Yesterday at 10:30 in the morning Scuba and I were deciding what to do with our kid-free till 8 p.m. day. We were going back and forth about San Francisco (coffee in North Beach, walk the streets, lunch at Fog City Diner, dinner at ChaChaCha or Suppenkuche) or Monterey (champagne on the beach, Phil’s Fish Market, the aquarium) when he checked his email and saw that the Triumph motorcycle group has an upcoming ride planned to Mercey Hot Springs, a place in Fresno county we’d never heard of before.
We both thought that spending the day soaking sounded mighty fine, even if it was over 100 miles from home.
By 11:20 we were headed south (in his car, not on the bike) on the most beautiful bluesky day with towels, swimsuits, a case of water, warm jackets, a Hank Williams CD, and my Poppa’s Polaroid Land Camera. He wore shorts, I wore a skirt , and we both had on flipflops. God bless California.
Mercey Hot Springs is 13 miles west off of Interstate 5, and about 50 miles east of Monterey, putting it really right in the middle of noplace. After you turn off I-5, all you’ll see until you get there are hills, cows, barbed wire fences, hawks, some lonely power lines, zero bars on your cell reception, a few old barns, and I think only one farmhouse.
We were two of maybe 12 or 15 people there all afternoon, and we spent the first hour soaking in side-by-side outdoor tubs. The tubs have two taps – one with hot spring water and one with cold mineral water, both straight from the ground. We filled our tubs with hot water (it’s a little smelly, but you do get acclimated) and just soaked there under the blue sky, warmed by the water and the sun, listening to the birds and a little naked infant with his family and a couple of dogs barking now and then. I’m not usually so good at meditation, but my mind was very nearly empty. When I did think, it was mostly about my dad and death and how grateful I am to get to spend my life with the man in the tub one over from me.
There’s a swimming pool filled with hot spring water, and a dry sauna. We made a loop from the tubs to the pool to the sauna, all the knots in my back coming loose.
I’m still learning how to set the camera for different kinds of light, and could have spent much more time and film refining my shots, but, you know, there was a sauna waiting for me. I accidentally set the camera case on that photo, which is why the tear in corner.
The day passed like a dream, really. We headed home just as the sun was setting, the mountains turning all purple.
We hit a long traffic jam on Highway 152 after it got dark. 152 connects I-5 to 101, and winds up through the hills and past the huge San Louis Reservoir. We figured it was an accident, and before too long a plain white van with “Merced County” passed us on the shoulder of the road. It was still there as we passed by the horrible wreckage of the cars involved.
We got back just before the kids did, and before too long I was picking candy wrappers up off the floor and busting up arguments. It was like we never left, except I think I’m still a little zoned out. Next time we go, hopefully we’ll be able to stay in one of the little cabins. Cause finishing a day by soaking in one of the outside tubs under the stars and then climbing into bed sounds about like the best thing I can think of.