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Thursday, June 18, 2009

San Felipe Destination Hot Springs—Not Yet!

by Judi Anderson

Chris and I have known each other our whole lives and we both love to explore. Chris is more into the hiking and I’m into ATV riding. We’re both from Flagstaff, Arizona, retired teachers, and have places in El Dorado Ranch.

When we heard there were hot springs back in the mountains, we knew we had to find them. People we talked to seem to think they knew where the springs were but no one seemed to have really found them.

Chris and I started our hunt in January taking her 4-Runner and scouting roads south of Morelia Junction (also known as Dead Cow Junction). We drove through plenty of sandy roads, washes, rock outcrops, and deserted ranches, but nothing that resembled hot springs, vegetative canyons or crystal clear water that had been embellished through various conversations with different people.

The next trip we took my 4-Runner and were thrilled to find unique and shimmering rocks and a couple of large, deserted ranches with picturesque old tractors and windmills. Still no hot springs!

The third trip up to the same area, we talked to some men at a remote, rehab center and they assured us that if we traveled one mile directly west, there would be cascading falls and, yes, the springs. So, we headed out on a marginal, sandy trail, which became more marginal and then it ended. We got out and hiked around but found nothing.

Two weeks later, we were on a small, remote road when we came upon four Mexican men who told us that we were close. They pointed up the road and said, "Yes, agua caliente three to four miles on a very bumpy road. Your car won’t make it." We got so excited! Now, we were finally going to get there (and yes, we did have our bathing suits).

We went a mile and the road crossed a creek a couple of times with the road getting much too rough and rocky for my 4-Runner. The steep canyon walls were spectacular though. We got out and hiked up about a mile, but with dark approaching, we were forced to head back down.

A saddened Chris had to return to Arizona, but I assured her that I would not give up until I found them and get the pictures to prove it.

On April 7, a group of us gals with two rails and my Rhino UTV headed up again. Our group consisted of Sharron and Lynda from Canada, Jan and Carol from Arizona, and Meg and Cindy from California.

As we entered the canyon we were amazed at the beauty of the flowering cacti, clumps of green grass and smoke trees in full pink bloom. The canyon was rugged with boulder outcrops, large caves that made it look like "mountain lion" country, and a narrow, rocky road. As we went deeper into the canyon, it became more and more green, quite lush, and we crossed the water-filled creek many times. Now, we’ve gone farther than Chris and I ever got and I’m hyped. I was so glad that we all had brought towels and suits on this outing.

I was the lead vehicle and when Cindy and I rounded a narrow curve, we realized we had suddenly driven into a deep water swamp. As far as we could see the road continued on and was filled with water. We got out thinking maybe this was the hot springs, but the water was cold and stagnant. We hiked through the thick underbrush on the side of the road for about a half mile and the water continued filling the road path.

We knew we couldn’t take our vehicles on through this “river road,” so we were forced to turn around.

Despite not finding the hot springs, the consensus of the group was that it had been a fabulous adventure with many memorable pictures.

As we were heading home, I wondered, “Will I ever find these hot springs? Or, do they really even exist?”