Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jemez Springs or at Least Looking for Them

Driving up from Bernalillo, through the Jemez Pueblo and the mountain town of Jemez Springs, we stopped at the Soda Dam. It has been over a decade since I was here last and it was sad to see that all the little dams within the cave had been broken away by people crawling through it.

Some creative soul, though, had made snakes and lizards out of nails hammered closely together on the entrance logs. Pretty cool.

There were probably 50+ people swimming here in the Jemez River, so it was quite a feat to get photos without them in it. We stopped at the first campground where I'd stayed before and it was full! Guess I'd never come during summer before.

Where have all the flowers gone? Young girls picked them every one.

The Jemez Falls campground also said full, but the park host let us know someone had just left and the site was ours if we could claim it before anyone else. It was a beautiful site.

We opted to stay two nights. Each evening an electrical storm blew in and it rained. This might have discouraged some campers, but since we haven't seen much of the stuff lately we were delighted. Rain--what a concept!

Sunday we spent the day looking for hot springs. We got up very early to beat the crowds the park host had described, and hiked the trail to Jemez Falls. There were numerous wild orchids blooming in the pine duff.

These little falls above the big falls were delightful...

as were the Harebells, Campanula rotundifolia.

Jemez Falls is always a lovely spot.

We backtracked up to the trail head and followed the trail sign toward McCauley Springs. Now, all of the hot springs I've ever visited were right alongside the river they were associated with.

The trail was strenuous, up and down, and kept climbing up and away from the river. Maybe because I was out of shape it seemed like we had already gone the 2.5 miles. Looking down from this precipice I could not imagine us further away from them. We came upon a little stream, and in retrospect, I should have stuck a foot in it. But at this point we gave up and turned around, retracing our way. The parking lot was almost empty, where were the throngs?

We met only a woman and her daughters looking for the springs. We talked again to the park host, who admitted he wasn't sure where they were as it had been a while since he had been. We decided to drive up the road where lots of people park, assuming hot springs were nearby.

Nope, folks were just going down to some part of the river where it was deep enough to jump from cliffs. Along the way we saw this flower. At first I thought it was Apache Plume, but I think it's something else I'll have to study. The locals here told us we should go to Spence hot springs as they were easiest to find and right on the river.

We got there and a strangely dressed man from Russia greeted us. I said hello in Russian and he corrected my pronunciation. He was wearing a dress shirt, shoes, and socks, but with outdoor shorts and sort of a woven safari hat. Maybe his luggage was lost, or is this how they look adventuring in Steppes? Or, perhaps a nuclear scientist (or spy) from Los Alamos with a small wardrobe?

Anyway, he seemed well versed on how to get to all the local hot springs, and in recounting our earlier trek to find McCauley he said we were basically there when we turned around! Rats! The newest problem, though, was both trails to Spence hot spring were closed due to landslides. While we were talking numerous locals ignored the signs and headed for warm waters. He did not want to risk his visa, and we really didn't want to incur any fines so we left.

Down the hill, and around the bend was a day use fishing park...might not a short hike up the river lead us to the springs? We were off, pushing through brush. And snakes. And crossing the river. And displacing fly fishermen. Finally, we saw the highway above and hiked out, realizing we still were no where near the springs.

Our solution? We drove down to Jemez Spring and rented a hot spring at Giggling Springs.

Years ago I rented this as part of an accommodation...there was the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, and the small cabin I stayed in, the Skinny Dipper! But the owners turned that into the dressing room, and now make their money renting the hot spring by the hour.

No wonder, as it's impossible to find the others!


Dana and Daisy said...

what a beautiful place! you did get a good pspot for your tent! So glad you posted this. A long post with lots of photos for you and i loved all of it!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Looks like I'll wait until September to do our letterboxing road trip up to the Jemez. Summer sounds crazy. That's too bad everything was so crowded and the people sort of took over, even damaging the falls.
You sure got a lot of exercise looking for the hot springs.

I'm sorry you had trouble finding the 'wild' hot springs, but at least you were able to rent one. Was it relaxing and enjoyable? Or too hot to really use? I prefer hot springs in the fall or winter myself.
Your campsite looked wonderful. :)


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