Last weekend my spouse and I climbed into a Tesla Model Y Dual Motor and set our sights on finding one of the most secluded spots in northern Nevada. 2020 has been, shall we say stressful? As a result we wanted to take a day to do nothing in particular and find a nice way to relax. Being a desert dweller, I’m obsessed with the idea of natural hot springs. Let’s go find one of those!
Taking a purely modern electric motion machine, like this Tesla Y that a friend let me borrow for the month, to go visit something that feels purely old-world and pre-historic like a natural hot spring feels somehow fitting. California and Nevada produce about 90 percent of the country’s geothermal power, and there is so much potential for even more. At a depth of about 3 and a half miles, most of Nevada experiences subterranean temperatures averaging near 400 degrees F.
As a result, any water that deep is going to boil and expand and try to find a way to the surface. Where natural cracks and deep recesses exist, hot springs form. There are hundreds of them across Nevada, and some of them have been turned into getaway spots for locals and tourists alike to visit. They’re usually pretty quiet because they’re out in the middle of literal nowhere, but the reward is well worth the journey.
Because we were in an electric car, we had to plan our route carefully. This Model Y Dual Motor has an estimated range of 316 miles, but the owner of the car kindly requested that we keep charging under 80% to prevent long-term battery degradation. No problem. With Tesla’s current charging infrastructure, we could have made it to most of the hot springs in Nevada, but getting back would have been difficult. So we chose one that was just 41 short miles from Interstate 80, and crucially, less than 70 miles from the nearest Tesla Supercharger in Lovelock, Nevada.
We headed east out of Reno with a full charge, topped off in Lovelock, and then tried our damnedest to get lost in the middle of the god forsaken desert.
Based on the maps, there was a short way and a long way. Being that we were in an electric car, I wanted to take the shorter path, even knowing that it would mean many more miles off the pavement. If we’d taken the highway up and over the Star Peak range, it would have added an extra 35 miles each way. It’s on the maps, how bad can it be?
Once we turned off the interstate, we swiftly found ourselves riding on some pretty narrow hardpacked dirt roads that were largely only used for the local mining operation. As elevation climbed the road turned white with a sheet of day-old snow. The skies were blue and the sun was shining, but air temps were hovering in the high twenties.
The Tesla’s regenerative braking kept punching the back end of the car out sideways when I let off the throttle, so I negotiated with the computer interface for less regen and less throttle, and the whole thing behaved much nicer from then on. Having grown up in rural Michigan, I’m no stranger to heavy snow, and having all wheel drive certainly helped, but it was still unfamiliar mountain road territory in a largely unfamiliar, borrowed, car. What’s that about discretion being the better part of valor?
In total it was about 35 miles of dirt road only slightly better than two-track. Of that, about 10 miles were actual nerve-wracking sheer dropoff no-guardrail mountain road shit. Once we got down out of the mountain range, we hit perfectly level valley floor and the snow disappeared for more sagebrush than I’ve ever seen in my life. We had a moment of hope when we hit a paved road again, but we were only on it for about ten seconds before spearing off into the desert again for another ten miles.
But when we arrived. Man, how cool! This was, without a doubt, the quietest place I’ve ever been, this side of an anechoic chamber. The world, for a few hours, was perfectly still.
Over 100 years ago, the Kyle Hot Springs was a popular resort in central Nevada. There are some remains of the former nearby buildings, and a soaking tub of unknown age still stands full of water today. The source spring is extremely hot to the touch, and has been given a concrete surround and fencing to keep the ranging cattle out of it.
Downhill from the source is a recently “installed” set of soaking tubs with PVC running to each. The water is way too hot to just sit in, you’d boil yourself from the inside out, even if you could withstand the temperatures on your skin. It’s at least 130 degrees, if I had to wager. Standing in full-hot hot spring water is manageable for about three seconds. You’re supposed to fill up the tub halfway, let it cool off to ambient temperature over the course of an hour or so, then fill the tub with more hot to get a comfortable 110 degrees or so. My hot tub at home runs 104, and that’s plenty warm.
Once we’d had our fill of gorgeous mountain views, the silence of escaping humanity, and the powerful warmth provided by mother earth herself, we dried off, emptied our tubs, and filled them halfway for the next people. Hopped in the Tesla and silently scooted our way back to civilization. This time we chose to take the paved road north back to the regroup with the highway. Despite being more than 30 extra miles of route, it took about the same amount of time with higher average speeds.
We again topped off in Lovelock before heading back to Reno. It was a proper all-day affair, but what an incredible way to waste a day. The natural wonder of Nevada makes me so glad to live here every day. It’s such a cool state.