Remember my post on Benton Hot Springs (the place where there is a hot spring at every campsite!)? Well, I enjoyed my stay there so much in May, I couldn’t wait for Matt to check it out too. So I called to reserve a campsite for my birthday in September (this was in June), and ended up making the reservation for a Saturday in late October. Let that be a lesson to you, book early!
So on that Saturday in late October, Matt and I, and our friends James and Thea, headed south on U.S. 395 from Carson City, Nevada.
I’ve mentioned before how much I love the stretch of U.S. Route 395 from south of Gardnerville, Nevada all the way down to Lone Pine, California and I recommend the drive to anyone who is traveling in the area. Of course, anytime we have an opportunity to stop somewhere along that road, we make the most of it. For example, we couldn’t check in to our campsite at Benton until 3pm, so we decided to swing by Bodie State Historic Park on the way.
Bodie is a ghost town outside of Bridgeport, California. It’s a relic from the California Gold Rush and at its height, around 10,000 people lived there. A creepy part about the town is the quantity of things the residents left behind when they moved on and how all those things have been left in place, collecting decades of dust.
We have walked the streets of Bodie and peered through the same filthy windows many times, but the park never ceases to amaze me. It is interesting to imagine what life would have been like in that harsh, remote environment. Also, the photography opportunities are endless.
Later, when we arrived in Benton (about 40 miles off of Highway 395 to the east on Highway 120), we were pleasantly surprised with our reserved campsite, Tub 5. The campsite is big and private. The tub is nestled in aspen trees up against a hill. We set up camp, soaked for a bit, and then headed up to the cemetery at the top of the hill after dark. And dark it was! The sky was barely lit by a little crescent moon. It was lovely.
If you’re not familiar with Benton Hot Springs, they have 11 campsites available, each with their own hot spring. They also have an inn, a bungalow, and other places to stay on the property. And in case you’re wondering why we would be excited to hang out at the nearby cemetery, (a) it’s super cool and (b) at the entrance, there are binders full of information on the early residents of Benton to give you some context and history of the place.
The next morning we stayed right up until it was time to check out. Driving back to 395, we saw a huge band of wild horses spanning both sides of the road – be aware of that if you’re driving this route. Also, Highway 120 has lots of wild dips and curves, and it is closed in the winter, so keep that in mind if you want to visit after a snowfall.
As you get close to the intersection of 120 and 395, you’ll see Mono Lake on the right. Mono Lake is a California State Park as well, and according to the park website, the lake is over a million years old! It has no outlet, so the salt and minerals coming in from area streams wash into the lake. The fresh water evaporates, and that leaves behind a super salty body of water – which is how those “tufas,” the rock like things made of calcium-carbonite formed.
Mono Lake is also pretty irresistible to photographers, so to wrap up our weekend, we stopped and wandered among the tufas for a bit.