I am dreaming of hot springs today. It is chilly here in Sonora in the AM, but not cold (100 degrees during the day). The destination that I am longing to jump in my Jeep and drive off to is Benton Hot Springs. It’s a quiet, unassuming place at the end of Hwy 120. The drive there is to die for! My favorite way to go is over Tioga Pass through Yosemite, which cuts the drive down to about 3.5 hours for me. After driving through one of the most beautiful (but severely overpopulated tourist-wise) places in America (Yosemite) , the road ends up on Hwy 395, another breathtaking and somewhat desolate stretch of highway that varies between Nevada-like desert and high windswept passes. After a brief sojourn around Mono Lake Highway 10 splits off from 395 and that’s where the real fun begins.
It’s about 50 miles to Benton Hot Springs from the split, and the road is my very favorite. As you go through winding highway, the scenery changes completely. First, stunning old Red Pine forests, with gravel-like rock that makes the forest look like it’s been paved; eerie but still beautiful. Next up: rock formations from old lava flows, piled up alongside the road in strange drips and lumps. After that, desert and sagebrush, with cattle browsing around small man-made lakes out in the honest-to-god nowhere. I like to crank up my favorite “I’m going to the hot springs song”: Rain in the Summertime by The Alarm, an old 80’s tune that was meant to travel by. The road has severe dips that when driven at 60-plus MPH launches the car into space briefly, leaving one weightless and giddy. Finally, after all of the twists and turns, you pull into the bowl-like valley that drops into Benton Hot Springs, which is a sleepy little resort on the edge of a reservation. It’s a great place to camp, with individual tubs you can fill with hot spring water. There’s also a B and B there that I intend to stay at on a trip.
http://www.historicbentonhotsprings.com/ I can barely restrain myself from grabbing my gear and taking off! Next week, my precious! Soon I will take real vacation time. Then I will be off!