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Long Valley Caldera

You know that the town of Mammoth Lakes is built on an active volcano and that the Long Valley Caldera is a 20 x 11 mile oval encompassing the town of Mammoth. Well our interest in this geological phenomenon are not the earthquakes that rattle Mammoths real estate market every so often but rather the hydrothermal system and the hot springs that make their way to the surface in the surrounding countryside.

One such commercial establishment that has been around since the 1920’s is Keough Hot Springs just south of Bishop, driven past the turn off many times and this time we called to secure a campsite as it was a Friday night and more than likely busy with weekend traffic.

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The choice was a tight spot on the grass with hookups or a more spacious one on gravel. Chose the grass for $33 a night ($28 on the gravel) and settled in. They charge you extra to use the pools, $8 per day if you camp and $12 for day visitors.

Tight spot.
Tight spot.

Saturday morning we were there soon after the 9 am opening and were pleasantly surprised to find the place almost empty. It’s the weather they said, forecast calls for winds and showers. Didn’t stop us as we slid into the warm water for meditation & relaxation.

The surrounding wooden enclosure is still the 1920’s original.

Inside the pool area.
Inside the pool area.
The hot (102F) pool.
The hot (102F) pool.
Happy.
Happy.
Entrance and eating area.
Entrance and eating area.
Original bath house.
Original bath house.
View from outside.
View from outside.
Nice grass for some of the hookup sites.
Nice grass for some of the hookup sites.
Dry camping spot.
Dry camping spot.

Had  to stretch our legs and a look at Google satellite view showed some sort of trail up the slopes so we explored.

Looking down on Keough.
Looking down on Keough and into the Owens Valley.
Old fence line.
Old fence line.

First up the slope on an established trail that petered out in a small valley. Then up to some large rocks from whee we could see greenery in the valley a bit further up. Turned out to be a small spring with a bit of standing water to feed the trees.

Lush green tree at the spring.
Lush green tree at the spring.
How did it end up like that?
How did it end up like that?

OK, two night and we’re outta there. Had another destination in mind but first a stop at Highlands RV park to visit Bob. We were given Bob’s name by friends of family back down in Camarillo. “You have to go and see Bob, you’ll like him” and so a phone call later we popped around for a Sunday chat. We did pick up some sandwiches from Schat’s Bakery, worst time to go is Sunday lunchtime, but what the heck this was a special occasion.

This man is amazing. At 94 he drives himself and lives in a trailer that he has owned for years. “Sold my truck as I’m not going anywhere in it now” he exclaims but at age 23 he was flying fighters in the Pacific and at 72 he joined the Forrest Service to lead mule pack trains. Why? “Because I’ve always wanted to ride a horse” was his reply. He had a continuous string of stories for us and we promised to stop in again next time we went through Bishop.

Bob & Rose
Bob & Rose

So back in Keough we were sitting in the hot pool for an afternoon dip and the place had filled up a bit. As it is with these place we got chatting and a family out of Moro Bay, told us of Benton Hot Springs about 40 miles up Hyw 6. Another “you gotta go there” so I called and yes, as it was Sunday night and they had a few openings. They only have 10 camp sites, no hookups, but they are nicely spaced and you get your very own hot tub with the campsite! They are a bit pricey at $50 & $60 a night but for a splurge they are well worth it.

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Campsite at Benton Hot Springs
Campsite at Benton Hot Springs
Another view of the campsite.
Another view of the campsite.

What more could a girl want, a hot tub with a view. The water is flushed after each visit and is super clean and soft to the skin. There is a faucet with continually running hot water, and I mean HOT, at least 105F. To cool down just shut it off or put an aerator on to cool the inflow.

Rose's very own spa!
Rose’s very own spa!
Just soaking .....
Just soaking …..
Dinner by the tub.
Dinner by the tub.

Another “walk behind the campground” turned up Benton Cemetery on a sandy slope and scattered headstones. One caught my eye; “Mary Hammil, Born in Belfast Ireland, Died on the Hammil Ranch in 1899, Age 35”. Can you imagine a young Irish girl emigrating to the United States and ending up on a remote ranch in the scrub desert of California? Her early demise cannot have been nice and I am sure she struggled at making a go of her would be new life.

Benton Cemetery.
Benton Cemetery.
Looking down onto the campground.
Looking down onto the campground.
Mary Hammil from Belfast Northern Ireland, age 35.
Mary Hammil from Belfast Northern Ireland, age 35.

Benton was a one night stand that we hope to revisit someday but for now it’s up to Twin Lakes to see how the opening of fishing season went. Snow on the mountains and mud on the roads of Annett’s Mono Village but we found a nice dry spot on the edge of a meadow. Many or the other sites are under the pines and rather cold at this time of year.

Heading into Twin Lakes.
Heading into Twin Lakes.
Nice campsite with an open meadow & a view.
Nice campsite with an open meadow & a view.

Took a hike up Robinson Creek trail towards the ridge-line of the high Sierra’s. Beautifully peaceful and cool at 9 am as we set off up the valley which we had all to ourselves, the masses were trying to hook trout in the twin lakes behind us!

On the trail to Barney Lake.
On the trail to Barney Lake.

Barney Lake was incredibly scenic, that’s Crown Point in the background. Ate our sandwiches in the solitude and turned around here as clouds were moving in, snow on the trail was getting more frequent and I could not find where the trail continued on!

Barney Lake.
Barney Lake.
Snow banks along the way.
Snow banks along the way.

Settled for Liquid Aloha that we found at the local store and drank it on the banks of the lake while watching the fish ignore the worms on the hooks. You guessed it, I’m not the fishing type.

Why not.
Why not.

Next stop was Aspendell a small community at around 8,500′ west of Bishop. Rose has a good friend who has a cabin here and we stopped by to eat breakfast at the Cardinal Village Resort and then work it off with a hike up to and around Lake Sabrina which was pretty low. California has a long way to go to break the drought or is this the new norm?

Breakfast.
Breakfast.
Lake Sabrina.
Lake Sabrina.

Second night we woke up to snow on the foot step! The weather forecast did say a chance of snow but we didn’t take them seriously. Had some fun clearing snow from the RV and then beat a hastily retreat down to Bishop for hot coffee and pastries.

It snowed!
It snowed!
Wow!
Wow!
Time to leave.
Time to leave.

Last stop on our way home was driveway camping with our friends in Arroyo Grande

Driveway camping in Arroyo Grande.
Driveway camping in Arroyo Grande.

3 thoughts on “Long Valley Caldera”

  1. Hi, Andre — Thanks for the nice comment on the blog today. It’s good to “meet” a fellow View/Navion owner, hiking biking enthusiast, and lover of hot springs! Hope we get to cross paths one day soon…

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