January 15, 2010

... Hot water springs: The Natural Escape

I am staying in Ridgecrest, California. The middle of a desert. In a military town where the Navy likes to blow things up (China Lake Naval Weapons Center).
I'm visiting my best friend Danyelle, her husband Mark, and their two twin toddlers. Mark is a project manager on the base, the twins are adorable and act like they're two, and Danyelle is a full time mom, miracle worker, and more.

I am having an... interesting time. Good: With best friend. Eating well. Playing with twins. Late nights alone blogging or emailing. Spending time with God... Or at least wondering where God is. Bad: I sleep in the same room as the twins. The house is very small for five people. And I'm not used to being around kids all day long. Danyelle says I will be a "professional mom." Meaning? I'll have a job and hire a nanny. If I'm going to have a kid, I'm NOT going to hire a nanny. That's what Dad is for :)

On Monday Mark kindly allowed Danyelle and I to go hunt down a hot spring she vaguely recalled from her childhood. After a bit of internet research and studying a few maps, we find what we are looking for: Remington Hot Springs. They are off of the Lower Kern River. If you didn't know to look for a big dirt parking lot, the lack of signs would keep you driving through a hundred more miles of desert scrub. (See below for better directions.)

We first drove by Miracle Hot Springs, which didn't appear to be closed like our internet research suggested. Unfortunately the state parks services bashed out the tub walls and all that is left are a few pools you could soak your calves in. Sad.

After finding the Remington parking lot, I wondered which of the seven dirt trails to take down to the river. I knocked on the door of a camper. This guy who is about 55 peeks out. He points in the general direction of our path. At this moment it is pouring down rain and I am drenched. "The weather's turning catastrophic," he says. "You'll be really cold when you are done hiking up the hill. I've got hot coffee and cocoa waiting for you!"
Danyelle walks up behind me. "How far is it to the springs?" He didn't hear her. I gave her my evilest eyes, attempting to communicate that she needs to not communicate with the slimy guy who is making advances on us. "How far is it to..." I turned and left. She followed suit.

I digress.
Danyelle and I finally made it down the muddy path to the hot springs - and we are amazed. We found well maintained pools and waterways directly on the river's edge. They are primitive and pristine. The top pool was the smallest, about the size and shape of a coffin, and the warmest. Its water flowed to the medium sized, and on to the largest. The boulders and floors of the pools were cemented together and the cement was laden with colorful marbles, stones, dice, buttons, glass, and phrases such as "Eternal Joy" and "Seek Happiness." Good energy vibes to be sure.


The rain pours. The huge cold drops splash the hot spring pools and splash back up into our eyes and noses. I prayed that God might please please clear up the rain and give us good weather. It was an unlikely request; the entire day was immersed in heavy rain.

We chatted with two locals, watched the river, stretched, and giggled.
It was restorative.
Steven, one of the locals, spoke about this clothing-optional place. He said that it's kid friendly during the day, but if you expect to bring your 11 year old daughter at 10pm at night, expect to run into either a bunch of gay men scratching their balls, or hoards of college kids drinking beer and having sex. He took his daughters during the day one time and had to turn around and go home. (They were mad. I told him he was being a good father, in spite of how I embrace nudity)

And after an hour or so the sun cast the faintest of light on us. HA! I exclaimed. I showed everyone my new find. And, sure to be true, the clouds broke. The sky cleared. The hills across the river were glowing in the evening sunlight. The birds began to sing, and the moment became even more precious.

I thanked God, and told the others I'd asked him for the weather. I didn't believe it would ever happen, but, then again, God listens.
We hiked back up the hill, made a large detour around creepy coffee man's camper, and settled in for our drive home. We had no need of "warming up..." The hike had us stripping down! I guess he got his way anyhow.

Unfortunately I did not bring my camera below because of the rain.
But on the way back the big G-O-D had another plan:

A rainbow.
And this, my friends, is promise enough that he is still around.


Looking for the place? It's not easy to find.
Link to googlemaps embedded here...
Southern California. NE of Bakersfield, in Kern Canyon, a few miles
SW of the Sequoia Nat'l Forest, Bodfish and Lake Isabella on CA-178.
Coming from Bakersfield, take a Right on Borel Rd, and Right on Kern Canyon Rd.

The springs are located about two miles west of Miracle Springs and Hobo Campground on the Old Kern Canyon Road. The big cue (if you're looking for the springs) is that it is across the street from a trail head to go up Remington Ridge to Breckenridge Mountain. (Which is, thankfully, marked.)
If the parking lot is full, forget about it. The pools do not fit many people, and you will be quite unhappy sitting on the hairy old guy's lap. I promise.

Facing the parking lot from the road, the correct paths are on the right side. There are many paths, but they all head to the same place. It's about 1/4 mile down. The path is steep and not easy for those with problems walking. Bring all yo' gear with you. Water, food, and... forget the swimming suit in the car. Don't forget: It's clothing-optional :)

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