Tecopa Hot Springs
2022: Exploring the Legacy of Borax Mining in the Amargosa River Region and Meeting Interesting People Along the Way
The Amargosa River flows through southern Nevada and eastern California. It’s about 185 miles (298 km) long and runs through the Mojave Desert. It starts in the Amargosa Valley near Beatty, Nevada, and flows southwest into California, emptying into Death Valley, where it disappears into the ground aquifer.
Borax mining used to be big in the Amargosa River region, but it declined due to depleted deposits and more competition. Borax is a natural mineral often used in the production of detergents and glass. Today, borax mining is no longer a major activity in the area, but the legacy of this industry can still be seen in the abandoned mine sites and other remnants of the borax boom.
China Ranch, a date farm and tourist destination is located along the Amargosa River near Tecopa. It’s popular with birdwatchers and nature lovers and was the start of our hike.
We met John from Denver. He showed and told us a variety of interesting things. The most notable was his tale about a friend who practiced ecstatic dance. She attempted, he said, to reach the other side. She almost succeeded, he added. His appearance and clothing were striking, so I asked if I could take a photo of him with Danna. He was, somewhat unexpectedly, very gracious.
Later, at the natural hot springs, we encountered a man. He had given speeches on top of a hill in Griffith Park, he told us. He had walked from LA to the desert. On his eleventh day of walking, a driver picked him up and brought him to the hot springs. He pointed and said, “It’s that naked guy on top of the hill right there.” Despite his frenetic way of speaking, he seemed calm and non-violent.
I love connecting with those who challenge my assumptions and expand my thinking – the non-normative, as I call them. But there were also interactions with more “typical” people, like the couple from Benton, a place with its own share of good stories. And then there was the couple from Paso Robles, who showed us the stars and planets through the mobile app Sky View. It was a rare night – Mars, Saturn, and Venus were all in alignment.
We listened to Dan Chaon’s latest book, “Sleep Walk,” on our drive. His stories are deep and emotional, focusing on characters on the fringes of society. They have a dark, haunting quality that sticks with you long after you’ve finished reading, leaving you wanting more.
We spent many hours at Delight Hot Spring Resort’s hot mineral pool. The rustic accommodations were more than worth it for the pool, which was in a class of its own. Sitting in the pool under the open sky, surrounded by towering mountains and wide-open spaces, was the perfect escape from the bustle of Los Angeles. One evening, we watched the sunset colors spread across the western horizon, and shortly after, a crescent moon rose. On departure day, we woke up early to watch the sunrise on the eastern side, a captivating display of reddish-purple colors.
2021: The Therapeutic Benefits of Natural Hot Springs
Natural hot springs and their therapeutic properties have been documented in medical literature for decades. These hot springs are found all around the world and typically have water temperatures higher than the surrounding air and average human body temperature. The water is usually safe to relax in, although it can sometimes be too hot. The heat from within the earth warms the spring’s water, a process known as geothermal heat.
Some of the potential benefits of soaking in natural hot springs include the following:
Relaxation: Soaking in hot water can help to relax your muscles and reduce stress and tension in the body.
Improved circulation: The heat of the water can help increase blood flow and circulation.
Pain relief: The heat and buoyancy of the water can help alleviate muscle and joint pain and soreness.
Improved sleep: The hot springs’ relaxation and warmth may help promote better sleep.
Improved skin: The minerals in natural hot springs can be beneficial for the skin and may help to soothe and soften the skin.
It’s important to note that the specific benefits of natural hot springs may vary depending on the specific minerals and other substances present in the water. It’s also worth noting that some hot springs may contain high levels of certain minerals or other substances that may not be safe for some people to soak in.
2020: Making the Most of This COVID Moment
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Even at the best of times, traveling can cause anxiety, and it’s undoubtedly challenging during COVID. It’s a bizarre and adverse moment in our history, and we are doing our best to rise above. The surge in the case numbers during Thanksgiving week in November 2020 engulfed us in a cloud of fear, doubt, and anxiety. It affected our scheduled excursion, or as I like to call it, our pilgrimage to Tecopa Hot Springs and Death Valley.
The original plan was for three generations of our family to be present; we ended up with two. The older generation opted to stay safely under house arrest. We got the COVID test, stocked up on food, and made the intention to keep a proper social distance. Everything was fine! We did not venture out from Delight’s Hot Spring Resort, our new pad in Tecopa.
We spent time soaking in hot mineral water and relaxing in the room. It was relaxing and bodily healing to sit in the pool surrounded by the beige, brown, and white desert colors. It was a memorable few days bonding with our boys, cooking our food, playing Code Words, and sharing our love for yoga.
On the way back, we stopped to assist at an accident scene. A car veered off the road, and by the time it landed 20 yards away, it was brutally damaged, a total loss. The driver, a young Asian woman, tried to keep her composure but couldn’t hide her astonishment for staying all in one piece and intact amidst the disfigured car, sake bottle, and broken dishes strewn about the desert. I said to her, “There is much to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day.”
2018: Uncovering the Hidden Oasis in the Desert
At first glance, Tecopa looks bleak. It is a small desert town at the southern edge of Death Valley, one hour detour from Baker on the road from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. It has a few scattered trailer homes, two time-warp motels, and some hot springs. Its backdrop is barren mountains, and no gas stations or stores are in sight. However, upon further consideration, I call it an oasis in the desert!
Tecopa was founded in 1875 and is a Mojave Desert town with about 150 residents. It was named after an Indian Paiute leader, and it sprang up due to the development of nearby silver-lead ore mines in the 1860s. The town’s original settlement grew with the arrival of the railroad, but like many boomtowns, it saw a decline in population when the mines were depleted. The hot springs were eventually turned over to the county with the condition that they remain free for anyone to visit.
I enjoy diving naked into the warm marsh water, around 100 degrees. The Paiute Indians used to bathe in these waters and apply the mineralized mud to their skin, and people continue to do so today. The small hotel rooms at the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort are next to tubs filled with 105-degree water pumped from an artesian well. There is also a bathhouse on top of a hill for campers and winter residents. Most people leave the town in the summer when temperatures average nearly 120 degrees, and the water in the hot tubs is cooler than the air outside.