Hard to get started during a cold snap

I got messed up by a cold front

Cold front that messed up my trip.
This is a very low tech image of six weather maps of this trip. My subscription to the Reno Gazette-Journal gets me the Wednesday and Sunday physical papers delivered. They were in a nice pile by my door when I got home. As I scanned through them I realized the weather maps could tell the (slightly sad) of how a record setting cold front messed up my trip.

The area of interest is the bottom of Idaho and Utah. The first wave of cold caught me at the border of Idaho and Utah – Garden City UT on Bear Lake.

From the top the maps are:

  1. Wednesday October 16 – Beautiful fall weather in my part of the world
  2. Sunday 13 – Still beautiful fall weather…
  3. Sunday Oct 20 – A frigid deep blue right over where I spent a snowy Saturday night on the border of Idaho and Utah
  4. Wednesday 23 – Back to seasonally mild weather for a normal, pleasant week in southern Utah … except for the food poisoning, but that’s another lament.
  5. Sunday 27 – C O L D!! – This was the morning my water system was frozen in the morning. The prospect of two more nights of the teens or worse sent me scurrying to the southern desert.
  6. Sunday 11/3 – The weather pattern is back to normal. But my trip is basically over, so it’s too late for me to enjoy it – quite annoying.

Saturday (Oct 12) 

So I thought I was leaving two days ago, but a couple of cold days snapped me out of that thought. This turned out to be what they call foreshadowing of the entire three weeks of this trip. The place I plan to stay tonight was 18° two nights ago. It’s supposed to be 26° tonight. Still pretty darned cold, but doable. After laying in bed yesterday morning and deciding to NOT go that day, I put my energy into packing and being much more ready than usual to get going on Saturday morning. Worked great! Except I still didn’t hit the road till about 2pm.

Pick up a sandwich and a salad at the deli. Have a quick meal at Popeye’s (their chicken didn’t seem like anything special to me). Fill up the tank in Nevada ((just 7 gallons) and I’m off on ole familiar 395 north.

15 miles before Susanville I finally got to do something different! 395 takes a long jog west to go almost to S-ville, then a long jog back east. There is a back road cutoff that knocks 20 or so miles off. Then is a long, lonely drive to Alturas. The only excitement is a little town with the great name of Likely, that has a little general store that the bikers like to congregate at.

15 miles south of Alturas I leave 395 and take a parallel county road that goes directly through the Wildlife Refuge. My campground is two miles past the NWR, so I head on to there, check in and go immediately back to:

Modoc NWR:  

A must stop for me if I am in the area.

There is a nice auto tour around a little lake. My impression is that the Sand Cranes are the star attraction here.


I saw no interesting wildlife, but the drive was very pretty at sunset - serene and relaxing and the perfect way to wind down after the drive.

The Campground guy said I missed the Sandhill Crane migration by three days :(

Modoc NWR at sunset
Modoc NWR at sunset

I’m glad I went. The sunset over the water was spectacular, and total change of pace from three hours of driving was very welcome, but the wildlife was a bust. Timing is everything, and my was a little off for the wildlife here. There were Fbook posts about the amazing Sandhill Crane migration, but I missed it by “a few days” according to the camp host. Oh well … I still love Modoc NWR.

Sully's RV Park:  

Small, quiet, well-run, densely packed little campground on the south side of Alturas, very close to the wildlife refuge. I like that he charges $30 straight up, no "plus tax".


I got site 1 because it's the only vacant site!

I'm shocked that this place is full in October. The sites are very small so that a lot of units are crammed into a small space. I'll bet it's a money machine for the old dude that runs it.

Site 1 a real nice drive-thru site with a shade tree which would be great in summer.

The wifi is a joke. Phone reception is pretty good however.

Alturas sunset
Moonrise over the Warners from my campground

Campsite 1 is pretty nice! It’s a drive-thru site, so I just pull in and park. It’s in the edge so I’m facing away from everybody else, but sadly what I am facing is a run-down shed and a derelict car. The Alturas City Park is right cross the street. This would be a nice place to spend a little bit of time (not too much though :)

Sunset is still happening, so I walk 40 yards down the little side road to get past the buildings and a spectacular sight awaits me. A vivid red sunset to the west and a full moonrise over the Warner Mountains to the east. Very pretty. Back at camp I set up my chair and table and eat my salad in the dark until the last rays of the sun are gone.


Sully's RV Park. Nice spot except for the derelict house five feet away.

I woke up in the middle of the night. When I finally went back to sleep I stayed that way until pretty late into the morning. I eventually had to scramble to be out by 1 pm.

Back to 395 and drive four blocks to the Niles Hotel Coffee Shop (really a Starbucks it seems). Very nice in its way, although the bear claw was slightly stale. I went in the main hotel door, which was NOT correct. I got a bit of a tour of the Niles Hotel. It’s quite beautiful and pretty much deserted. I panicked for a couple of minutes, fearing that maybe the coffee shop was one of those Yelp fables – closed for months or years but nobody tells Yelp. Eventually I followed enough hallways till I found hallway with the bathrooms. It had another door which led to the coffee shop. It’s the next door down from the hotel as it turns out, but who knew? Wifi is good enough to follow the play by play of the first half of the Niners game.

I’ve got a long ass drive today. Very scenic for long stretches, but a lot of it. From Alturas to Lakeview is pretty much due north with the Warner Mountains to the right and eventually Goose Lake on the left. I’ve stayed at Goose Lake State Park a couple of times. Right at the Oregon border turn west on State Line Road and there it is. Not this time though. Straight on to Lakeview, and straight through Lakeview. The latter is very unusual. I think I have always stopped for a meal or at least coffee every other time I’ve been here.

Lake Abert and Abert Rim

Twenty minutes after Lakeview comes another huge, mostly useless lake in an even more dramatic setting – Lake Abert and the massive Abert Rim. Really fascinating and dramatic and quite beautiful – the serene, apparently lifeless lake on the left and the massive cliffs of the Rim looming on the right, for mile after mile after mile. I stop at a scenic turnout to eat some leftover sandwich (just coffee + stale bear claw so far today) and take some pictures. Because the Universe is blessing me today, I got good phone bars at this spot, so I was able to learn that the Niners won a big upset of the Rams 20-7 – woo!

my lovely van and the Abert Rim

From Wikipedia:

Abert Rim in Lake CountyOregon is one of the highest fault scarps in the United States. It rises 2,490 feet (760 m) above the valley floor, finishing with a 820-foot (250 m) sheer-sided basalt cap. It was formed during the Miocene epoch. At that time basaltic flood lavas covered much of eastern Oregon. In subsequent faulting, great blocks were tilted and Abert Rim is at the western end of one of these blocks, while Lake Abert lies on top of another. Stretching more than 30 miles (48 km) from Lakeview north to Alkali Lake, Abert Rim is also the longest exposed fault scarp in North America.

Then a lot of boring nothing, very much like US 97 in eastern Nevada. Then, finally civilization in the modest form of Burns OR. I filled my tank and used up one of my nine traffic lives. Coming in to town the highway there one clot of commercial activity, then maybe three miles of emptiness before the next clot of stores. But you’re actually in the city, under the speed limit of 35 even though it feels like the wide open spaces. At pretty much the exact instant I realized I was on the wrong side of 45 mph I noticed a trooper (Sheriff?) coming the other way and at the same time he flicked his bubble lights on …. all this in the same second. I had one of those flashes of emotion that takes ten minutes to explain, but it was basically “I’m fucked, I finally ran out of luck, here it goes…” But he kept driving and that was that. My only interpretation is that he was telling me “Yo! Knock about 5 mph offa that!”.  I didn’t know police really did stuff like that, but I am grateful to the Universe for this little reprieve.

It’s distressingly close to sunset and I have more than a half hour of driving still to do. I kinda forgot that thing about the sun setting earlier as you drive east.

Crystal Crane Hot Springs:  

How have I not known about this place?! It was nearly perfect in every way for what I like to do on the road. Common Room next to the office with satellite tv. The pool is awesome. Maybe 100' across, 2-4' deep mostly, with incredibly, life-threateningly hot water comong in from the southeast end, and cooling jets shooting out from the south, so you simply ewade in and find your spot!


The "dry camping" area is lovely and spacious. There are four sites (6-9) that are on the edge and angled so your view is out on the wide open spaces. That's for me!

It was a full moon night so soaking at night was even more beautiful than otherwise.

Crane Hot Springs, hottest water to the right

It is full on dark by the time the lady runs my credit card. She gives me a little tour of the grounds but it’s pretty hard to see where anything is. I’m quite annoyed with myself for getting here so late. Soaking in the hot pond watching that amazing high desert sunset would’ve been great. I find my dry camping spot, eat a little, drink a little, smoke a little, put on my contacts, and head out for my soak.

The hot springs are unreservedly wonderful. This is a full moon night, so even though I missed the sunset I did get the moonrise.


the water is very, very hot (140-ish!)

They have coffee in the office. The check-in people last night were really nice, but the morning people are pretty grumpy. Nevertheless, the overall vibe of the place is still quite friendly. I suck down some coffee, walk back to my site, pack up the van and drive to the main parking area to have one more soak before I head out. In the daylight I can finally see where everything is. It’s even cooler in the daylight.

The actual town of Crane is 10 miles down the road, with the only restaurant in the next 60 miles, so I stop. The server was nice, but the customers were either serial killer looking truck drivers or camo’ed out head to toe surly locals. I am reminded that I’m 20 miles away from the Malheur NWR, the place the Bundy weirdos took over for a few months back in the Obama era.

I am too late for breakfast as always, so I ordered their special burger with a fried egg on it. It was huge and pretty good. I couldn’t finish my tater tots!

Somewhere in here, around the Idaho border I transitioned from Eastern Oregon sedimentary rock desolation to southwestern Idaho lava fields desolation. It never did get un-desolate by the time I arrived at my next hot spring:

Givens Hot Springs:  

Old, charmingly decrepit place on the Snake River south of Boise.

The hot springs is basically a spring-fed indoor swimming pool. It's a nice temperature, especially after you find the 3-4 spots where the hot water comes in. There's a basketball hoop and 20-30 little beachballs floating around, so one can pass the time shooting hoops.


Everything is pretty low key here. The quite strikingly fine older woman at the desk took my $20 and said I could park anywhere I want out back. No one else is camping tonight, so she suggested I take RV site 1, closest to the pools. It was perfect.

Front entrance, still could be central Florida from the pic.

Sunset tonight on the western edge of the Mountain Zone is 7:05 pm. Sunset last night on the eastern edge of the Pacific was 6:19 pm. So there ya go, part of why darkness snuck up on me in such a distressing manner last night. I definitely coulda used the extra daylight way more last night. The pools here are inside a concrete shed, so day or night makes no difference. Last night my experience was downgraded quite a bit by the fact that I had no fucking idea where anything was, what there was, or how to get any of it in the dark. That said, I had a great experience anyway, so maybe I’ll shut up about it.

But on to tonight’s experience. The Givens pool was quite fun. It’s hot enough to feel just purrfect when you get in. That of course means that it will feel a little chilly after you’ve been in a while. Shooting the little 6-8″ beachballs at the basketball goal was the major entertainment. Swimming laps (backstroke for me) or lolling around the hot jets were the other fun things.