Travels in the American Southwest

A Scenic Roadway, Valley of the Moon & Hot Springs

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Photos of Valley of the Moon, Nevada

The sky gradually lightened as MSO and I had our morning caffeine fix. With the dawning of a new day, the events of the night before were overshadowed by this new day's agenda. Quickly struck camp, mostly abiding by the "leave no trace" philosophy - We left some tire tracks and a Geocache. The cache is at N 40 33' 44.9" W 116 35' 45.3" and will be listed officially at Geocaching.com shortly.

We headed back to I-80, crossing over the railroad tracks which bisect the town of Beowawe. Had we taken a right at the tracks, we would have come to Gravely Ford. This is where the pioneers would cross the Humboldt River on their trek to California. They would camp there, allowing the livestock to graze in the nearby fields while they rested after the journey through Utah and the salt flats. Gravely Ford was an oasis for the emigrants who still had miles of hardships ahead of them as they crossed the Humboldt Sink, Forty Mile Desert and the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.

Our trip was considerably more comfortable and speedy. We cruised the short distance to Battle Mountain where we topped off the gas tank and replenished some supplies (more beer!) and grabbed a newspaper, wondering if the World Series would be canceled by a strike. At the gas station, another RV was tanking up. Struck up a conversation with the driver who told me horror tales of his trip. He had rented an RV and liked it so much that he bought one. Now he couldn't wait to get home "and sell the damned thing". His windshield was a spiderweb of cracks, the result of golfball sized hail in Kansas. He and the family watched as a twister passed some 100 yards in front of his vehicle as they were rocked back and forth in the winds. The 110 volt line shorted out against the muffler burning a hole in it and melting the surrounding wires and harness. As good as MSO and my trip was going, his sounded like the exact opposite. We counted our lucky stars as we pulled out of the gas station. Any problems we had were quickly remedied by looking in the owner's manual. We also did a "brothel search" while in Battle Mountain but was unsuccessful in our hunt.

Heading south on SR305, I reviewed the day's planned events. Primary on the list was locating a patch of Nevada known as Valley of the Moon. I had found the name on a map but was unable to find much else about it. One web page mentioned a rest area however Nevada's Dept. of Transportation maps and web site showed no rest areas on SR305. A dozen miles into our trip, MSO remarked on the scenery and how beautiful it was. I agreed remembering that AAA had listed this roadway as a AAA Scenic Route. As the road snakes down towards Austin, it passes through a number of "life zones", each displaying the plants, shrubs and trees encompassing that ecological niche. Of the many roads which MSO and I traveled this year, SR305 was one of the most beautiful. Some forty miles south of Battle Mountain, we came across the mysterious Valley of the Moon and the rumored rest area. A sign merely identifies the rest area as Valley of the Moon rest area. Bathrooms are available as is a payphone (which does not accept coins, credit card/800 numbers only) and picnic tables under a canopy to protect visitors from the harsh Nevada sun. To the East lies desert, miles of parched ground broken up by an occasional creosote or sagebrush bush. In comparison, the view to the West looks like the Garden of Eden. Thanks to irrigation, a sea of green crops blankets the ground. We snapped a bunch of pictures and planted another Geocache while we were stopped. Our Valley of the Moon Cache is at N 40 07'47.3" W 117 07'36.0". The cache is our inducement to get people to ride SR305 and see some of Nevada's natural beauty at its best.

We arrived in Austin early afternoon. I took great delight in pointing out the various sights such as Austin's three churches and Reuel Gridley's store. What makes a store so notable? It wasn't the store but one of the owners who parlayed a lost bet into $275,000 for charity during the civil war. For more on this Citizen Extrodinaire check out my web page for Austin found in the Ghosttown section.

Last year, while returning from Toquima Cave, I planted a Geocache along FR100. This easily passable, graded gravel road runs southeast, starting less than a mile from the US50 and SR376 intersection. MSO wanted to locate my cache , adding yet another "find" to her already sizable collection. On and on we drove, depending on her GPS to show the way. I feigned nonchalance as we got nearer and nearer to the location. I certainly wasn't going to give her any hints as to its hiding place! Driving a half dozen yards beyond the cache, she exclaimed, "Stop. It's back the other way." I smiled knowing exactly where it was and asked if we could turn this 27 foot monster RV around first. She agreed and I drove on looking for an appropriate place to pull a U-turn. Finally saw a spot, asking MSO to hop out and watch that the back wheels don't slip off the road dragging the RV into the gully. You remember those three point turns we learned in driver's ed? Well, this was a nineteen point turn. I probably could have made it a fifteen point turn but the realization that the rental agency would be not at all pleased with me should the RV slip into the gully had me erring on the side of caution. As we approached the cache from the other direction, MSO cried, "Stop!". I hopped out of the RV and started looking around on the ground on the North side of the road. This red herring proved futile as MSO, trusty GPS in hand, crossed to the South side of the road and within moments found my cache. She was disappointed that she was not one of the first five people to find my cache, having instead to settle for being number six.

With another Geocache "find" under her belt, MSO and I headed back to Spencers Hot Springs which we'd passed some eight miles earlier. We knew we were in the right area when we saw two or three RVs parked, widely separated, off to the right. I knew why they were so far apart. Even out in the middle of nowhere, a little elbow room is a good thing. We parked a ways from the hot spring, you don't really want to set up camp right next to the spring - You'll invade bathers' privacy and get no privacy for yourself as others come to soak in the spring. Our first order of business was that roast which was to be cooked the night before in Beowawe. I set up the grill and cobbled together a spit. This time I used the king of charcoal - Kingsford. A far superior charcoal when compared to that Red Oak brand that failed me in Beowawe! While waiting for the flames to die and the light gray ash to form on the charcoal, we headed up to the spring. Officially listed at 162 degrees, Spencer's Hot Spring seemed a whole lot hotter. Soaking in it would be impossible unless you planned on serving yourself with drawn butter. I closed the incoming flow control valve knowing that the tub would cool to a survivable temperature overnight.

Headed back to camp and put the roast on the now ready charcoal. Again, I sang the praises of Kingsford over their competitor Red Oak. In no time, the roast was done (to perfection if I might be so boastful!). MSO set the table, complete with tablecloth and candles, and we feasted. Afterwards, we realized the coals were still plenty hot so we grabbed the chicken we'd bought earlier, placed it on the spit and had it merrily cooking away in no time.

As the sun slowly set, I tossed a match onto the campfire I'd set up. The blaze cut the gathering gloom and provided us warmth as the stars made their appearance. MSO was spellbound. Yeah, they were the same stars we saw in Beowawe but with moonrise coming an hour later than the night before, that extra hour of no moon was most beneficial for stargazing. Oh, and we had a much more substantial meal under our belts, too. We lounged around the fire, sipping our beers, lost in our own thoughts. For me, I was listening to the desert crickets and estimating the temperature. (CmdrWizard here, readers. Count the number of chirps a cricket makes in fifteen seconds, add 40 and you'll know the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.)

Awoke Monday morning and all I could think of was a hot soak. I was surprised to find a car parked next to the spring. Funny, I didn't hear that drive up last night. Must have been more tired than I thought. Headed up to the spring for a water temperature check. Mmmm, maybe 130-140 degrees. Perfect for MSO and me. Started to walk back to the RV when I casually glanced at the car. At that exact moment, the driver opened her eyes and our eyes locked. She quickly closed hers and I shuffled over to our camp. I felt badly invading her privacy but when you park next to one of the few attractions in 100 square miles...

Did a little clean up and then savored my morning cup of tea as MSO did likewise with her coffee; Both of us up to our necks in the soothing hot spring. Today we were due to travel westward almost the rest of the way across the state. We stopped in Fallon to restock. Block ice, milk and a few goodies and we were off to Fernley to gas up, then make the two hour trek north on SR447 to the Black Rock Desert Conservation Area. Our next four days would be spent at Black Rock City, ephemeral home of the Burning Man celebration.

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