Needle close

Bruce was off this week so we are reprinting his Aug. 3, 2000, epistle:

I had a recent weekend to kill, and the thought of stickin’ around doing various homey projects was simply not cutting it. The vibe of the tribe was pointed more to the door, toward exploring the northern end of Pyramid Lake, that much ignored territory that includes the foreboding yet enticing Needles Hot Springs.

So there I was, clattering down the dirt road toward Warrior Point, where the fork in the road split off to either Sand Pass or the Needicular Netherworld. The sign just past the fork was fairly explicit, and printed in easy-to-read large type: “The Needles Area is closed. It’s especially closed to heavy metal creeps and zoned-out hippies who come out here with some wafer-thin, semi-bogus veneer of so-called respect for this place, only to eventually pass out gurgling and twitching in their sleeping bags due to a very disrespectful overconsumption of various intoxicants, hallucinogens, and Jagermeisters. Nuts to that. Beat it.”

The sign had the desired effect on me, namely a sudden infusion of respect for the Needles. I consequently stayed on the high road, continuing eastward, content to view these impressive sharks’ teeth of prehistoric tufa from a respectful distance. My destination was the far northeastern segment of Pyramid, and an area known as Hell’s Kitchen.

Imagine my genuine surprise, then, when the so-called high road took a dive right into the Needles. Oops. Despite my respectful intentions, I was rollin’ into the verboten zone.

I drove in farther, confident that the story of my honest mistake would hold up when subjected to hard-boiled questioning at the hands of the tribal police. Then again, it was apparent that no one else was in the vicinity. What the hell, might as well look around for a minute. I hadn’t been out to this dramatic, spooky spot since that kegger in ’92. In no time, the road got very close to the shore of the lake, so much so that I had to stop to make sure there was room enough to pass and proceed on to the hot springs area.

And that was when I couldn’t help but notice … there was no hot springs area. What the—? It wasn’t just that the hot springs had somehow been sealed off to humanoids. There were no hot springs, period.

That entire section of the Needles, where campsites used to overlook those comfy pools of thermalized water, is now under water, drowned in a lake that has risen these last six winters of above-average snowpacks.

This development just may let heavy-metal creeps and zoned-out hippies off the hook.

Here are three things you will find in abundance beyond the forbidden Needles: brush, dirt, lizards, space, quiet, sunlight and solitude.