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Friday trip - long report

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March 23, 2014 01:53AM
I had an amazing day at the springs on Friday. Hit the road from LA early - the whole LA basin was fogged in, complete pea soup. Even when I started the climb up the Cajon pass to the high desert, it was still fogged in, and it would be hazy still in the Apple Valley as I drove to the springs. But I found the sun there.

Bowen Ranch Road has been made less sandy and less wash-boarded by the rains. The drive was not difficult. Until you get to the Ranch: the drive down to the parking area is as bad as it has ever been. Worse, probably (I have 4WD and had a bit of trouble climbing out at the end of the day; a mistake of where I placed my tires or how much gas I gave the engine, but still...I don’t know how folks with city slicker cars do it, but they always seem to be fine). I arrived at the Ranch at 8am. No sign of the caretaker, so I paid my entrance fee to the box and watched some big fat lizards, one without a tail, run around on the ranch house front-screen windows. I saw a bunch of these lizards throughout the day, and several without tails. I made my way to the parking and there was no one there. No cars, no campers. I was surprised: it was the spring equinox and the moon still 2/3rd full - I was sure it would bring out the campers and springers. I got myself ready - it was just about 50 degrees, but sunny, warm enough finally for a free hike if you are hardy. Just before I stripped nude, I sensed some movement and noticed a woman hiking up the trail back to the ranch. As she passed, I told her I was surprised to see her as there were no cars. She told me I must be an early riser, and that I would have the springs to myself for there was no one at the springs but herself during the night and one man who had been down there several days. And then she kept on walking. She looked familiar to me from a past early morning visit; I guess she is local, no car needed.

I was immediately amazed as I drove to the Ranch and then hiked down to the creek by how green things are in the desert right now. The rains did their work. Even with the drought. And the flowers are popping out everywhere! Mostly yellow, but also blue and purple. Perhaps most amazing was the small area near the ranch where a fire burned a few years back. It was lush now with new growth. It will only be this way out there for a short while. This greenness. I recommend that you see it before the desert returns to its dry ways, to its browns and sands. There was so much life and so many smells, and new sounds, birds I don’t normally hear down there all along the hike.

It was also beautiful to hear the rush of the creek when I got to that point in the hike, louder and stronger now that it has rained. I arrived creek-side to some amount of trash on the beach (at the end of the day a new friend and I hiked out all of the baggable trash there - lots of bottles and empty cans of Hormel chili and whatever the F*** people just leave like pigs. Actually I like pigs a lot more than these people so...! I filled one big garbage bag, the woman I was with took a smaller bag. Strangely, a lot of the trash on the beach was already in small plastic bags, 5 or 6 of them, but just left there). There are also some bigger things scattered on the hill on the Bowen Ranch side - a cooler, a sleeping bag - and of course big things like roller coolers that idiots have just left as junk on the nude beach on the springs side. There is a BBQ on the grass near the meadow (!). Someone had tied up some food in a bag in a tree, and towels hung nearby: they belonged to no one, just left there.

So much for the negative. It was really a beautiful day. I seemed alone when I arrived. No sign of the guy supposedly down there. No campers in sight. No one. His named turned out to be B., he was in a hammock sleeping somewhere upcreek, and I soaked with him later in the morning in the Womb. He told me tales. He had been down there a few days, on a break from a bike trip he is doing all the way from San Diego to Seattle. I think he stashed his bike near Arrowhead, and came in the Bradford Ridge way from what he described. He’s on a break from work, as he lives up in Alaska and does construction. He told of a visit of the nearby ranch folks with their horses two days earlier, and of a couple that arrived at the creek and claimed they had been lost on the trails for two full days and were desperate for water. He showed them where you could drink from the Crab Cooker. They wound up drinking straight from the creek instead (!). He warned them of giardia, but they drank the creek water no matter. Somehow, trying to find the springs they had hiked to the bridge on the way to the spillway where they perhaps had made a distress call? Somehow they got lost coming down from Bowen Ranch! It really seemed hard to fathom. But once they got to the springs, they stayed, and built a fire to keep warm at night. (Their fire ring was still built on the beach where you arrive on the Bowen side; it was probably some of their garbage I was packing out later in the day.) In the middle of the night, B. related, a helicopter arrived and buzzed the springs. It shined its search-lights all over the area and into the hot spring pools one by one and this went on for a while until it buzzed away. The couple didn’t figure to signal to the copter, as they perhaps didn’t realize it was obviously a search team sent to locate them. The next morning as they hiked back to Bowen, the copter was back and using speakers to yell down at the lost hikers, asking them to signal if they were OK. It buzzed away yet again when they managed to signal correctly.

While B. was telling me the helicopter tale, suddenly: ZOOM. ZOOOOOM! Two military fighter jets zoomed the springs. A third came by a few seconds later, but the first two were much lower, so low I could see the pilots, and it looked like they were in the canyon, just barely over our heads. I’ve never seen the likes of that down there. It was awe inspiring, and I just shouted out, and some folks who had arrived then on the beach cried out too, yelps and hollas.

But when I arrived, I was alone. I soaked in the Womb and the Serenity Pools, both beautiful in the morning shadows. A fellow free-hiker arrived just a few minutes after me, so the two of us shared the springs in the earliest morning hours. My fellow free-hiker, S., took the Anniversary Pool. After a bit of Womb soaking, I dropped my things on the rock on the nude beach and assessed the damage to the Arizona Pool. As reported, the source is exposed way up into the beach above, the sand washed away all around the pool, more rocks seemingly pushed into it, and it is only holding about two inches of water it seemed to me. It will need to be repaired - but by who? How?

After talking a bit with S. in the Anniversary Pool, I returned to the Womb. Two women suddenly appeared on the beach, just as I had soaked enough to hop into the still-cold creek. There is a huge sand bar pushed by the floods up against the rock outcropping with the pools - if the creek level recedes a bit, we might have a sand beach below the pools this year? Not so good for rock jumping, but interesting in other ways. A big change. The women were immediately friendly and called out to me asking about the water and the coldness of the creek. I told them not to swim it until they had heated up in the springs a bit; showed them where they could cross (downstream now from where it was before the floods). They made their way to the Anniversary Pool where I joined them and S. a bit later.

I wound up spending much of the day with them. If you are reading, L. and D., I hope I see you down there again! Two wonderful people from San Diego, celebrating D’s birthday with a trip to the springs, her first. The four of us soaked and talked, about everything under the sun: astrological signs, the missing Malaysian jet, nude beaches, Burning Man, kids and weddings, you name it. A few groups of younger folks arrived; cool people from the Victorville area. Spent a bunch of time chatting with them too. By lunch time, there were around 15 or more people at the springs, mostly nude, and the most social day I remember at the springs in a long time, everyone meetin’ and greetin’, lots of great conversations going in each and every pool.

Then you began to notice a long line of marching humans, making their way down the Bowen goat trail like a long line of ants. Around 1pm, a huge group of guys started showing up in dribs and drabs. Most of them were British, though they seemed to be of most every nationality: Spaniards, and Japanese, and Russian, etc. There were in the end at least 40 guys, all around 20 years old. All board-shorters, no skinny dippers amongst them. That changed the dynamic a bit. They turned out to be a traveling international group of guys who do parkour -- look it up if you don’t know what that is! I was hoping they would at least do a hot spring parkour show while down there. But they just all had their cameras out, taking a million pictures and videos every which way - I gave up caring if I showed up in their shots, I’m sure we all did - and taking over the Womb and other pools.

They also took over my spot on the nude beach. I was feeling a bit displaced, and moved sheepishly up to the grassy meadow. It was then that the women from San Diego asked me if I wanted to play cards with them. L. sunbathed nude in the afternoon sun, and D. and I sat down nearby her in the shade of the trees just upcreek, and D. taught me (retaught me) how to play gin rummy. I hadn’t played it since I was a child with my grandmother. She was quite the card sharp, or shark, however you say that. But we had so much fun, and I spent the afternoon playing cards with L and D under the shaded trees.

It was lovely to meet lovely people, and make new friends - even if it might just be a temporary thing, someone you never see again, a friend for a day. It was also a joy to be nude together, like an existential joy - one of the joys of Deep Creek, it seems, at least for me. While L. started to play cards with us after a while, D. obviously loved games. I really got clobbered by these women! If we had been playing strip poker, I would have been a goner. But we were all far gone on that front, or well at least L. and I were. It was great and funny to be so clobbered at cards. But I almost felt bad when I suggested after a long while that it was getting chilly and maybe we could go soak again in the pools. We did that together, and with others, and then said our goodbyes on the beach across from the pools after cleaning it up together.

I hiked out just before them, I hope they made it out OK. It was around 5 pm when I left. The parkour dudes were starting to hike out as they came in, in smaller groups of 4 or 5. I helped one group of mostly Brits in front of me from making the wrong turns 2 or 3 times on the way back to Bowen; also the group behind me. Upon my return to Bowen, there were around 15 cars parked. What a change from 8 am.

A beautiful day I will long remember.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/23/2014 01:45PM by neogeo.
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Friday trip - long report

neogeo2146March 23, 2014 01:53AM

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