In Search of Thermal Warmth
Story & Photos by Randy P. Martin // @randypmartin
It’s late autumn and it’s getting cold out. The garden is brown and crispy, my backyard chickens have stopped laying for the year, and all of the trees are nearly bare. Weeks ago, we found out our truck would need a new engine, the estimate twice the price of the vehicle itself, but we push on.
After a road trip out to Sacramento, we’re driving home in our newly-purchased 1990 Bronco II. It’s a stubby little SUV that’s built for the mountains and rutted dirt roads, a machine to get you off the highway and out to all the best hidden parts of the outdoors. We’re Black Rock bound, Feather River bound—in search of thermal warmth by way of bubbling, steaming hot springs.
The Black Rock Desert is only a two-hour drive north from home in Reno. Three months ago if we’d gone, we’d have found 80,000 desert dwellers in the middle of the insanity that is Burning Man. But in mid-November, we’ve got a pretty good chance of having the place to ourselves. The truck is loaded up with all the essentials, including BB guns, a 30-rack of beer, and all of the wood for burning and blankets for layering that we can find. It’s going to be a cold one tonight. Fourteen degrees cold. Time to soak our bones and see how the new rig does out on the open playa. This should be fun.
We filled up our empty PBR cans with water so you could really see when you got a good hit. Turned them into little tin toothpicks after just a couple of minutes.
Bev’s Miner’s Club has been open since the mid 1930s at the southern base of the Black Rock.
Some good folks showed up with a wakeboard and a little Suzuki Samurai. Never seen anybody surf through a hot spring before, but Trego is pretty unique in that it runs for a few hundred feet from the main pool down a pretty wide channel until it ends in a big field of horsetail grass.
More soaks! This time a half day’s drive away in Northeastern California in the Feather River Canyon. Two different options for your soaking pleasure in these perfectly steamy springs directly on the Feather River: Right side sulfur. Left side Lithium.
The Fly Ranch Geyser is a geothermal spring covered in multi-colored algae and sprays water every which way all over the desert around it. You can’t get in it or anything but pretty fun to watch it spit everywhere for a while.