Charleston to San Diego: Day 10
I am so very excited to introduce you to a guest writer today, the hubby, Anson. :)
"Naked Men in a Tub"
We didn't begin our day expecting to share a tub with a gaggle of nude men (and a few women), but that's just the way these things go sometimes. After an unsuccessful attempt a few days ago in Gila National Forest to make it to a hot springs, we decided to give it another shot today in Camp Verde. I did a bit of internet searching and found that at some point in the 60's or 70's there was a mini-resort on the Verde River on the site of a hot springs. It's been abandoned for a good long while, but the remains looked to still be there, including the paved hot pools near the river.
I found some sketchy-sounding directions to the site on a random blog, saved them to the phone for easy access, and we headed out. Google Maps told me it was a 26 mile drive, and that it should take right around an hour to get there, making a very generous assumption that we could go the 30-mph posted speed limit the whole way there. I knew that it would be at least partially dirt roads, but I wasn't really prepared for roads that made the Ukarumpa-Kainantu road look like a highway. For those of you who don't get that reference, suffice it to say that our poor little rented Mazda 6 probably will never fully recover from that particular trip.
After something closer to 2 hours of driving and a lot of "Do you think we can get back up this hill on the way back?" sort of questions, we arrived at a small campground at the site of a dismantled hydro-electric plant on the Verde River. Our directions became much hazier at this point, consisting mostly of: "Walk upstream for a while, and cross it a few times when you can't get any further on the side you're on." The references to possibly chest-high water weren't particularly encouraging, but we set out anyway in the hopes that the water would either be very low, mildly warm, or both.
The walk was actually quite pleasant. The river was 10-20 yards wide, and seemed to be relatively low, compared to the water marks on the sides. We thought we might have to cross at one point early on, but we scrambled up a small cliff on the side instead and continued on. We were about 30 miles from civilization, and it was nice and quiet, warm, and breezy. After 30 minutes or so of walking, we started hearing shouting and laughing in the distance. Eventually we spotted the remains of the 'resort' the blog had referenced... A few low concrete structures, brightly grafitti'ed, on the other side of the river. It turned out that we weren't the only people that day who had decided to seek out the hot springs, as we could see a few heads sticking out of the pool, and an impressive assortment of beer cans and coolers on the ledge.
We walked a bit past the area, looking for an area to safely cross. We placed cameras, wallets, and phones in ziploc bags and into the backpack. Finding a likely-looking spot, we decided to try crossing. The water wasn't as deep as we had feared, but it was a bit faster-moving, and significantly colder. We tag-teamed it across, holding on to each other for support, and made it across. The water came up just high enough to hit the particularly cold-sensitive parts, and all of a sudden it didn't feel quite so warm out. We walked back down a trail on the high bank to where the pools were at.
Rounding the final corner we were greeted by a soaking wet, very friendly dog, and a good view of our new 'friends.' As it turns out (and as the blog neglected to mention) this is a local 'clothing-optional' favorite. On the bright side, the group (mostly, at least) decided to remain mostly submerged while we were there. We didn't want to just turn around and leave after all the work it took to get there, so we settled for just taking our shoes off and sticking our feet in, sitting on the edge a few feet away from the others. The water was relatively warm, especially compared to the river, but not what I'd consider exactly hot. We carefully looked at all the scenery in the direction opposite our co-hot-spring'ers, and soon decided we'd had enough. There was a small concrete structure nearby, and we'd overheard the others mention that the water was hotter there, so we checked that out. Turns out it was also occupied... by a couple not at all submerged, and not at all clothed.
After pulling our shoes back on, we headed back up the trail and across the river. Going a little further up this time, we found a place where the current wasn't strong enough to make the footing treacherous, and easily crossed back to the 'clothing required' side.
We were running out of daylight, and din't want to drive back in the dark, so we headed back to the campground and our car. As we passed the springs, we glanced over and discovered that the group had decided to start jumping off the side of the pools down into the river (about 10 feet or so of a drop.) Turns out that clothing isn't required for that either. They were all lined up on the edge waiting for the first person to jump. Hopefully that image will eventually be erased from my mind.
The rest of the walk back was uneventful. We got back to the campground just as another truck was pulling up. We waved to the couple that got out, and they asked us about the hot springs. We imparted our new-found knowledge of the route, along with a warning about the alarming state of undress, and received a response along the lines of "Well, it wouldn't be any fun if everyone had their clothes on, now would it." After politely declining an offer to "smoke a bowl with us before you go", we headed back to the car.
The trip back home was a bit quicker than coming out, now that I knew the car wasn't going to (hopefully) get stuck anywhere, or end up off the side of a cliff. Our teeth were still rattling around when we went to bed that night, but it was definitely a fun day with plenty of new and unexpected experiences.
Things I learned:
- Being in close proximity to a bunch of naked strangers is even more unsettling than I had ever imagined.
- Arizona rivers in February are much colder than I had thought.
- Just because you have a two-wheel drive midsized car doesn't mean that you can't still have fun off-roading.
- I absolutely love hanging out and doing crazy things with my darling girl!