Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Cowboy Comes Home

August 31, 2009
Riverside Hot Springs
0.5 mi trail (roundtrip)
300' elevation change (each way)
(avg. 23% grade)

Well, as you might have heard, the forest in my "backyard" has been, is, and will be on fire for the next couple weeks at least. They've actually had to close the forest. So far, all our friends' homes have been spared, and all the animals are safely evacuated from both Devil's Punchbowl and the Wildlife Waystation. We are very grateful!

But gratitude aside, life here is still impacted quite a bit by the fires. I was up till 4 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning, putting damp towels in door jambs and anywhere I thought smoke might be coming in. Even with the house closed up and the air conditioning on, the smoke is still overwhelming. I had asthma attacks all day and night Sunday.

By the time I got up 3 hr later, I'd decided I'd had enough of the smoke.
The wind had come up and was blowing the smoke a little more directly west-east, hugging the mountains, so we finally had a little bit of respite from the smoke -- not much, but some. I was determined to get away from it.

I called up one of my most special friends, who had literally JUST moved back here after a multi-year stint living in Texas. We hadn't seen each other yet, and we had planned to go to Big Rock Creek today. With the smoke and fires, that was obviously out of the question.

"Wanna go on a roadtrip?" I asked him. "Sure!" was the reliable answer. I told him what I had in mind, and he packed accordingly while I drove all the way across the valley to pick him up.

I'd heard of an area on a river that had a series of hot springs. I'd been wanting to go check it out and see if I could find them. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to catch up with a special friend, get out of the smoke, and find this group of hot springs.

Yes, like the previous hot springs trip, I am purposely not naming where it was (although I'll be happy to show you in person).

And our friends and loved ones should be very happy we did the recon for this trip; we spared them a lot of wrong turns, extra miles, and searching for the right little trail in a place criss-crossed with human-made and cow trails! At least it was a beautiful drive. Following the river, we were constantly rounding the next bend to see yet another set of beautiful waterfalls tumbling over giant boulders. So we didn't mind the wrong turns and extra miles; it's an adventure!

Click on any picture to see larger version.

River falls.

Trying to find the exact location of the springs proved difficult, as our hiking instructions were just as bad as our directions on how to drive there. It was over 100 deg as we hiked down and up one steep hill; the sweat was literally raining off of us. I guess my friend should have known he'd wind up doing some real hiking for hope! Finally we realized where the trail was. It looked like a road compared to the cow paths!

Heading down, it was obvious we'd need real energy to hike back up when we were done. Switchbacks zigzagged us down the steep grade. There was some shade, but it was still blazing hot. We came across the first pool, the "bathtub" hot spring. We rinsed the sweat off in the "bathtub"; the minerals in it are immediately obvious and soften the skin. The water was not too hot to enjoy, although the sulfur smell was more obvious at this location. We ate our dill pickles and rinsed off again. Then we headed down the trail to the riverside hot spring pools.

The "Bathtub."

Riverside hot springs.

Crystal clear spring water adjacent to the rushing river.

So inviting!

Like many hot springs, the norm is nude bathing; so we were not at all surprised to see nude people lounging around the pools. We, of course, kept our clothes on. Too many miles and scars in addition to not being twenty anymore!

Right next to the river.

Pick which pool feels right to you.

Of course I tried taking a picture underwater!

Try seeing things from my point of view, okay?

Am I supposed to remember what happened after that? 'Cause all I remember was soaking and talking, and sighing at the idyllic beauty and wishing I had my fishing pole! We stayed for HOURS. It was after 5 when we decided to head back up the hill.

An enjoyable late afternoon soak.

One last look before we go (but we'll be back).

It was a slow hike back up the hill, and it took a little longer than it probably takes most people, but at least we made it! We headed for home, enjoying the rolling hills and tall mountains as we roamed from valley to canyon to valley.

Distant reservoir and the valley below us as we leave.

A leisurely drive -- with good reason!

Roadtrip -- the perfect way for friends to catch up!

Our beautiful Golden State.
Green hills in the winter; gold in the summer.

As soon as we got to the desert again, we could see the plume of smoke in our local mountains had moved even further east. Back to the smoke again! But at least we had a nice break from it. Life is still good!

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