these other-worldly formations. When the water levels began receding little by little, these extra-terrestrial tufas were revealed.
They sure beat sand castles…
A special thanks to the rusty old hot rod Beetle for leading us to the Alien beach!
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