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Deep Creek Hot Springs

The Moon is Waxing Gibbous (94% of Full)


Re: link LA Times

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July 20, 2002 09:47AM
I hope Rick the Webmaster doesn't mind, but I posted the whole article because some of us have had trouble accessing the link. I'd be interested in everyone's opinions about the article:


Not Everyone Gets Into Deep Creek's Pools

High desert hideaway isn't easy to get to, and some popular pastimes
aren't even legal, but the soaking and sunbathing make it a real hot


July 20 2002

You pay your money or you take your chances.

Mike Castro takes your money for the privilege of crossing his property outside his weathered cabin in the
furrowed high desert several miles southeast of Hesperia. Castro's property, an old ranch, lies athwart a trail to the
popular Deep Creek hot springs at the bottom of a narrow canyon along the northern boundary of the San
Bernardino National Forest.

You can also walk a long five miles to the hot springs on the Pacific Crest Trail, but Castro's property offers the
easiest access, along with a secure place to park--for a fee. If you try to cross his land without paying the
$4-per-person toll, chances are Castro will catch up with you somewhere out on the crinkled outback he prowls
on his dirt bike, armed with a pistol, on the lookout for scofflaws.

The toll paid, you head on foot down a steep ravine to Deep Creek and its cluster of hot pools. You follow a trail
blazed by Serrano Indians and later widened by homesteaders, fishermen, squatters, naturalists, biologists and,
more recently, by urban escapists.

The short hike ends at a bluff above a U-turn on Deep Creek, a ribbon of water that feeds the Mojave River. The
pools are just a short slide down the bluff and a hop across wet rocks. Below unfolds a scene of mostly unadorned
sunbathers sprawled lizard-like next to the water.

This is government land, but rarely is there a uniform or badge in sight. Officials of the U.S. Forest Service and the
federal Bureau of Land Management, who share jurisdiction over the region, say they lack the resources to station
a ranger at Deep Creek, let alone maintain the springs or build and operate a campground.

The only full-time enforcement is carried out by Castro. He has no authority beyond his property. But he
maintains a semblance of order, picking up trash, tracking down lost hikers and notifying authorities when
creek-side conduct threatens to get out of hand.

Benign Anarchy

Most of the time, an air of benign anarchy prevails. Flouting a government rule against camping, people put up
tents, which sprout colorfully from the stream bank's rocky recesses. Naked bodies come and go languidly from
the hot pools. Drug use is rumored, but doesn't appear flagrant.

On one recent afternoon, soakers jeered, and one displayed his backside, as a county sheriff's helicopter circled
several times overhead. The sheriff is empowered to enforce state laws on federal land.

People have been coming here to take the waters for at least 30 years, ever since some amateur landscape
engineers, using sandbags and a bit of masonry, created the pools. Castro estimates that at least 1,000 people a
year come to relax in the pools, which blend diverted creek water with 108-degree seepage from the hot springs.
There are several pools of varying temperatures. Small waterfalls connect three of them.

The full treatment involves a soak in each, topped off by a dip in the cold creek water or in the ultra-hot "crab
cooker" pool. With the pools deeper than a tall person in some places, the challenge is to perch yourself
comfortably on a submerged rock and let your cares melt away.

Most who visit come and go during daylight hours. Many wear swimsuits. Modesty is not the only reason. Who
knows what kind of person might be drawn here by the prospect of lax oversight and nudity. Deep Creek was
once a wild place, and the aura of an outlaw oasis still clings to it.

'60s Fugitives

In the 1960s the creek's side canyons sheltered AWOL servicemen and homeless squatters. Charles Manson was
reputed to be among them. In 1970, the Forest Service and the FBI led a sweep of the area and found scores of
ramshackle camps and several fugitives. That same year the service banned overnight camping, a dictum more
easily proclaimed than enforced.

"Before Manson's time, there were no patrols at all. There wasn't much need," said Ranger Brad Burns. He joined
the Forest Service in 1976 and later became responsible for law enforcement along the 22-mile Deep Creek and its
environs. Two unarmed rangers patrolling together were assaulted in 1977. At least a year passed before the first
charges were filed. Over time a crew of nine dwindled to one. Now management rules allow rangers to carry
firearms and require two armed officers to mount a patrol. If Burns can't find a partner, the sheriff is asked to
supply a deputy.

"No one else around even wants to take on the job," Burns said. "People just don't want to get into it."

Most of the lawbreaking today is limited to littering, spray-painting rocks or motoring down one of the
pedestrian-only trails on a dirt bike or all-terrain vehicle.

The greatest danger most soakers face is dehydration or, after a lengthy immersion, a treatable skin rash caused by
bacteria that infects hair follicles.

A Shady Past

Deep Creek has drawn visitors from many parts of the world. Yet it has not quite shed its checkered history of
fatal accidents, strange disappearances and occasional assaults, mostly growing out of drunken arguments.

In 1997, a local man named Ronnie Bates disappeared. More than a year later, a human jawbone was found near
a trail, the few teeth still on it eventually proving that it belonged to Bates. His death remains a mystery.

This past spring, authorities foiled plans for an outdoor dance party near Deep Creek and confiscated 1,000 maps
directing revelers to the creek bottom "rave."

Burns recently tore up nonnative vegetation illegally planted and a "bootleg trail." The ranger times his patrols to
advise visitors of rule violations during daylight hours. Then he returns before dawn and cites those who have
ignored his warnings against overnight stays.

"I've survived down there because I use a great deal of diplomacy," Burns said.

Land management officers also credit Castro.

"We hear that Castro has taken a very hard line in enforcing Forest Service and BLM rules," said Barry Nelson,
the Bureau of Land Management's chief ranger for the Barstow district. "There's no question it helps our
management efforts."

Castro agrees.

"What makes Deep Creek unique is the private intervention," said the leathery, long-haired 48-year-old. "This is a
very spiritual place. If it's not handled right, the place goes to hell."

You pay your money or you take your chances

katrina island 1047July 20, 2002 02:09AM

link LA Times

katrina island 605July 20, 2002 02:13AM

Re: link LA Times

Paul P. 1907July 20, 2002 09:47AM

Re: link LA Times

sycamorelaughing 585July 20, 2002 01:39PM

Re: You pay your money or you take your chances

Laughing Bear 626July 20, 2002 10:28AM

Re: You pay your money or you take your chances

Wizard 607July 21, 2002 09:51AM

Re: You pay your money or you take your chances

Wizard 556July 21, 2002 10:07AM

Re: You pay your money or you take your chances

Ron 590July 21, 2002 11:55AM

Re: You pay your money or you take your chances

Ron 618July 21, 2002 12:31PM

Re: You pay your money or you take your chances

SmokeScreener 1203July 21, 2002 02:59PM

Re: You pay your money or you take your chances

Arizona Mike 637July 21, 2002 06:34PM

Re: You pay your money or you take your chances

EastBay 623July 22, 2002 10:30AM

Re: You pay your money or you take your chances

paul 535July 22, 2002 03:39PM

Re: You pay your money or you take your chances

EastBay 990July 22, 2002 05:39PM

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