Travels in the American Southwest

Fly Geyser

Saturday PM, 8/23

Note: Fly Geyser is private property. The gate blocking the access road is padlocked and quite secure. In rural Nevada, it is not only considered 'poor form' to cross another's land without permission, doing so can get an unwanted trespasser shot at! Before you go off into what you think are the wilds of Nevada, do the research and confirm that you're on public lands. If your travels will take you across privately held property, obtain the owner's permission BEFORE you go. It's the polite thing to do.

Update: I have looked through all my paperwork concerning the 2003 Out West Trip. During our 17 day RV odyssey and time in Las Vegas, it's inevitable that things will be misplaced and subsequently lost. One such item was the slip of paper containing the caretaker's name and phone number.

Back in 1916, a shaft was drilled in hopes of striking water to turn part of this desert area into farmland. A geothermal pocket of water was struck resulting in a geyser of boiling water which turned the area into a desert wetland. Decades later in the 60's, the underground boiling water found a weak spot in the ground and a natural geyser was born. Recently, yet another new geyser has formed attesting to the ever-changing forces below the earth's surface. For unknown reasons, the original geyser no longer spouts. Perhaps the later geysers have robbed the original of its boiling water or perhaps it has simply gone dormant, waiting to spout again on its own schedule.

Months before our trip, I tracked down the caretaker of the Fly Geyser. He asked that I contact him a day or so before we'd be in the area. We called his cell phone number but service is spotty so we simply left a message that we would be in the area and would like to shoot some pictures of the geyser. We'd try to call him later. It was around 4:00 when we drove north on a dirt road looking for an appropriate place to camp for the night. When passed a pickup truck, the driver outside securing a gate. MSO quipped that it was probably the caretaker of Fly Geyser. I chuckled saying we couldn't be that lucky as we passed by. A half mile later, the guy in the pickup is behind us so I pull to the side of the gravel road to let him pass. Instead he slows down and calls out, "Your name Mark?" Yep, MSO was right. It was the caretaker who was checking the geyser when we passed. He said that Sunday would be bad for him but if we were interested, we could see the geyser and springs now. We jumped at the opportunity, spun the RV around and followed the pickup to the gate. We followed the single lane dirt road to the end where we beheld the 1960's geyser. Streams of boiling hot water spurted from the geyser's numerous openings. The caretaker allowed us to snap photo after photo of the attraction while telling us the history of the area. After 45 minutes, I started to feel guilty monopolizing the man's time. We profusely thanked him for giving us the opportunity of seeing this awesome sight. I tried to offer him a little 'folding green' to more fully express our thanks but he refused my offer with a smile. This man's pleasure was in seeing the pleasure in the eyes of others as they beheld the sight. He's truly a class individual and a genuinely nice guy.

We spent Saturday night camped on BLM land overlooking the great playa of  Black Rock Desert. Down below in the gathering darkness was the historic Applegate-Lassen Emigrant Trail Cutoff, an easier route to Oregon for pioneers in 1846 than was the Emigrant Trail which follows the Humboldt River. On a small patch of playa at the extreme south end lay the community of Black Rock City, the ephemeral home of the Burning Man festival. Lights from the city twinkled in the moonless dark. Around our campfire, we watched the night sky come alive. Mars, making its closest approach to earth in tens of thousands of years, glowed bright and red; Satellites arced high over head. Without the obscuring light of the moon, the Milky Way was clearly defined. As the temperature dropped, we knew we'd sleep well after our action-packed day.

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