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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Beatlick Travel: San Francisco Hot Springs 

Subject: Beatlick TR2
Date: Aug 25, 2009 1:01 PM

Rattlesnakes and the Elusive Bubbles

Next morning we were up early and headed to the trailhead of the San Francisco Hot springs. A cursory look at the hiker notes gave warnings of the rattlesnakes so we had our walking sticks in hand and heavy boots on foot. It was sunny and hot already with a slight cool breeze. Beatlick Joe has been researching the elusive Bubbles hot springs for five years or more. We have found the two small pools on a trail that is relatively approachable, but never the Bubbles.

According to his information the Bubbles pool is about half a mile further downstream of the two pools we are familiar with and you have to cross the San Francisco River a few times to get there. It’s a fairly arduous hike but fine for us, we can hike six miles without blinking. We came to the first river crossing and Joe decided to stay on the eastern side of the river where the Bubbles are. That made me nervous because I knew what to expect taking the old path, but as usual, the minute I get comfortable with anything Joe will always push the envelope to constantly challenge me. So rather than go it alone the old familiar way, I had to fall in line behind him.

Soon we came to an abandoned campsite. Underneath a tarp was a really nice Indian blanket. We made a mental note of the camp and decided to come back and get that nice blanket.

When we came to the first river crossing I changed into my plastic shoes and Joe put on some sturdy sandals. This way we easily walked in the river. Well we hiked and we waded, we crossed the river and hiked some more. For over three hours we looked for the
Bubbles going further and further back into the woods. We saw numerous indications of serious flooding in the last five years and I began to have serious doubts that the Bubbles exist anymore. We only gave up when we hit a trail where the rattlesnakes made themselves apparent with a loud rattling.

“That’s all the information I need,” I said and made an about face. I looked back at Joe; he was woefully looking back at the towering rock face ahead. I know he was still visualizing those hot springs.

“Go ahead if you want to; I’ll wait here for you here.”

He was still determined to go.

“Don’t you want to take those sandals off? At least put your boots back on so the snakes can’t bite your ankles.”

He paused.

“Well, I’ve waited long enough to give them a chance to crawl away,” he said and then he set out again, still in his sandals. But on his second step a rattlesnake alarm went off with such alarming intensity that it seemed only prudent to turn back.

So we retraced all our steps and crossings back to the familiar San Francisco pools and we were shocked at what we found. The trail we had taken five years ago was completely obliterated; even the tree where we hung our clothes was gone. The brush was so compact and dense that we walked upstream and took an alternate path back to our campsite.

Obviously interest in the springs has fallen off so greatly that the trail has disappeared. First bureaucrats made it so difficult to reach the springs (once you could drive there but the road is now blocked off), then the floods and Mother Nature have taken their final toll.

Someone has haphazardly tried to rock off the pools again, but they are so much smaller and funky that I didn’t dare step foot in them. The bottoms were solid mud.

Now it was a wonderful hike, we tramped around for over six hours, and it was fun encountering all the cows along the way, but I doubt we’ll ever pass this way again. Just like the campgrounds are fading away, so are so many of these natural wonders. The gifts of nature blocked off from hikers and tourists, the land leased to ranchers, slowly these natural blessings are fading away before my eyes.

On a lighter note we do always come away from the San Francisco Hot Springs with something. Once I found a stylish pair of black sunglasses with rhinestones at the pools. Once at the campground Joe found a good pair of tennis shoes and he used them for work shoes for months. This time we found that abandoned campsite with an empty backpack, pot, and the Indian blanket underneath a tarp. I kept the blanket. It will take a while to get all the goat heads and cockle burrs out of it but I am pleased with it and consider the hike a grand success even though we never found the illusive Bubbles.

Happy Trails
Beatlick Pamela

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