Hot springs pockmark this area. Back in the 1860's, this particular spring was a way station for the Belmont-Austin stageline. James Darrough built a small roadside accommodation here around 1883, but today the springs serve chiefly as reminders of Nevada's not so distant volcanic past. Today, the springs can be visited for $1.00 per hour. I turned off SR 376 negotiating a winding rutted dirt and gravel path, glancing at the fenced graveyard to my right. At the end of the "driveway" was a ramshackle house made of desert-blasted wood devoid of paint or decoration, cardboard blocked broken windows and decades of vines enveloping it. "Abandoned - Unfit for Human Habitation", I thought as I drove around the bend in the driveway. I was greeted by an attendant. We exchanged hellos and I mentioned the spring's write-up in the WPA Guide to 1930's Nevada. He asked if I'd be going in the water but I replied that I had bathed in Spencer's (free) Hot Springs some twenty miles up the road. "We empty our pool every week" he said proudly. I smiled and said that I would, however, like to take a couple of pictures of the famous spring. The attendant became concerned. "We've had people write lies about us in the past. Will this be in a book?" I assured him that the pictures would never appear in a book and refrained from asking, "What lies?".
He asked where I was from and when hearing the answer said, "Bunch of socialists there." I replied that he seems to be jumping to a conclusion and he muttered "Maybe so". He asked if I knew the biggest problem facing the west today? Without waiting for an answer, he informed me that illegal immigrants were the problem. "55,000 alone in Las Vegas since the beginning of the year. When we see a car load of 'em, we follow them just to be sure." I shook my head wondering if I'd heard correctly. "And the democrats, too. That Bill Clinton", he spat as if tasting something foul, "In 1985 Nevada was 86% federal land and now it's 91% thanks to the Antiquity Act of 1906 and Clinton." I asked if the springs got many visitors anymore. He replied that they were a family place and if three guys and three girls wanted to use the springs, he wouldn't permit it. He then went on with "we had some gypsies a while back. They wanted to look inside the house but all they do is look for things to steal. They steal children, you know. They had a little boy with them that didn't look like either one." (I started questioning the wisdom of seeking out Darrough's Springs.) When I tuned back in, I was being informed that blacks vote democrat 92% of the time and hispanics are right up there but it was the Jews who controlled everything. I braced myself for the Protocols of Zion tirade. Glancing at his four inch brass belt buckle, I saw that he was a member of the Freemasons. I mentioned that a friend of mine was a Worshipful Master at his lodge. I'm sure I received the secret sign but was unable (and most unwilling) to return it. "All the Founding Fathers were Masons", he bragged. "That's when we had 'control', er-um I mean 'power.'" I smiled. "No, control is the right word." There was a long exchange of eye contact.
He told me to park the car and take all the pictures I wanted of the spring and concrete pool, "but no pictures of the house." He walked into the house and I got busy shooting the springs, pool and country-side. Moments later, an elderly crone emerged from the house. Makeup was caked on her wizen face featuring prominent use of blue eye-shadow. "You have a beautiful view", I said smiling. "You done taking pictures yet?" she snapped. I decided to change tack. "Are you descended from the Darroughs who founded the springs back in the 1860's?", I asked. "What do you want to know for. I don't tell people my business." I edged toward the van. "We don't tell people personal things...." I didn't stay to hear the rest. Must have been the sounds of "Dueling Banjos" in my head as scenes of the movie "Deliverance" flashed through my mind.
* Darrough Springs is the first (and ONLY) place I've visited in Nevada that receives the CmdrMark AVOID AT ALL COSTS designation. There are ample springs north of here ( Spencer's Springs to name one) should you want to soak in mineral hot springs and not be subjected to political rantings.
To the east over the Toquima Range is Devil's Punch Bowl (also known as Diana's Punch Bowl). Legend has it that an Indian brave and maiden were hunting for eagle eggs on the sharply sloped side of the hot spring. The maiden had a tight grasp of the brave's feet as he reached over the side. Suddenly two small eagles landed next to them and the maiden grabbed for the birds...letting go of the brave's feet. Into the hot springs he plunged. The legend continues that his leather leggings and and scalp eventually came through the underground channels and emerged at Darrough's Hot Springs miles to the west.
Food can be cooked in these hot springs including corn, potatoes and
the lowly tube steak (often called a hotdog). Caution: Some hot springs
are really, really hot! Scalding is a very good possibility for the unwary
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