Continuing our westward movement, we next drove to Ash Springs Hot Springs in Alamo NV near the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. We had visited there on our way east the previous fall. The hot springs were lovely, a small county park with a stone block pool and a warm flowing creek bounded by trees and greenery. When we arrived, it was closed within a padlocked fence. At the gas station nearby, the attendant said the hot springs had been closed down indefinitely after a group had vandalized it. Honestly, my reaction was: WTF?!?
Disappointed to go without a soak and much more disappointed in the human race, we went to the wildlife refuge for the night. When we were there in November 2012 we were a few weeks late for the huge fall bird migration. There now in September we were a few weeks early. Even so, there were quite a few birds on the lakes. At night they were most vocal. That evening was dead calm and the squawks, trills, chirps, clucks and quacks of the evening serenade carried across the open waters and woke me from sleep. Numerous times during the night I got up to record the pleasant chatter of this nocturnal bird discourse.
The next day we had an uneventful drive along the Extraterrestrial Highway, not stopping for Area 51 or the Little A’le’Inn. I had located another hot springs near the Nevada-California border, Fish Lake Valley Hot Springs. By early evening the weather had turned menacing, the clouds especially dark and ominous to the north. We pulled over at a rest stop west of Tonopah NV for the night. Later the wild winds intensified, shaking and buffeting the camper. By now we had survive several windstorms and were confident the camper would hold up. Morning was calm and cold; the high mountains encircling the valley had fresh snow. It was first the day of autumn.
We drove through more geologically naked landscapes. I love Nevada for its endless miles of unoccupied starkly desolate mountain ranges and valleys. Eventually, we found Fish Lake down 7 miles of dirt roads, in a wide valley with 9000’ mountains to the west and wildly colored smaller mountains to the east and south.
This hot springs, on public land, was surprisingly nice. A true oasis in the desert. The springs first emptied from a pipe into a cement pool, about 7′ x 5′ and 3’ deep, at 105°. It then streamed into two tepid ponds surrounded by cattails. The springs were home to goldfish, waterfowl and blackbirds. The coots seem to be the permanent residents who begrudgingly tolerated sharing their turf with the transient humans.
The coots had many fuzzy gray chicks and I spent a lot of time watching them defend their territory and feed their babies. Aggressive squabbles between coots were frequent. Parents dove repeatedly to bring lake weed to their young. The chicks were especially noisy, cheeping often. Other wildlife we saw were coyote, jackrabbit, lizards, ravens, and small rodents.
In many ways, this place was idyllic except for two uncontrollable variables, the weather and the human race. Two forces to be reckoned with. The weather mostly cooperated, but the humans, a little less so. A sign threatened that the springs will be closed if vandalism and killing of wildlife continues. The three other campers were quiet and respectful. But in the evening, people came, opened their pick-up truck doors, and played loud music. In the morning there would be beer bottles, cigarette butts and other garbage to clean up.
We met Mark, from San Diego, who was a frequent visitor here. He was friendly and chatty and filled us in on the ins and outs of this place. Mark mentioned that there were a lot of “Apache tears” on the dirt’s surface near where we had set up camp. Apache tears are droplets of obsidian; obsidian is volcanic glass formed from quickly cooled molten lava. Once clued into this, they appeared everywhere and I began collecting them; I fantasized about the jewelry I could make. The tears ranged in size from small peas to plums and when held up to the sun many were transparent gray like smoky quartz, others had red oxide streaks. Other interesting mineral pieces were abundant, but, although I am a rockhound wannabe, I was unfortunately not knowledgeable enough to identify potential treasures from the rough rocks surrounding us.
For the several days we stayed at Fish Lake we soaked and swam, wandered the desert, napped, wrote and read. And decided we would return someday.