Malaise to Mono Lake | The Eastern Sierra Obliged, Day Four

Malaise to Mono Lake

By morning, I was empty- mostly in the literal sense. The chills I couldn't shake riding into Buckeye Hot Springs, ones I attributed to cold air coming up from the creek, built overnight to severe stomach troubles. I didn't want to admit to myself I'd caught something, but by 2am I was seeing the futility of filling up the cathole (google it if you're, uh, not picking up what Im putting down) just to dig another one in ten minutes. Not surprisingly, no glowing eyes would show up and give me worry that night. I don't blame them.

But morning comes, as it does. I'm takin'er easy, reading Gretel Ehrlich. Her Solace reminds me things aren't all that bad, and I eat my last apple. Having a paperback book while on tour is invaluable. A paperback doesn't need to be charged. A paperback doesn't need LTE. A paperback does help you go to sleep, and it does distract you from unfortunate gastrointestinal situations. That apple is more bruised than I am after the past few days but I'm hoping it'll settle things down. A few more pages in this book and I promise myself I'll pack everything up, hit the trail, and ride out this whole being sick thing.

Or, I can take my book and go sit in a hot spring instead.

Buckeye Hot Springs


Touted as one of the most beautiful, remote hot springs in the Eastern Sierra, these hot springs are a hot spot (ugh) for self-described "Soakers." The 135ºF water comes out of deep mineral deposits in rock above Buckeye Creek accompanied by naturally-occurring vents in the pools below. A twisty, 4.5 mile ascent up a dirt road from Route 395, followed by a steep hike down to the pools make the springs an attraction only for the area's most dedicated, and most naked, hot spring aficionados. The springs feed into four communal pools, separated by large river stones from the snowmelt-fed creek. Plunging into one another back and forth is said to cleanse one's body of negative energy, remove toxins, realign one's Chakra, or feel just plain ol' invigorating. In personal experience, the Buckeye Hot Springs' water was explained to be abnormally rich in Lithium, according to the resident old, naked hippie* who had been enjoying the springs prior to my arrival and continued so after my departure.

*A barely-safe-for-work photo of this man has been included just below for record and to illustrate the scale of these springs. Sorry.


Unable to assess if my chakra is, in fact, realigned and still a bit uneasy otherwise, I finally make a decision. Not totally unfamiliar with the area, I see I've got 43 miles of double track, dirt road, and another fun ride down on pavement to make it to the next town- if I want to stay on course. The alternative is to backtrack back down to the highway and ride to, albeit, a closer town. Either way, there's one bus a day back up to Reno and I've missed todays bus already. So far in this journey, I haven't managed to break 30 miles in one day. I remind myself that sickness is temporary, and even 5% of alleviation is a sign that clearly all that lithium healed me and I should stay on route and somehow get those 43 miles done.

Listen, here's the thing. This part of the route is exceptionally beautiful. For all intents and purposes this is a round-about way to get to Yosemite, which for many is the most beautiful place in the US. Ten miles in from Buckeye Hot Springs, around about where you get to see all the magnificence of Twin Lakes, photos dropped down on my list of priorities. My camera was on its last battery, and I was burning, if you will, through water just trying to keep myself hydrated as a defense against a building fever and frequent expulsions. I wasn't exactly a pretty sight, and the remoteness of the Sierras became my best friend during the vulnerable moments. But that last, fleeting feeling of flying while heading down Old 395 into Lee Vining stirred me. The sun was just starting to sneak behind the tips of those western peaks, and I could see infamous Mono Lake on the other side.

In the next four hours, I'd find a motel room and blow the rest of my budget pumping my body full of electrolytes, vitamins, and fiber. I'd spend the night trying to beat the previous night's record of bathroom visits. The next morning, I'd reluctantly, shamefully catch the 8:50am bus back to Reno and then sit on a train for two days, arriving in Chicago still under the weather. One hundred miles through the Eastern Sierra wasn't bad, but there was so much more to ride and so much more to see. 

It's all part of the journey; part of the experience. But in those last few minutes of twilight on Mono Lake, I was content to just sit and watch the skies turn orange, then pink, then briefly aqua, before a deep navy came to wrap up the show- until the only thing darker than the sky itself was the silhouettes of the mountains surrounding me.

Route Map

Thank You For Reading

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They're just little things, but they really do help keep everything around here going.