Day 3: Keough’s Hot Springs, 7 miles south of Bishop just off Highway 395, Eastern Sierra, California
Someone recently tried to convince me that I am a wine connoisseur. No—not yet anyway! A connoisseur to me means someone experienced, knowledgeable, an expert of sorts. I would admit to being a connoisseur of life, of exceptional places, and a few others things..but not yet wine.
Hot springs of the American west? Of that I am a connoisseur. I have tasted, experienced, evaluated, judged, tested the waters, and the soul of hot springs all over the western US and beyond—California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, even Peru. Maybe even Washington, I can’t remember. I have soaked in the desert, the mountains, the redwoods, the coast, along the interstate, and a day or two hike into the wilderness. A friend of mine from high school, now a geothermal hydrologist, at one of our high school reunions tried to impress me with knowledge of this or that obscure soak—but I knew them all, and some he didn’t.
Keough’s Hot Springs is not in my Top 10. Probably not in my Top 20.
1) They are commercial—they charge $8 for adults and $4 for kids to allow you to soak in a large cement 3′ deep pool kept at 104 degrees or to play in a larger, deeper pool kept just below body temperature.
2) They are commercial—you are soaking in a cement pool in your swimsuit.
3) You have to wear a swimsuit and you are surrounded by people, a fence and cement.
You can soak (but not camp) nearby on the run-off on LA’s DW&P land under the power lines but the last two times I’ve been there so have a few unsavory characters and broken glass, and now that I have a child, I am more inclined to make different choices.
On the positive side, the pools are chlorine free because the water flows through the pool so quickly chemicals are unnecessary (600 gallons of 127 degree water per minute!) and it’s hot (HOT! 127 degrees!) mineral water fed springs, and much of the picnic and camping area is surrounded by large green soft grass. AHHhhh , grass. Bare feet. It will be an additional $26 for us to stay here but that’s ok. We’ll take the grass and the views of the White Mountains and the sage and the quiet.
The pool is open 10-8pm most days and 10-9pm on Friday and Saturdays; $8 for adults and $4 for kids, even if you’re camping there. Ignore the snotty high school girls who work there.
After playing in the pool and getting nice and clean, we barbequed chicken which we bought at Carroll’s Market in Big Pine. The RBJ 2000 Theologicum, a blend of grenache and mourverde which we cooled off in a bucket of cold water, went well with the chicken and mushroom tortellina pasta with zuccini we had as a side. It was even better after we put the boy to bed, dipped the bucket in the hot creek to soak our feet in, and exchanged foot massages!
Like the 2001, the 2000 RBJ theologicum is nicely balanced…not too fruity or heavy, just a super smooth enjoyable, drinkable wine much like the 2001 (but given a choice I prefer the 2001). I am certainly becoming a fan of Chris Ringland wines!
And just in case you’re wondering, Bagby Hot Springs– near Portland Oregon, on the flanks of Mount Hood, in an old growth forest, where you soak in a cedar log–Bagby Hot Springs may be my favorite soak yet…although I am very very fond of Guadelupe Hot Springs near the Laguna Salada in Baja Mexico…and Saline Valley near Death Valley will always have a special place in my heart…This is obviously the start of a different post!