August 07, 2011

Lessons of a Lone Traveler: Hot Springs Edition

Last night I found the well-hidden Travertine Hot Springs, a no-fee Bureau of Land Management site in a geologically significant area south of Bodie, the famed gold mining ghost town.

I would never have known about it had I stayed in Lee Vining, the "Gateway to Yosemite" where Mono Lake is located, most convenient to most of what I had planned for this weekend. I would have never even looked for it. But instead, I chose to stay farther north in Bridgeport, a three-block town featuring the Mono County courthouse, jail, and other historic sites. And hot springs.

It was a simple excursion, only a couple of miles from my motel, but it took two tries to get there, and even when I found the parking lot, I had to ask someone, "Where do I go now?!"

I only spent an hour sitting in the spring water, muddy-bottomed natural pools of travertine eroded smooth by the warm flow that has left a rainbow of color behind in its wake...

...but, as I commiserated with a couple of my fellow bathers, if you're adventurous enough, you learn that there are an unlimited number of places to explore out West, each unique and fascinating, even if you only spend a brief amount of time there.

Traveling alone, I've also learned...
  1. Stay off the beaten path, even if it's 30 miles out of your way.
  2. Try something new.
  3. If you look for something and can't find it, ask for help, then go back and look again.
  4. Embrace the unknown.
  5. Talk to people. Answer their questions. Ask them questions.
  6. Catch the sunset wherever you are. Get outside. Climb a volcano. Drive to the top of a hill. But don't miss it.
  7. Accept invitations. Be willing to share a meal, a car, a canoe, or a trail.
  8. Plan ahead, but don't stick so closely to the plan that you miss out on something special you didn't know about, or couldn't have anticipated.
  9. Don't be afraid to abort mission if something doesn't turn out like you'd hoped. You don't have to eat food that doesn't taste good; you don't have to hike a boring trail. Don't be afraid to move on.
  10. If you can't do everything in one trip, you can always go back.
I have been right by Yosemite this weekend, and I didn't even go to Yosemite. There has been enough to keep me occupied on its outskirts.

So I'm considering this trip more or less an exploratory one, getting the lay of the land for when I return.

And I will return. I'm not done yet here in the Eastern Sierras.

But today, I have to go back. I have a long drive ahead of me, but I've already got a few pit stops planned, and am sure I'll find plenty to do along the way...

(Sort of) Related Reading:
Photo Essay: The Getty Center Under Fog

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