What It's Like to Bathe in a Wild Hot Spring in California with Kids
I grew up in Taipei where there are many natural hot springs within one hour of travel distance from the city center. Naturally, young and old, we were all bathed in the hot spring culture. For those of us that are old enough, we even had the childhood pleasure of cooking eggs in sulfurous, scalding hot creeks before the practice was deemed too dangerous and closed down. Sitting in mineral-rich natural hot springs out in the open air has to be one of the most cleansing and healing experiences.
So when I travel, I always seek out hot spring/spa cultures around the world. This obsession has taken me to many places in Taiwan, to Calistoga in California, to Baden-Baden and Wiesbaden in Germany, Széchenyi Baths in Budapest, hammam in Turkey, onsen in Japan, sauna in Finland, and Iceland's Blue Lagoon has high priority on my bucket list.
However, on our recent trip to California's Eastern Sierra Nevada, I've had the "wildest" hot spring experience to date. Wild not only because we were literally in the middle of the wilderness, but also because we brought two wild toddlers with us.
We drove off Highway 395 to a place cradled between the dark mountains to the east and the snow-capped Mammoth mountains to the west. There were no signs, as it is indeed a wild hot spring and not a managed property, and also because most people who know about this spot want to keep it off the radar as much as possible. But in the age of Google Maps, there are hardly any secrets left.
We parked the car and followed a discreet little trail towards the middle of nowhere. For a moment I was a bit worried, for if we got stranded with the kids, it would take quite a lot of walking in pitch-dark to get help. But the concerns quickly subsided because the sceneries around us were just too... grand.
After a short walk, we saw a lone stone tub sitting on a little creek, and warm water flowed in the creek. The water temperature was warm to perfection, even Goldilocks wouldn't complain. Without hesitation, we got in our bathing suits and entered the tub. Although clothing could be optional in the natural hot springs in the area, most people come prepared with bathing suits. We were also equipped with swim diapers, as you know, never leave traces out there.
Sitting in warm waters embraced by nature is one of the simplest pleasures in life, there is something very primeval and satisfying about it. The mineral-rich water had a silky texture, we stayed in the water for quite some time yet our skin didn't shrivel much.
Many hot spring enthusiasts seek out the mineral compositions in different hot springs and study the healing benefits of the waters. Well, I'd say that fun is definitely a very healing ingredient.
Love hot springs? Let's share...
Sharing can escalate quite quickly...
We enjoyed the hot springs for quite awhile by ourselves. As the sun descended behind the mountains, several others arrived. People of all ages and from all walks of life come here to enjoy the hot springs, and the chance meetings around the tub inspire interesting conversations. In a place like this, we are more alike than not.
At sunset, the golden rays burned through the bushes. We left the hot spring but bathed in the lingering golden sunlight on our walk back to the car.
So what is it like to bathe in a wild hot spring in the Californian wilderness with a panoramic view of the Sierra Nevada? Well, it is heavenly.