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Deep Creek Hot Springs (California) Report.

October 2001

Of all the naturist activities available, visiting a natural hot spring has got to be one of the most fullfilling. To me, its what its all about: a healthy and sometimes heart-pounding hike to the spring location, relaxing in the hot water flowing from the ground, cooling off in a nearby creek or river, and laying on the ground basking in the sun, all enhanced by being away from the entrapments of modern world. With this in mind, on a late October weekend I made a couple of hikes to Deep Creek Hot Springs outside of San Bernadino, California.

There are several typical ways of getting to the springs. Most people come in from the Bowen Ranch, about an hour's drive from Los Angeles. The Bowen Ranch charges $4 per person to park. After parking there is a well-marked and well-travelled trail down to the springs. This is how I made my first visit. At under 2 miles the Bowen Ranch trail is the shortest way in, but is also somewhat strenuous on the return journey due to the 900 ft elevation drop from the ranch to the springs. It also requires either wading across Deep Creek or scrambling down a hill and boulder hopping across the creek. The springs can also be reached by hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail from the west (the longest route in at 5 miles, but least strenuous due to the relatively flat terrain) and from the south, a 2 1/2 mile hike that, because of an 850 foot drop that you need to navigate sans trail, probably ranks as the most difficult. It is the latter route in that I used for my second visit. If you want more details on the hikes themselves (e.g. topo maps, GPS waypoints), see the trail descriptions on my web site at http://www.reith.ca/.

There are four main soaking areas at the hot springs, ranging from hot to mild, plus Deep Creek itself, which at this time of year was actually refreshingly cool after the hike in or sitting long spells in the hot water. In winter the creek is much cooler so I don't think the word refreshing would be the most accurate word to use. The tubs (actually more like rocked-in areas) are well maintained by volunteers, periodically scrubbed to remove accumulated algea. Three of the tubs are built into a rocky outcrop, the forth in a rocked-in area in the creek. The creek itself is in a deep v-shaped canyon carved into the San Bernadino Mountains by the Deep Creek. The area is surrounded by many ledges perfect for relaxing in the sun, whose warmth provided a welcome change from the chilly autumn temperatures back home in Toronto.

Its not surprising that the springs are more heavily visited on weekends. By early afternoon there were close to 30 people there, compared to about 10 or so at the same time on the Friday afternoon. The crowd ranged from young to old, with a few families and a couple of groups of younger people that were camping nearby. At least half the people stripped down to soak in the tubs and some, like me, also hiked in nude. One notable exception to the suit-less was the male half of a young couple. She was in the water without any hesitation but ultimately gave up trying to coax him to remove his shorts and join her. I'm sure a lot of the male naturist population would have joined me in shaking my head at this situation.

A common activity at Deep Creek is to give yourself a mud bath then sit in the sun and let the mud dry off on you. The mud at the bottom of the creek is jet black and very fine. After letting the mud dry I jumped off a rocky island into the creek then washed away the mud or at least most of it as I found out when I got back to my car and looked into a mirror. One of the tubs also has a tube extending from it that can be used as a shower; just ask a soaker to remove the plug that keeps the tubs full of water. This sure was a lot more fun, not to mention a lot cheaper, then a spa mud bath.

If you haven't visited the springs you need to put it near the top of your list. Yes, it requires a bit of effort to get to and you need to pack in (and out) everything that you need for your stay, but it is an experience that you will not regret.

Visit my website for more reports: http://www.reith.ca/.

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