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Arizona Hot Springs Report.
Some pictures of the hike and the springs can be found at my web site here: http://www.reith.ca/.
An open day in Las Vegas before a red-eye flight home meant one thing: time for a hike to a hot spring! Before leaving for this trip I prepared by reading trip reports on NetNude for the closest hot springs, Arizona and Goldstrike Hot Springs, as well as checking out other sites such as soak.net. I also marked out routes to the springs on my GPS to make navigation easier. I decided to try for Goldstrike and the Sauna Cave, but I also took along the directions to Arizona just in case.
I got an early start to the day, feeling pretty good even though a late night/early morning at the craps table left only 3 hours for sleeping. Finding the hole in the guardrail that marks the turnoff for Goldstrike was not a problem, but the rest of the journey was. The "road" to Goldstrike looks like a service road for high voltage towers spanning out from Hoover Dam. After driving about 1/2 mile along it in my bare-bones Chevy Cavalier rental I came to the realization that this was not the place to be in this car. The dirt road was in pretty bad shape and, while extremely slow and careful driving probably would have delivered me to the trailhead, the road as it stands on this particular day really needed to be tackled with a high clearance vehicle. I passed over rocks that scraped the car's undercarriage and there was often a foot or more difference between the left and right sides of the car. It seemed to be bad as or even worse than the road to Saline Valley Hot Springs, a trip I did in a rented SUV. The final nail in the coffin was that this less-than single lane dirt, gravel and rocky road had sharp drop-offs on one side as the road navigated up and down canyons. I found a place to turn the car around and headed back for the highway. I'll try to get to this spring again in the future when I have a vehicle that inspires greater confidence in dicey conditions or have more time to allow for a hike in from the road.
So it was off to the Arizona (aka Ringbolt Rapids) Hot Spring instead. After getting the car back to a real road it was a very short drive to the Hoover Dam and, 4.2 miles later as advertised in Paul's excellent Arizona Hot Spring trip report on NetNude, I pulled off the road and parked my car in the small parking area joining one other car already parked. Technically, it was also now 1 hour later due to the time zone change that occurs when you cross into Arizona while Standard Time is in effect. But that wasn't relevant as later in the day the hour comes back on the return trip to Vegas. Also, experienced hot springers know that time seems to stand still while you are soaking. The parking area is in full view of the highway so there were no worries about leaving the car unattended for the day. Speaking of Paul's trip report, please refer to it for directions to the spring. I'll add a few details here and there but the directions he provided are excellent and the route itself is not that difficult. I can add one thing for GPS users: check out my web site (see the link to my website at the beginning of the report) for downloadable GPS data that you can use to gauge your progress on the hike towards the springs.
The 3 mile trail to the Colorado River follows the dry river bed in White Rock Canyon. I didn't try the shorter (and more difficult route) Paul mentioned. I found that the walk to the springs through the canyon to be magical on its own. Be sure to stop every now and to listen to the sounds of the canyon, sounds that are obscured by the crunching of the gravel under your feet and the occasional tourist plane taking sightseers to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. The gravel river bed trail seemed to be well traveled and the few side trails meant that there was virtually no way to get off trail. The trail gradually descends to the river, making the 1000 or so feet in elevation change hardly noticeable in either direction. At the trailhead and along the route are signs warning of flash flooding, making this hike suitable only when rain is not in the forecast.
Once I got out of view of the highway I pulled off my shirt and hiking shorts. Being early on a weekday morning I figured there would be few people around to object to a nude hike. It also seemed like the thing to do for my cold Canadian butt on this beautiful 70 degree November morning. However, after about 15 minutes into the hike I crossed paths with the occupants of the first car, 2 girls backpacking out of the canyon. I stopped to chat with them for a few minutes, exchanging some trail pleasantries. They didn't seem to be bothered by my unclothed status and I had made no effort to cover up, partly because I figured that the clothing optional status of the springs was known, but also because I just didn't have time!
Note: if being caught by unsuspecting textiles is keeping you from nude hiking and your personality is such that you are willing to make a bit of a fashion statement, let me take minute out of the trip report for a product pitch. Outdoor clothing manufacture Mountain Hardware makes what they call a "Mountain Kilt". No, you're not going to look like a BraveHeart wannabe on the trails in this piece of clothing. The khaki wrap-around has the outdoor look and durability typical of Mountain Hardware products. It looks to be much easer to put on, and take off, than shorts. It will allow you cover up faster, particularly when hiking on trails where your clothing optional status may be more unexpected. You probably won't find it at your local outdoor store as it is not a high volume product but it is available at several online retailers.
Once you reach the Colorado River you follow the trail to the left in order to reach the springs. While there are signs that point you in the direction of the spring, in some spots the correct trail is hard to make out, particularly where the trail ascends a rugged hill. There is no worry of getting lost but I did ended up taking a route that ended up being more difficult then the 'official' trail. On the hike out the correct path is much easier to spot.
You know you're in the right place when reach the base of a wet canyon. To get to the springs just follow the water up to its source. This last part of the trail involves a bit of scrambling over rocks and a climb up a reasonably well-anchored but shaky ladder. You should also be prepared to get your shoes wet on this part of the hike. Once up the ladder the spring is just around the corner. The spring has 2 pools, both made from sandbags that dam up the water. There are dry patches along the walls of the canyon where you can put your stuff without it getting wet from the pool run-off. The upper pool, being closer to the water source, was a few degrees warmer. The pools were about 1 to 2 feet deep, although one of the other visitors mentioned that the pools used to be 3 to 4 feet deep before some of the sandbags were removed.
The canyon walls tower up above the pools to provide a small but stunning glimpse of the sky. I had the pools to myself for the first 1/2 hour or so until several others came up. A family of 4 stayed in their swimwear but several others were nude. The two daughters explained that they didn't want to get nude in front of their mother, even though I informed them that their mother probably has seen them naked before. Regardless, they knew of the springs clothing-optional status and were not bothered by those of us that were more appropriated attired. They even took me up on my offer to get a picture of them with their camera, the first time they've had a picture taken of them by a naked guy. Visits on a weekend, where traffic is higher, may yield a different experience or acceptance.
To get a break from the spring I hiked back out to the river and catch some sun and enjoy a snack on one of the many beach areas along the river. Keep in mind that there is a fair amount of river traffic along the Colorado here so you may need to cover up ever so often. After a couple of trips back up the spring I found myself going through my water supply faster than I had anticipated so I started my hike back to the car at little earlier than desired. Next time I do a trip like this I'll remember to bring my Pristine water treatment kit which would have let me refill my bottle from the cold Colorado.
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