We left Crater Lake on Monday, September 29. It was another beautiful day with blue skies and crisp fall air. We meant to zip though Klamath Falls, but once we stopped for gas we remembered that we needed to buy chains in case we encountered snow and ice in the mountains, and then we came across a local taqueria so of course we had to stop and get some burritos because you never know when you’re going to find a diamond in the rough (we’ll keep looking for that diamond).
Our pursuit to find fun things to do in cute little towns fell short in Lakeview, where the most interesting thing going on was Dennis, the guy working at the gas station. If we had room in our van we would have invited him along.
Although it was early evening we decided to keep on driving north to the tiny town of Plush, the nearest community to Hart Mountain, instead of camping in the immediate area. Our friend Andy’s recommendation carried a lot of weight plus we knew that the hot springs were just around the bend, so off we went.
We have a few rules of the road. One of our rules is that we won’t drive at night because of three reasons:
1. We don’t want to miss the scenery
2. We don’t want to drive off a mountain cliff
3. We can’t really see that well in the dark (refer back to number 2)
It was our third night on the road and we were already breaking one of our rules.
As Harry drove the sun went down and we experienced the most incredible sunset ever! Not only were the colors gorgeous but the Hart Mountain range appeared out of nowhere, illuminated by glorious colors.
We rolled into Plush in the dark of night, stopping at the cutest little general store. The woman working was an amusing spark plug full of spiritual energy and she encouraged us to keep driving up the dark mountainside to find the hot springs. She said she does the drive alone late at night all the time. We were convinced (if not a little nervous) so off we went. Not only was the road unpaved, it was washboard gravel (which makes for a very loud and bumpy drive), but we were – again – surrounded by the pitch dark. Luckily there weren’t any other cars in sight so slow and steady went the van, around and around turns and up steep pitches, breaking all the rules as we trudged up the mountain.
Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge
We finally arrived at the hot springs and campground. Harry parked the van and there we sat in total silence in the midst of several antelope. We did it! But we really had no idea what we did because it was so dark. After donning our headlamps we came across the hot spring which was nicely contained by four man-made stone walls.
Of course we got right in! The stars were out, the air was chilly, and we were totally alone submerged in a beautiful hot spring. On the count of three we turned off our headlamps and blended in with the night.
Sleeping in the Van: Night 3
Transitioning the van from day to night and back again had become much easier and faster now that there were systems in place (I need to have systems!). Knowing that the side door was wide open made my mind relax and I fell to sleep pretty quickly… but I still wore my headlamp wrapped around my wrist for immediate access because, well, you just never know when Big Foot will pay you a visit. We woke up with antelope roaming around and we finally got to see the landscape that surrounded us.