A Trip to the Hot Springs, 1869
Written for the Gazette.
ED. GAZETTE.- Having just returned from a visit to the Hot Springs of this county, situated some fifty miles southeast of your city, I thought a few notes of the trip would, perhaps, be acceptable. I will premise by saying that I have been four [for?] years suffering from rheumatism and half of the other ills that flesh is heir to. My starting point was from the Tularcito rancho. I had been told many hard stories as to the impracticability of the route, but seven years of mountain life had taught me that thirty miles of trail did not all go away at once, and where one man had gone, another could go. So, securing the services of an efficient guide, we started. I was riding a powerful little mustang which, raised in the mountains, knew how to take advantage of the hills, and in addition was lazy enough not to hurt himself.
From Tularcitos across to the Carmel is three miles, thence up the river, which here is but a brook, two and a half miles, when crossing some rolling hills, we descended into Fresno caņon, after ascending which for a mile and a half we came to the foot of Tes-sa-ha-ra mountain, whose lofty summit far o'ertops its surrounding brethren, and up whose rugged sides we had to climb. Up, up we went, the guide ahead and your corespondent behind, in no very amiable mood, from the fact that he had to expend a large amount of muscular power by way of reminding his steed that he was to go up the hill and not crop the luxuriant grass which grew by the trail. Two hours were thus consumed, when we reached the highest point; and here the view would well repay two weeks of such climbing.
Lingeringly we left the spot, and started down the hill. Here the guide rode at a pace which did credit to him, much as I had heard of his skill as a mountaineer. Whether he wanted to show the Gringo a trick or two, or was in a hurry, I do not know, but, certainly, to a person who could hardly sit his horse it was not very pleasant. But, thanks to our stars, or the mustang, we at length arrived at the foot of the hill, where a beautiful valley, fresh and green, welcomed us through its pure daughters, the wild flowers, that swept by the wind bowed their heads as we passed. Passing a beautiful little sheet of water, the guide pointed out the spot where lay the remains of an unknown man supposed to have been killed by grizzlies. But the pleasures of the valley, like all things of earth, were fleeting, and a sharp turn started us up another mountain whose ascent was abrupt, but not so long as the Tessahara. Pausing but a moment, to catch a glimpse of the surrounding scenery, we again go down, and at the foot of the hill find the wild oats waist high. This is Cave Valley, so called from a beautiful cave within it. The hurry we were in did not permit of our visiting it, but we were told that it was a muy curiosa.
For three or four miles we rode down the valley, every short distance startling up a deer, which, after a look of astonishment, would bound away. We camped for the night in a beautiful spot under the shadow of a huge live oak. My companion started out to kill a deer, and in five minutes I heard the crack of his rifle. He had shot a deer, which being only wounded, had dashed over a bluff of rock and rolled several hundred feet. A fawn starting up, he brought it into camp, and it made us a fine supper and breakfast. Next morning we started early, expecting to reach the Springs in an hour, but the trail being washed away, we had to make a detour, so it was eight o'clock when we arrived. So strongly are the Springs impregnated with sulphur that we caught the odor when two hundred yards away. An hour's rest and we started to have a look at the Springs, an taste the waters which to us were to be the elixir of life.
The Springs, some four or five in number, well out from the face of a solid cliff of rock, flowing altogether about twelve inches of water, and varying in temperature from 100° to 140° Fahrenheit. Through the caņon, which here widens out some three hundred yards, runs a cold mountain stream of, perhaps, two hundred inches of water, and abounds in trout. The mountains surrounding are bold and abrupt, covered with a few scattering oaks. On one of the highest peaks stood a solitary stock of mescal, which being in full bloom looked like some sentry guarding the sacred waters, and to which we gave the name of Sentinel Peak.
In the morning the guide left me, and I had the waters to myself. I remained there ten days, fishing, bathing and prospecting for silver, of which there are some extravagant stories told of fabled rich veins in this immediate vicinity. When I arrived it was only with great pain and difficulty that I could get off and on my horse, but at the expiration of my stay, the change was so great that I could hardly realize it. I was again a boy of eighteen and walked twenty miles between 11 o'clock and 5 o'clock P.M., carrying a heavy pair of blankets and feeling no fatigue; and I predict for the waters these Springs a popularity unrivaled by any in the State when their medicinal properties shall have become known. As to the scenery on the route to them, years of a vagabond life have shown me but one locality where nature seemed more attractive. The road there is not a McAdam, nor the accommodations Cosmopolitan, but to any person suffering from chronic diseases and able to ride on horseback, they can be reached. There is a house to stop in, plenty of venison and trout for the taking, and there will be a few bath tubs there at a very early day, so that parties seeking health or recreation and having the courage to rough it for a time, can find no finer locality on the Pacific coast.
But I fear I am trespassing on your space, and will close until some future time.
Monterey, June 15, 1869.
Photograph courtesy of the Monterey County Public Library.