Human art in the desert

We woke up a little late this morning after yesterdays long day I think we all needed a little extra sack time to recover from the back to back 30 mile days. It was Sunday morning and that could only mean on thing, Sunday Funday!!! We each packed up and decided that since Ron was meeting us that night and it was a good 27 miles to the Alford Hot Spring resort for the evenings camp, with no shade, we would slack pack the 27 miles for the day.

Slackpacking the art of carrying a day hike load while on a long distance trail is a true treat in my opinion. Some hikers frown upon it and say it’s cheating, but screw that you are still hiking, the only cheating I view in a long distance trail is riding in a car and skipping miles, I myself prefer to go home, look at a map and know that I had continuous footsteps from start to finish.

We walked the road out of Filed Station, another trail stop where we arrived after they closed and left before they opened…Oh well at some point in my life I will try one of their world famous milkshakes. The trail followed pavement some and then turned down a dirt road. A few miles later and we came to a sign warning us of the Borax Lake and Hot Springs, with the ground that could collapse and Arsenic Levels 25 times the recommended safe limits, guess we won’t try drinking that.

Danger in the desert

The trail traveled around the Borax Lake on a road before sending us cross-country through some wired stuff….First, we had to cross the Borax Salt Flats, a long expanse of ridges and uneven ground printing each of us from ever placing a flat step. Then we came to an outlet stream and marsh, how the hell there could be a math in the middle of the desert living off Arsenic/Borax water I all never know, but there it was…For a good mile or two, we waded through the marsh, with each step a cloud of stinky muck seeped into our shoes and socks. As the marsh needed we saw the next area to cross the sand dunes.

The Sand dunes were incredible, for miles we walked through the sage bush that was chest high or head high and we weave our way around them and the dunes themselves. This area also had various flakes of obsidian that had been worked by humans making spear and arrow points, along with some crystals and other cool rocks. The sun was pretty hot so we all deployed our umbrellas and relished our own shade.

Boforax salt flats, just one the Buffett of surfaces we encountered

As we sat eating lunch I looked over my maps and saw a note that I had written when doing my planning with Virgo it read, “at this specific waypoint, leave the official route and go cross country along the Playa until you reach the resort”…so after we loaded up on snacks and water the three of us picked a bearing and headed cross country. Eventually, this led us to a dirt/sand road that we walked until we reached the playa.

The Playa is really a large dry lake bed out in the Alvord Desert, I had been here one time with Suzy two years ago when we took a long road trip in our van when I returned home after hiking the CDT. It was one of those times in a marriage when you each have to decide where the other stands and if you are both still in it for the long haul. Luckily for us those 10 days and thousands of miles exploring eastern OR, Nevada and California saved our marriage…but I digress as usual.

La Playa…

The lake bed is flat and as hard as cement, a truly cool place that reminded me of Tatooine in Star Wars. As the three of us cruised along the Playa at a faster pace than usual, a side by side ATV came racing towards us, it pulled up and the two guys introduced themselves and said, your buddy in his Van is up on that hill looking for you. We told then we went off route to save a climb and they agreed to drive back up and let him know. Before they could get there though we saw Ron in his van bombing down the road to drive out on the playa and meet us.

We stopped and chatted for a few, I rammed a beer, Ron shot some video of us with his drone and we trudged on towards the hot springs. The three of us haven’t showered since McDermitt and with our all of our sore feet and muscles, the hot springs siren song was calling us.

We arrived at the Hot Springs Resort, which is really a campground with a few mobile mash units you can rent as a cabin, an office with a heated bathroom and two big hot spring pools to soak in. I ran in the office to pay for our site and immediately drank two root beers, 3 hot pockets and microwave burrito. The food was so hot and I was so hungry that I quickly burned the roof of my mouth on the hot cheese and sauce, but it was so worth it. With a full belly, I headed to the hot springs for a soak.

The flattest stretch of hiking I have ever experienced

The Girls and Ron soon followed my lead to the springs and we all enjoyed the hot water. The caretaker had told me there was a bucket there to use to wash our hair if we wanted. After we found it, emptied out the beer cans and rinse it we each took turns showing each other. Salty had me scrub my head and then dumped water on it to rinse. I had Slaty and Swept Away line up side by side and each washed their hair and I dumped 5 gallons of water over each other heads. It wasn’t a true shower but it sure felt good to get the grit out of our hair for a little while.

With clean hear, pruned skin form a long soak and the darkness enveloping us we headed to our site for some dinner. We all assumed our positions, Swept in the chair, Salty and I on the tarp and as the stars came out we each drifted off to our own land of dreams, for tomorrow is our biggest climb of the trip up the Steens Mountain.

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