The enduring appreciation of a good box.
Population 13 and 1/2. We read about it and made plans to come out here about ten years ago. But then Ilse saved a friend’s home, single handedly putting out a blazing pile of drywall before the fire trucks arrived, and got pneumonia for her efforts. As we pull out of the fields and giant hill stones of the surrounding lost countryside, we’re wondering how it ever took us so long to finally find this fantastic hideaway.
Benton Hot Springs is a ghost town with one bed and breakfast left to its name. Each little cowboy room has it’s own hot tub out back and behind that there’s ten camp sites, each with their own hot tub as well.
We scored site #4 and its small wooden wine cask tub with a bit of privacy and a ton of character. The tub has two spigots. The hot one lets water in directly from the little steamy stream running by. The cold one let’s you make the mighty hot water just perfect and then there’s a hose you can screw on that connects to a contraption of lawn sprinklers above you. There’s nothing more amazing that sitting in very hot water with cold rain pouring down on you as you gaze up at snow frosted peaks and the constellations above.
We spent the next morning idly strolling around the ghost town, reading the headstones of the old grave yard, hopping the almost boiling streams up near the source, and going out, hay in hand, to meet the buffalos in the pasture.
Benton is only a tank of gas away from LA up the 395. Bishop, the last town before you cut off onto HWY 6, is a funky cowboy town that begs strolling along its raised sidewalks and peeking down it’s antique alleys.
The real treat though is missed by everyone who goes booming past to Mammoth. Five minutes up HWY 6 from Bishop is one of the coolest and largest historical museums in California.
The Laws Railroad Museum is reconstituted wild west town. Each building and house is a reliquary of tidbits left by the generations that peopled and prospered and have largely disappeared from the Owens River Valley.
There’s the chemist and the dentist, the ophthalmologist, the branding foundry with a siamese lamb under glass and the everything-in-reverse printer’s shop. All the hand tools of early industry and medicine, some gruesome, are on quiet and forgotten display. You can go into the school house and the bar, ring the bell or tink the piano, and there’s a quint family home with modern conveniences like a proto-refridgerator and early mechanical washing machine. There’s gems and arrowheads galore housed across the way from the post office whose walls are lined with wanted posters and a camera shop with all the boon of film’s lost glory. The spine of the town is a giant steam engine to be climbed over and through and then, shoved forward by it’s Minotaurian head, a FOAMER’s freak-out room full of all things train.
We drove across America last summer but are so often reminded that some of the coolest road trips are right in our LA backyard. We want to go back up there soon and keep driving the 6 as it bears east and meanders through the empty middle belly of Nevada. It’s the spaceship on vacation way to get to Vegas.
Everybody’s snuggled up tight.
All manner of maple goodies at the sugar shack.