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Arizona Hot Spring Report.
I hiked through the desert to Arizona Hot Spring on SuperBowl Sunday in January, 2003. Here is my report, which adds to excellent reports by Paul and Don.
I was staying in Las Vegas at Our House Las Vegas, a nudist mini-resort (see separate report below). It was a gorgeous day - not a cloud in the sky and about 70F (Nevada winter?). I left Las Vegas at 1 pm Pacific Time, knowing that sunset was at 5 pm. If doing this trip in the afternoon, itís better to start out 5 hours before sunset, or six hours before the time you want to be back in Las Vegas. In the hotter months, itís better to start out early in the morning (e.g. 7 am) so as to avoid the hottest part of the day. Warning: it may not be safe to do this hike in the summer months because of very high temperatures.
I drove south-east down 93/95/515, over Hoover Dam into Arizona to a point just past mile marker 4 (35-40 miles total distance?). The trip took less than an hour, with traffic moving quickly except through Boulder City and near Hoover Dam, where there was a security checkpoint. I turned right onto a dirt road that passes through an opening in the guard rail (impossible to miss) and followed it down to a small parking lot, which is visible from the highway. There were six vehicles parked there, suggesting six groups on the trail.
The trailhead and first part of the trail are obvious. During the first part, the area is wide open and the trail descends fairly steeply. I wore only a knee-length pareo (sarong) and sandals, and took off the pareo as soon as I was out of sight of the highway. I debated whether to take a shirt and/or hat as well, but neither was necessary on this very fine day. However, I did take lots of water, which is essential in this desert environment.
At one point early on there is a choice between a track rising slightly to the left (the short cut Paul mentions), or a big step down to the right into a graveled river bed, which is the recommended route. Once in the river bed, I simply followed it to the Colorado River. No chance of losing the trail. The slope of the river bed is very gradual, and is barely noticeable coming back. The river bed / trail enters and remains in a canyon, and winds its way along, past high cliffs, with boulders strewn here and there. Dramatic scenery, interesting plays of light and shadow, a world very different from where I came from. Donít forget to take a camera to capture the experience.
I was out of direct sun almost the whole time (might not be the case at midday), so wasnít concerned about sunburn. Wearing sandals was a mistake, because sand and gravel constantly got stuck between my feet and the sandals. Sneakers are the footwear of choice. Note: If it rains heavily, the canyon and trail are subject to flash flooding, so donít do this hike if rain is expected.
I passed all six groups on the way in, and said hello to each group, but didnít attempt to cover up. None of the people that I met were nude, but for the most part, they didnít react negatively to my nakedness. Two young couples and three young guys returned my greeting, as did a mother with two lively pre-teens. Shortly after I passed by, I heard some loud giggling from the girl (giggling at me?) I met up with a family of four, and the mother quickly wrapped her arm around the head of one of her two young teenage daughters to hide her eyes. (What message was this mother delivering to her daughter?) Later, at the Colorado River, I had to pass by close to a father sitting with his two teenage girls on a large rock beside the trail. I said that I hoped I wasnít offending them, and he said "No, not at all. Weíre just not used to it [nudity on the trail]."
After about an hour of hiking, just under 3 miles, I arrived at the placidly flowing Colorado river. There are a couple of small powdery sand beaches right at the end of the trail which are ideal for camping (no permit required). I followed the trail to the left along the river, until it came to a dead end. The only way to continue was up the hill, but there were three possible routes and no indication which was the trail to the hot spring.. I took the rightmost route, which turned out to be the correct one. Once at the top of that hill, I couldnít find the continuing trail. This is where I met the three young guys, who told me to walk around the hill to the right, then continue up to the top. At the top, there was an obvious trail descending steeply to a very shallow creek (about 2 inches deep) running through a narrow (10 feet wide?) canyon. This is the wet canyon mentioned by Don in his trip report, but I may have traveled a slightly different route in getting to it. I followed the creek bed to the left and noticed after a short while that the water was getting warmer. Yesss! Then I came upon a ladder about 15 feet tall. I climbed it, to find two pools formed by blocking up the stream. Nobody else was there.
I lay down and soaked in the uppermost pool, which is a couple of feet deep and the warmer of the two - slightly more than 100F. Looking straight up, I could see canyon walls rising for a couple of hundred feet, and a patch of blue sky. How wonderful. Listening hard, I could hear nothing but the sound of falling water. Every now and then, I had to get out of the pool to cool off, and I sat just above it, with the water flowing down past my feet. Someone had placed a few candles in crevices around the perimeter of the pool, and I visualized how wonderful it would be to be soaking there at night, with only flickering candles to light up the dark.
I made sure to leave in time to get back to the trailhead by sunset. I enjoyed the hike out even more than the hike in. I knew that I wouldnít meet anyone else, so it was just my naked self and nature. A serene experience.
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