A night in civilization, at a parking lot!

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After soaking in the natural hot springs and enjoying a therapeutic massage with Karin Pine (who managed to hit all the spots that needed healing) at Tecopa Hot Springs, it was time to get rolling again.  The view while on highway 127 W continued to keep a smile on our faces and the camera shutter clicking.

After only a couple hours of  landscape-gawking, we made a (diesel) pit stop at Primm Valley near the stateline of Nevada and California.  We thought it might be fun to hang out at the casinos there for a free night of camping, plus we could fill up Betsy’s 100-gallon tank with reasonably-priced fuel.

Desperado

Desperado We parked in one of the biggest parking lots we’ve ever seen, behind Buffalo Bill’s Hotel Casino where we had the place almost to ourselves that night.  It was so huge that Fedex and McDonald’s use it for a couple of hours a day as their transfer point for trucks heading east and west.  Steve was amazed at the show they put on as several tractor-trailer rigs arrived and then transferred one or two or three trailers to other trucks heading to their appropriate destinations.

Since we don’t gamble, why stop here?  Is there anything else to do other than gambling?  Oh yes!  Buffalo Bill’s houses the one-time tallest roller coaster in the world, the Desperado.  In fact, it made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s tallest roller coaster in 1996.

Steve rode this coaster with his Dad soon after it was completed, and again with me in 2000 (it scared the bejesus out of me).  Since this was sort of along our route, he planned to ride it again.  This time he is doing it alone, no sir not me, I’m done with roller coasters, no thank you.  And so he did a tripeat alone on the Desperado and was happy as a clam after his exhilirating 2 min and 43 second ride.

Desperado2Across the freeway is another interesting attraction, if you know who the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde were.  Personally I didn’t know anything about them until we went to Whiskey Pete’s Casino.  We visited the free mini-museum depicting their outlaw careers.  I learned that Bonnie and Clyde, in their early twenties, were a notoriously violent bank robbing couple during the depression.  The museum holds the actual bullet-riddled car they were in when they were ambushed by a police posse.  Also displayed were Clyde’s clothing and other personal effects.

Having been in the quietness of the desert for many days, this was a fun stop in the midst of the noisy casinos, at least for one night.  After purging our water tank of the Tecopa mineral water, we headed on to Arizona, the Grand Canyon State….back to the desert landscape we go!

A place NOT on everybody’s “Must See” list – Tecopa, CA

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Clay and rock

After days of exploration and fascination at Death Valley National Park its time to say goodbye to one of our favorite places and move along.  We didn’t have a firm destination, but rather a tentative stop in mind before crossing into Nevada.  We took highway 190 E and at the junction turned right onto 127 S, where we traveled through the expanse of the Amargosa Valley.  We initially hesitated to stop at our first tentative destination, for it was in the middle of nowhere and we didn’t know much about it.   But what the heck, lets check out this place called Tecopa Hot Springs.  We saw what looked like a little oasis up on a plateau to the east, so we turned left and followed the sign.  Our GPS directed us to the first RV park, Petersen’s Tecopa Palm RV Park.  At registration we learned we’d be hooking up to natural mineral water, which means it’s not so good for cooking, drinking or using in your coffee.  Also, since we were in the desert there was no cell, internet or tv.  Hmmm, sounds exciting!  So we decided to stay for the night.

Mineral Water Content

Even if Tecopa is off the beaten path, this town seems to be a snow birder’s destination.  As we socialized with folks during the 4pm happy hour we learned that the big attraction here is the natural baths, local hot mineral springs they claim is healing.  There is a public hot springs administered by Inyo County at a cost of $5 per day, where you must shower first then bathe in the nude.  Oh.  Lucky for us, the RV park had their own  private Hot Mineral Baths, natural hot spring water piped into soaking tubs.  The rules are the same, shower first then soak in your  birthday suit.

Hot Tub

The sign says, “Welcome to Paradise”.  Well, maybe if your idea of paradise is scalding hot water!  Too hot for us…

Our planned one-day stay became three days in short order, as the desert landscape and quiteness got to us, plus the natural hot springs.  The mineral water did not bother us much, nor did being off the grid again.  Tecopa is beautiful and has a mix of rolling hills and desert flats.  From our site we enjoyed a 360-degree mountain view, interesting vistas and more.  This place is no Death Valley, yet it has its own character and is worth seeing and enjoying.

View from our Betsy

The view of Tecopa from Betsy

On our second day we hopped in the car and followed the sign pointing to China Ranch, about 7 miles north of Tecopa.  At the end of a twisting road between chalky cliffs cut into desert seemingly barren of plant life, China Ranch came into view.

China Ranch

To China Ranch we go

What the heck is China Ranch? Well, it’s a family-owned small farm in a hidden oasis in the Mojave Desert.  The ranch fills a little valley with groves of stately date palms, stands of cottonwoods and thickets of vegetation, all amid the tranquil sounds of trickling spring water. P1240476

There’s  a bakery with yummy home made bread and cookies made of dates, assorted dates for tasting, a gift shop, landscaping nursery, a one-room museum

and miles of hiking trails.  Mine shafts abound in China Ranch, as the area has a rich history of mining booms and busts.  Lead, Silver, Gypsum and Talc were the primary minerals that were extracted here.

Date Palms

Groves of Date Palms ready for harvest

We were thrilled at  the assortment of hiking trails!  Off we went  without a trail map (the gift shop was not open yet) or drinking water, thinking we’d be back in less than an hour.  In short, we were winging it and feeling adventurous.

Gold Rock

Gold Rock next to Clay hills

Despite the lack of trail markers, this was really a wonderful area to hike and explore.  It is unique, with an assortment of intriguing scenery.  As we were walking along the ancient lakebed sediments, we saw light-colored clay hills mixed in with darker hard “gold rock” mountains.  We also explored a couple of canyons leading between mountain peaks which ended in very high dry waterfalls.  We could just picture the water cascading down those falls and through the canyons we were exploring.

We enjoyed looking at interesting formations and checked out some  veins of gypsum running through the clay hills.  Then we walked down the ridge and flood levee. Rockhounds would love this place with all the colorful rocks strewn in the area.

Waterfall in the desertFinally, we saw a waterfall in the middle of the desert.  Parts of the various trails run along the grade to the old Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad, and we found many of the 100+ year old track ties discarded along the way.  As we kept walking and admiring the view of badlands, colorful rhyolitic volcanic rocks, marshes and salt flats we lost track of time and were feeling a little lost in the wilderness.  The half-hour walk became a three-hour trek, and it was pretty awesome.  After arriving back at the park we availed ourselves of the  mineral bath to ease our aching muscles.  Not for long though, that water was super-hot!

The lack of  quality drinking water in Tecopa, a community  built around natural hot springs, does not deter those who seek a destination off the beaten path. Our spur-of-the-moment decision to stop here illustrated that even though it’s NOT on everyone’s must-see list, that only makes it more  alluring.  It was a stop well worth it!

Here are some interesting things we admired along the way.