Out of the Saddle (and into hot water)

Leg break today. We decided to rest the corpus and lay off the climbing. Instead we went to visit the tufa towers at Mono Lake, and a couple of backcountry hot springs near Bridgeport.

As I mentioned in a previous post, surface water from June Lake eventually flows to salty Mono Lake, but there also are underground springs that percolate up into Mono Lake from the lake bottom. These flows are the source of the tufa tower deposits which have become visible as the level of Mono Lake has dropped over the last 70+ years. The freshwater springs carry calcium which mixes with carbonate in the salty lake water to produce calcium carbonate, aka limestone. Read more about it here.

We drove north from Mono Lake to the town of Bridgeport, and first checked out Travertine Hot Springs. There is some serious mineral deposition going on here, just take a look at the stony ridges created by the hot water flow.

Here are three images showing an old travertine ridge that has gone dry.

While sitting in the pools at Travertine you are high enough up the eastern slope of the valley where Bridgeport is located to look west over the town and the grazing pastures to the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada. On a cold day, if you had a powerful enough spyglass, you could probably see the steam rising from Buckeye Hot Springs hard along Buckeye Creek flowing out of those mountains. That’s where we headed next.

Take a drive on US395 north through Bridgeport, then on a secondary paved road to the west, then on dirt/gravel Buckeye Road heading north and up onto the mountain slope. A few miles in there is a wooded camping area, and a bit past that Buckeye Creek and the hot springs. A small pool (4 person) at bath temperature is located up on the slope well above the creek next to a lone pine tree, with some expansive views. The larger pool is down the slope next to the creek. Mario took a hike down there and reported that the water is hotter down below.

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