(for you northern-east-coasters, this is how we do November in Southern California)
Photos are up on Flickr from our brief trip to Deep Creek. I only have photos of our camp, since we were at the Springs in the middle of the night.
I have to tell you, this place is one of the most amazing spots you will ever see, but you have to be there at the right time – the wrong crowd there can ruin it pretty quick.
We headed out very, very late. Packed a few things, loaded the Scion, then got in it and I noticed the windshield was very cracked. Three places. Not good for Cajon Pass, high winds, then dirt roads. SO shit. Do we switch to my iffy GTI to get out there with, or bail and go Sunday? To complicate matters, we found out earlier that part of the I-15 would be closed going Northbound as of 8am Sat. There would be a detour involved, and possibly epic traffic. So it’s either now or never. AAA card in hand, we reload the gear into the GTI. Amazingly, it fits. Check coolant and oil. Cross fingers, and go. By now it was 4pm. We faced Rush Hour, and would never get to camp while there was still daylight. If you have never been there, I recommend not doing this, as it’s not so much a campground as a place where a nice guy lets you camp.
So, yeah, we hit the traffic hard. But it cleared up eventually. The trip took three hours, maybe three and a half. This is a 1.5 hour trip usually. But we were out there… we made it.
OK. So we hit the dirt road to Bowen Ranch, and the GTI vibrated like a sex toy store in an earthquake (how’s that for a simile?). CD player rendered useless. Sunroof made crazy, crazy sounds. But the road was just bumpy, not soft, so we rolled into Bowen Ranch. Stopped at the entry and talked to the Bowen guy (not sure what is name is) and paid him his fee (he charges an access fee, and in return provides the camp and parking area, only other way in to deep creek is by 4×4). Then we rolled on down to the camping area.
There was only ONE other car parked. Holy shit. We had only been here twice before and only camped once, but had seen many more people previous times. No moon, only starlight, so we needed headlamps and then my trusty new Coleman Lantern to set up camp. I put it on a camera tripod, and that rocked. We flicked up the new tent in no time, and then decided we would eat first and see if we still wanted to do the night hike down to the creek and springs.
From the only other car around, a guy came out and walked over to us.
Hi! Are you going down to the springs tonight?
-yeah, but we will eat first. and we are camping up here.
OK. We are camping down there, so we go now. Want a hit on my pipe?
-No thanks, see you down there
You are welcome! Bye!
Friendly. Anyway, he left down the trail as we started cooking. I think he had someone with him, but I never saw the other person. Now we were the only people around for miles, except for the Bowen ranch guy in his house/shack about a mile back down the dirt road. We cooked up some great chicken with potatoes and vegetables and rice, I had a glass of wine, then we got packed to hit the trail. We decided against bringing our sleeping bags and ground pads down… we should have brought them. We could have easily camped out in the open down the canyon.
With water, towels, and extra clothing layers for the coming drop in temp, we set out on the trail. Luckily we have hiked it at night before, as this night was very dark and we had to sort of know where we should be headed sometimes. A couple of hundred feet in, where the trail abruptly dips, we heard Coyotes. Howling upon Howling, painful, frightening animals screaming. They must have been tearing each other apart somewhere out there, and they could have been anywhere.
We stopped. Crap. And we have no walking sticks even to beat off wild attacking dogs. I picked up two rocks (seriously) and we decided to continue. It was a little scarier knowing there was no one around for miles.
The trail turned out to be easy to follow, and the stars amazing. We hiked for about an hour, steadily downwards, then hit the final, steep descent at the end. The trickiest part is right when you actually get to deep creek, and you have to somehow cross the creek to get to the hot springs. The creek is cold, very cold. We remembered a way up a little rise, then scrambled down a steep bit of trail (almost a cliff there) and there were rocks to use to cross the creek. This is not so easy with the dark and all, and while I made it across, Michele stepped into the creek and soaked her pants up over her boots. So now she has water inside them. Nice. But this is the end of the trail.
We walked around to the first tub (there are four to six of them, depending on the time of year, and they flow into each other) and ran into a guy with a backpack coming from there. We said hello, and he went off to set up his tent in the nearby sand. There were a couple of tents down here, and the air was warmer than up on the ridge. We should have brought our gear.
We got out of our hiking clothes, turned the lights off, and carefully made our way into the first tub – the hottest one. It was a bit more than waist deep, and wide and long. Gorgeous. It was pretty damn hot, and I had to stand up every once in a while to keep from overheating.
This is where it gets amazing. Sitting in clear hot water, a river running below, solid rock sticking out behind us, floating and staring at the millions of clear stars. Cool air to contrast with the hot water. Perfect.
We thought we heard people chatting quietly in adjacent tubs, and tried to peek over to see if we were seeing people or just rocks in the next tub. Turned out to be rocks, so we moved on to the next tub. It’s a bit cooler, so we could stay in there longer. But that one is small, so we moved onto the large, deep tub. This tub is hard to get directly to, so people get out and walk around to it. But we scrambled down the bit of waterfall into it (wet bouldering in the middle of the night is kinda risky). Now this was where it was at. There was still no one around, turned out the voices we thought we heard was just water babbling over rocks. The stars had just enough light to see a little ways. We hung out here for quite a while. This one you can sit on a waist-deep shelf, or actually swim around in the middle (I think its 7 feet deep).
So. This place is near-perfect. And at night, with no one around at all (we never saw anyone in the pools) it is just right. Just floating, sky, hills and the quiet night. Maybe we floated around for an hour – its hard to keep track of time down there.
We still had to hike back up, so when we had our fill of hot water and floating, we got back out into the chill air and headed up. River crossing was easier this time, but the steep uphill slopes were a killer after the super-relaxation of the tubs. I had to stop to rest often, but the hike was very nice once I got my breath. For part of the trail we turned off the headlamps and walked by starlight. Some narrow parts above the steep canyon made it safer to use lights at though.
We got back up to camp around 2 am, and crashed hard. The new tent was cozy and warm – and we slept in a bit. When we got up, several more people were arriving to hike down or set up camp on top. It looked like it would be crowded down there that day, so we were glad we got to sample it in utter seclusion. We hung out at camp, made coffee, and I played guitar – then we worked on a photo-shoot for a series of images I am making. So technically it was a business trip for me. Word. I can write off camping gear!
We made it back to LA around 3.. a perfect little escape.
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