Sespe Wilderness - Sespe Hot Springs
This won’t be one of my usual, detailed trip reports. If you want to read about going to the Sespe River and its hot springs, take a look at the trip report from our first visit when we went to Willett, and then the other to Sespe Hot Springs.
The year 2016’s first few months were great in terms of rain, alleviating California’s horrible drought somewhat. It was still far from enough, but it was much better than 2015, when we walked over Kearsarge Pass in May without any winter gear.
As some of you might remember, news reports back then were talking about “superblooms” in many parts of California – how the perfect conditions of rain, followed by warm weather, resulted in more wildflowers than usual. One of the greatest superblooms was in Death Valley, with wildflowers blanketing the desert floor.
My in-laws came for a 6-week visit at the end of February, and we got lucky enough to visit Death Valley at the beginning of March. It was truly magnificent.
Then we went to Joshua Tree, and it was also great. The cacti, the ocotillo, the Joshua trees themselves and many other plants were in flowering in full force.
Two weeks later we took my in-laws for a brief visit to Yosemite. A dear friend of ours, guide-naturalist-photographer extraordinaire Suzanne Swedo suggested that we visit Hite Cove, just outside the park, because it’s a prime location for tons of wildflowers. Oh boy, was she right. Google "Hite Cove" and go there in the springtime. It’s mind-blowing.
So after the in-laws left, we decided to visit Sespe Hot Springs again, not only to soak in the hot water and to photo-hunt for bighorn sheep, but also to enjoy the wildflowers. Luckily, everything was still in full bloom. We were there just 10 weeks prior (our usual Sespe visit during Super Bowl weekend), and compared to the brownish-gray hue of those drier times, the Sespe valley was lush, green and dotted with specks of color.
The biggest show by far were the cacti in Hot Springs Canyon. They are a type of prickly pear, I think rather opuntia robusta than opuntia santa rita, but I’m a huge plant dilettante, so if anybody knows for sure, let me know. Anyway, they were in full bloom, their yellow and orange flowers coloring the canyon floor. We couldn’t stop walking around and photographing them.
The bighorn were a no-show, but there were many fresh tracks and poop clusters, so I hope the herd is healthy.
There was a pretty strong north wind blowing almost all the time we were there, but we didn’t mind very much sitting in the hot water, and the windbreak in the Palmtree Penthouse was protecting our camp relatively well. Another great feature of this campsite is that is has floor heating, as strange as it sounds. A hot pring vein is right underneath and the ground is always warm to the touch, no matter how cold it gets outside. Even at night, the interior of the tent gets up to 75°, almost eliminating the need for a sleeping bag.
One night, after getting out of the water to get dressed, I found a tiny scorpion right under my pants. It was the California common scorpion, or paruroctonus silvestrii. According to the descriptions, it’s sting is extremely painful, but not life-threatening. Of course, I don’t want to experience this firsthand.
We just took at a few pictures of the little critter and it scurried away.
Next day, we performed a small experiment: let’s cook soup in the hot water! There’s a place near the palm trees where a hot spring bubbling up fills a small pool with extra-hot water. We put cold water in the pot, added the soup ingredients, then carefully placed the pot in about 1.5” of hot water and weighed it down with a small rock. I tested the bottom of the pool with a stick first, making sure the pot won’t sink in mud. It was solid gravel covered by a very thin layer of algae.
The pot steeped there for about 2 hours, and voila, we had a delicious, really hot soup with fully reconstituted ingredients.
After two days and nights of soaking, hanging around, taking pictures and generally having a great time, we returned to our car and drove home. Can’t wait to go again.
More pictures in the full gallery.