Sierraville, California

We descend down Highway 89 from Truckee into Sierra Valley, the largest alpine valley in North America. Unlike Truckee, the Sierra Valley isn’t on anyone’s way to anywhere else. The valley has trapped a pocket of time moving at a much slower pace than on the other side of the mountain. Here is my idea of paradise (one of them)–in the summer; the fact that it can have snow in September until June tempers my desire to emigrate.

photo: Sierra Valley near Sierraville
Sierra Valley from the front of the lodge

Betsy suggested we stay at Sierra Hot Springs in Sierraville, the next town over from from Loyalton. We check into the main lodge and are unhappy to discover that our “room for two” is a very small room with a full-sized bed. Perhaps I should have specified more carefully, a room for two people who don’t sleep together. However, we have shared much smaller accomodations in Japan and so resign ourselves to it.

The lodge itself, and the furniture in particular, possess a homey shabbiness that speaks “western” to me. Every floor board creaks. The furniture is mismatched and frayed, stuffing is coming out of the sofas. These are not antiques or even faux antiques; just old stuff on its second or third life. The valley is far away from Wal-mart, Target, or Home Depot. I doubt that there’s a lamp from Ikea in the whole valley. Things are reused, recycled and passed on. In short, it reminds me of my grandmother’s house: clean, tidy, and worn.

JQS tries out the bed first and I explore the hot springs which is about a quarter of a mile down the gravel road and then another quarter mile up a dirt path through the pines. After undressing and showering, I test the warm pool with my toe; it feels like a tepid bath. So I press on to the hot pool which is said to be from 105F-110F. The scent of sulphur, familiar to any resident of Beppu, permeates the air. The water is fairly clear and hot, comparable to some Japanese onsen, but not as hot as, say, Takegawara onsen.

After a nice soak, I lie on the deck staring out over the valley. The air is so cool and dry. Once a light rain fell on my back. When I get cooled down again, I head back to the tub. The best times are at night, under the stars. I was glad that Carol and MJN, who is used to getting into hot water with me, ended up staying in the room next door.

How I wish we had a hot springs nearby! I’m amazed that Betsy lived within a 20-minute drive of this place and never visited it once in 12 years. On Monday, I woke up at dawn and had a bath. When I thought JQS might be up, I walked back to the lodge and sat in front of the wood-burning stove combing out my hair and writing. We packed up our things, checked out of our room, and then went for another soak. We had the whole place to ourself for an hour before we had to drive back to Reno to catch our flight.

One Response to “Sierraville, California”

  1. susan deschenes Responds:

    I would love to download your photo of Sierraville for a flyer that I want to create for a workshop that I am giving at the hot springs. I have been loving and going to this beautiful land since 1984. Thankyou!

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