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Gruelling Hike or Heavenly Hot Spring? | Connect the Dots #3

One of the dots I'd hoped to connect on our trip through Nevada was hiking to the top of Boundary Peak in the White Mountains.

Boundary is an interesting peak. Appropriately, it sits on a boundary - the state line between Nevada and California. At 13,147 feet, it's the highest peak in Nevada.  And hilariously, along the same ridgeline - less than a mile away, and just across the California border - Montgomery Peak rises 298 feet above Boundary Peak, yet Montgomery Peak does not rank amongst the top 100 of California's highest peaks.

Sounded like the perfect peak to hike for an underachiever such as myself - at once both the tallest, and yet also "easy."

Or maybe not. Our foray into Lamoille Canyon just a few days earlier - with more than a foot of snow at 10,000 feet - gave us pause. The hike up Boundary would start at 9,000 feet and climb 4,000 feet in four miles, temperatures ranging from 15°F when we departed the bottom at 7:00am to a balmy 30°F at the top, if we arrived around noon. And so, I offered an alternative to @mrs.turbodb: push south toward the trailhead, or use the day that we'd allocated for the hike to visit one of the coolest hot springs I'd ever discovered, saving the hike - and its associated dot - for a future adventure.

In hindsight, I can't say I was surprised by her answer. Hot springs are one of her favorite things.

With a new itinerary, we made a second adjustment, opting to explore a nearby mine - or at least the portal of the mine adit - near Walker Lake before heading for a soak. It was a place I knew about - having camped nearby on my Last Minute Rush trip - but I'd only investigated workings lower on the mountain, unaware that there was a mine even higher.

Shrouded in shade, we got an early start.


Playing with the drone, our ascent was not the speediest, and most definitely reconfirmed my lackluster piloting skills, even upon setting the drone to "track the Tacoma." It was about half a mile from the top - still 400 feet below the upper mine - that we ran into trouble. Though nothing dangerous, the grade of the road increased at the same time that the composition of the road base changed to loose, 4-inch-and-smaller rock, making traction - even with lockers - no better than my piloting prowess.

So, we backed the Tacoma out of the road and into a switchback - just in case some other crazy explorers happened to head this way on a Sunday - and hoofed it the rest of the way on foot.

Totally not what I thought was happening as I checked out the small opening of the portal.

Sure enough, we were in the right place. I'd recognized the road as I'd watched an episode of Abandoned Mine Exploring with Tom and Julie entitled Interesting Greeting At The Portal Of This Nevada Mine, and as I peered down into the blackness, I smiled at what I saw. We wouldn't be venturing into this adit - we weren't going to slither in like Tom and Julie did - but it was fun to know that I was in the same place Tom had been when he enlarged the opening so they could go in.

The rails look enticing; the animal skeleton, not so much.

After a quick glance from @mrs.turbodb, we headed back down to the truck, our sights now set on a soak. There was only one problem: as I pulled out my Lenovo Tab M8 FHD (which I very much like), I discovered it was off. Thinking it'd simply shut down due to the extremely cold temperatures, I wasn't thrilled, but I certainly wasn't upset. That wouldn't happen until a few seconds later, when as I powered it up, it greeted me with the "Welcome to your new tablet" experience, all of the apps, maps, and GPS data I'd downloaded to it, gone.

Luckily for us, @mrs.turbodb had her phone on hand with Gaia installed, so after a quick stop in Hawthorne - to download the tracks for the trip to her phone - we were on our way, if a little less conveniently than when we have a tablet mounted to the dash.

Winding our way through the mountains on Lucky Boy Rd.

Hello Sierra, where's all your snow?

Final approach.

It was only as we were a quarter mile from the spring that I realized that - though this place is extremely remote and a well-kept secret - we might not be alone on this beautiful fall Sunday. And, sure enough, as we rounded the last bend, a family of four - and two old Jeep CJs with a trailer - were parked a few dozen feet from the stone-lined pool.

Initially disappointed, their presence turned out to be a blessing. They'd arrived Friday afternoon to find the pool nearly full of sediment - the spring unvisited for months before their arrival. They'd spent the better part of Friday evening and Saturday morning draining, scrubbing, and refilling pool - the water now crystal clear, the cemented stones ready for use. And just as we were arriving, they were packing up to leave!

Talk about two lucky ducks!

After a quick cereal breakfast we soaked in the 104°F pool for about an hour. This gave the Jeeps - which would surely travel slowly as they pulled the trailer along the narrow, rough road - some time to get ahead of us, and afforded us another opportunity for a not-a-real-bath-but-better-than-cold-washcloths cleaning.

And then, we were on our way.

Climbing out of a valley that hides a heavenly hot spring.

As would repeat many times on the trip, there was plentiful pavement between one destination and the next. That was expected with a trip like this, but it was still nice to have dirt under the tires once again as we headed towards Rattlesnake Flat and a spot that ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮  had shared with me after I'd been in this area previously.

Another basin, indistinguishable from so many in Nevada.

Guardians of Rattlesnake Flat, waiting to collect their toll.

Our ultimate destination lay south, but before heading to the cabin-under-a-rock, we were in search of some rock art that'd initially been described to me as "on the road 17 miles from Hawthorne." This - we joked after making several turns on lesser and lesser travelled roads - was obviously enough to find the place, my eventual request for a bit more detail on the location, completely unnecessary.

Over a range and into another basin.

There they are!

Neither of us was expecting much from these petroglyphs. In our exploration, we've found - generally - that high-desert art is less detailed and had generally been more heavily weathered - than the rock art in places like Utah and Arizona. A big part of this - I think - has to do with the difference in surfaces, the sandstone pallet affording a significantly nicer medium than the porous volcanic stone in which to work. Still, it's always fun to find rock art and wonder at its origin, so no matter what, we're always up for the hunt.

And boy, were we in for a surprise. The rock art here was fantastic - some of the best we've seen in the high desert of Nevada!

Intricate carvings and recognizable images!

I really enjoyed this design, as it wrapped around the edge of the rock.

Triangle sunstar. These ribbons of triangles were similar to some of the designs we saw in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

This panel - and all the rocks strewn around it - was the largest.

Pooping bird man jumping rope.

It's always interesting to see how one element extends into another and wonder to the meaning of the original artist.

It was getting late - only 90 minutes until sunset - when we wrapped up our wanderings around the petroglyphs. It'd taken no short amount of time to reach them, and we knew it'd take even longer to retrace half that distance before heading to cabin-under-a-rock for the evening. We'd definitely be eating dinner in the dark!

This guy flew over us at a few thousand feet - landing gear out - as we were climbing back into the Tacoma.

From the basins we'd spent the afternoon exploring, we wound our way up into the granite boulders of the Excelsior Mountains, the sky slowly changing from a brilliant blue to a range of pastel purples and pinks as we gained elevation. Temperatures - pleasant throughout the day - were dropping by the minute.

Granite erosion is always so intriguing.

As the road joined a wash, an old steel cable marked the location of what was likely the entrance to a mine.

In my pre-trip research, I'd had the opportunity to chat with a few good folks who'd visited cabin-under-a-rock themselves. One of them mentioned that either the east or west access to the site was extra sketchy, a tidbit that I'd failed to mention to my travelling companion, largely because I'd dismissed it as immaterial.

That, dear reader is what they call cocky. And you know where that gets you.

At any rate, after the first semi-sketchy obstacle - one that required a tad bit of spotting from @mrs.turbodb, something she is not a fan of - we ran into an extended stretch of wash that looked as though it could cause problems. Knowing that it'd be better to retrace our route earlier rather than later, we got out to scout.


While I made sure I could find a line down the wash, @mrs.turbodb spotted this little guy. Only about eight inches long, he'd unfortunately been caught out in the cold too long.

Looks doable.

Picking our way down through the decomposing granite, I related the information I'd heard about either the east or west approach being more difficult than the other. We each found ourselves hoping that this was the difficult approach, as we'd otherwise be in for quite the adventure when we tried to leave the following morning. Even tonight, our progress had been slowed dramatically; as we exited the wash, we still had nearly 10 miles of mountainous shelf roads to navigate in the dark.

The twilight on this granite wall was striking.

Lights on as the final colors of sunset fade from the sky.

It was just after 7:30pm when we arrived at cabin-under-a-rock. In no time, I was setting up the tent as the components of chicken wraps were warmed and assembled on the Coleman camp stove by my similarly famished companion. These wraps - we've come to realize - are a tasty alternative to our should-be-patented taco-rritoes, and contain largely the same ingredients, with the exception of the meat component. Not only that, but a side benefit of using chicken fingers - that are simply warmed in aluminum foil - is that there's even less cleanup when we're done!

Dinner wrapped up (ba-dum-dum ), it was back into the warmth of the cab for one of us, while the other couldn't help but to play around with the LED puck lights a bit, hoping to gain the approval of those who'd introduced him to the pesky little things.

Not long after - hoping that our adventure out in the morning would be easier than our evening's adventure in - we snuggled into bed as the moon rose over the ridge to the east.

We still wouldn't know what it really looked like until morning.




The Whole Story


    JOHN D MORAN December 3, 2023

    Another wonderful adventure and pictures of a place that we could never be able to see for ourselves, as always, thanks again for sharing. And the drone always adds to the enjoyment in viewing.

    • turbodb
      turbodb December 3, 2023

      Thanks John! Always wonderful to have you - virtually - along.

  2. Nathaniel Zavaleta-Abel
    Nathaniel Zavaleta-Abel December 3, 2023

    Gorgeous! Was the spring hot? Last time I was there it was just warm

    • turbodb
      turbodb December 3, 2023

      Thanks Nathaniel! Was a perfect 104°F for us. I'd say that we generally prefer 106°F, but it was nice that it was a couple degrees cooler because we were waiting for the Jeeps to bug out, and we were able to stay in without overheating. ♨

  3. Greg Weirick
    Greg Weirick December 3, 2023

    Love that secret spring!
    Do you still have to haul buckets of hot water from the spring, or has it been plumbed?
    First time there thot was on the river and failed to find plumber?
    Love your travels and Happy Holidays.

    • turbodb
      turbodb December 3, 2023

      I’ve only been to this spring a couple times, and both times it was plumbed. I didn’t realize that was a "new" development!

      Glad you’re enjoying the stories, and Happy Holidays to you as well.

  4. David
    David December 3, 2023

    Haha I love Tom and Julie and email back and forth quite frequently!

    • turbodb
      turbodb December 4, 2023

      They really do seem like fantastic folks. So understated, and really into what they do. Who knows, maybe I'll be lucky enough to run into them one day!

  5. Philippe Richen
    Philippe Richen December 4, 2023

    Another great episode. Keeps me going just as I am working on my taco for remote trips once I retire which is coming up. Love the new drone shots to. Gives me the I need one more toy in my arsenal?

    • turbodb
      turbodb December 4, 2023

      Thanks Philippe! 👍 As for the drone - I find that I'm mostly using it in camp, once we arrive in the evening or before we leave in the morning. The setup/teardown time - probably 5 minutes each - is enough that it's kinda a pain to use when we're "on the move." I'm hoping to make a few changes so that I can store it fully assembled and ready to go, and hopefully that will make it easier to grab-and-go. We shall see! Definitely a fun toy though!

    JOHN DOLCH December 4, 2023

    Wow Dan and the Mrs Thanks for the stories and pictures!!!! Real sense of adventure and very inspiring. Journey Onward!!!😎👍💫

    • turbodb
      turbodb December 4, 2023

      Thanks John!

  7. Lance Geis
    Lance Geis December 4, 2023

    Awesome episode! Thanks for taking the time to share these...

    • turbodb
      turbodb December 4, 2023

      Glad you enjoyed it Lance! Always nice to share a bit of the wonder we find out in nature with others who appreciate it as well. 😁

  8. Lars Pedersen
    Lars Pedersen March 23, 2024

    Hot spring was just warm last weekend. Inflow was awesomely hot, just wasn't enough of it. Whatever, we were happy to be there and the weather was perfect.
    I was mildly alarmed heading down into the canyon in my utterly stock off-the-lot 2023 Tacoma, wishing I had my currently not running much-modified early Bronco. But it acquitted itself amazingly well, down and up.
    Thank you for the narrative and photos, they are keeping me going and encouraging me to explore again at a time in my life when I have felt like I was fading.
    Oh yeah, we have a theory about why that bus was dragged down there, explains the presence of a bunch of other old trashed vehicles we have found around mines over the decades.

    • turbodb
      turbodb March 24, 2024

      Hey Lars, glad you were able to get out there, bummer to hear that the pool was a little on the cool side. I've found that the only way to change that, there, is to drain the pool and have it refill with the hot source water. That allows for a good cleaning of the silt that accumulates as well, though of course, it means waiting for it to refill!

      So glad to hear you're enjoying the stories, it's comments like yours that put a smile on my face and make me extra glad that I take the time to write them up! 👍

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