Days 55-58 – Summer Lake and the Yuba River

Monday we reluctantly moved on from Portland back out into the wilds. I was pretty tired of sleeping in my tent by this point and ready to be home, but also conscious of making the most of the last few days of my trip. I had the voice of my friend Torey echoing in my ears. He did a similar trip the previous year and his one piece of advice for me was “don’t come back early.”

With that in mind, we took our time driving towards Summer Lake Hot Springs, our destination that night. We took Hwy 26 out of Portland which goes through the Mt. Hood National Forest. I had to pee and also needed a minute to reset into the next and final leg of our journey so we pulled over at a spot where several people were parked next to a gushing river. There was a lovely little trail that promised to lead to Burnt Lake in 1.3 miles which was perfect!

Stella and I had a LOT of energy after our r&r in Portland so we took this hike at a sprint! We were rewarded by the beautiful remote lake at the top of the hike where Stella got to go for a swim and I got to dip my toes in.

mirror lake

***The wilds of Oregon***

After our hike/lake detour, we pointed ourselves straight towards the desert. One of my favorite things about road trips is watching the scenery change from coastal to arid to farmland to swampland and back again. The in between places are so interesting to pass through. Like this combo Rocky Mountain forest + desert:

oregon desert

***oooo in-betweeny***

Something about driving through the desert made me REALLY want to listen to 5th Harmony. I think I will never forget the feeling of watching the steam rise from Summer Lake Hot Springs as I drove through the desert at sunset blasting “Reflection.”

summer lake

***Where you from? Must be heaven.
You’d be rich if looking good was your profession….***

We arrived that evening with enough time to check in, set up our tent, cook some food and go for a soak. There were more people at Summer Lake than the last time I was there. My first night I met a couple of people on their way to Burning Man and learned that Summer Lake was the stop off spot for people coming from the north (Portland, Seattle, Vancouver). One of the women had rescued a grasshopper that day and spent the better part of the day hanging out with it. She learned (and then I learned) that grasshoppers drink by picking up bits of water with their hands and licking it off!!! Whaaaat. I also met two people who were going down early to set up their Burning Man camp called “Suburbia.” It sounded like exactly what you would imagine. Rows of pretend houses that all look the same and then wild parties randomly.

Summer Lake is a really special place. You can pitch a tent there for $20 a night which includes unlimited access to the hot springs which never close. There is one giant pool hot spring inside a tin barn and several small pools that are outside. The best is to soak in one of the outdoor pools while watching the sun set over the desert.

summer lake camping

***Our little spot***

summer lake sunset

***Desert sunsets***

On Tuesday we went in search of swimming holes. The lovely people who work at Summer Lake gave us advice about a random dirt road to take to the choice swimming hole spot. I did not totally understand the instructions and ended up driving around for awhile on dirt roads that were clearly not in regular use. There had recently been a terrible fire in the surrounding hills and there were a few work trucks driving around tending the land, but besides that we were the only people out there.

We found a secluded spot next to a creek. The water was pretty shallow but we were able to lounge the day away in the dappled sunlight taking turns napping on the shore and wading in the creek.

That night I had more soaks and met more Burners. I have to admit, I had a stereotype about Burners in my head before this trip. I thought of them as basically aging “trustafarians.” Wealthy, white kids with too much time and money on their hands who couldn’t think of anything better to do with it then a lot of drugs in the desert. Also with a sense of self righteousness about the way they live in the world and don’t buy into “mainstream society.” Pleaseeeeee.

BUT much to my surprise, I met some lovely folks of all ages who described their experiences at Burning Man in years past. One couple in their 60s had been going for seven years. They told me about the incredible art they had seen and how special it was to have so much amazing art in one place. One woman told me her experience was that she would see something amazing and then look 10 feet past that and see something else amazing and then look 10 feet past that and see something else amazing and so on and so on for miles. Talking with these folks made me second guess my original judgement about Burning Man. I think some people do go there for the drugs and the scene, but others are truly there to see exciting art and I can respect that.

summer lake - burning man vehicles

***Burning Man Bound***

On Wednesday we hit the road again, headed for the Yuba River and our last night before getting back to mom’s! We asked for directions to the swimming hole again and found it this time! It was a beautiful deep spot and the water was icy but we didn’t mind after two days in the dusty desert.

summer lake - swim spot

***Get it get it get it***

The drive to the Yuba River was uneventful and mostly spent in quiet reflection about the long trip that was now ending. I knew I wanted to end at the Yuba because I had never been there in my adult life, but had seen incredibly gorgeous pictures. It seemed like the perfect ending to our grand adventure.

The spot we found to camp was mostly uninhabited except for a few random weekday campers like ourselves. We got there with just enough daylight to set up the tent and cook dinner. It was a beautiful spot but the bugs were no joke! They chased us into the tent pretty early.

When we woke up the next morning I noticed that our tent had somehow been damaged. One of the poles had split and the elastic was being pulled out through the middle. It had worked for the night, but probably wouldn’t have worked for another night. Good timing tent gods!

We went for a morning swim in the turquoise water to wash the camping dirt and traveling dust off ourselves. We met a couple of campers who were also there with their dog and when I jumped off a rock into the water their dog came swimming out to save me! ❤ dogs ❤

yuba last day

***The water***

yuba - rock jump

***The rock***

We packed it in mid-morning and with mixed emotions headed towards Ukiah. I was tired from traveling and ready to be off the road, but also sad to leave the trip behind. It was wonderful to travel so untethered to anything and with so much freedom to decide what each day would look like. I was lonely, but I also liked being alone so much and was reluctant to give up that feeling.

I took some deep breaths and made a cheesy video for myself to remember that moment. It had been the trip and the break I was hoping for and needed and I took a moment to appreciate that and use it to fuel me forward.

We had time for one last selfie and then headed homeward towards Ukiah.

yuba - last day selfie

***Bye bye for now, adventure***

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