Sam’s Family Spa Hot Water Resort – Desert Hot Springs, California

Sam’s Family Spa is a true oasis in the desert.  This is a 50 acre RV campground that is centered around a large lake with lush gardens and lots of shade.  It’s been a family run and family oriented business since 1971.

Campsites at Sam’s (from http://www.wheelingit.us/)

Desert Hot Springs is the lesser known cousin of Palm Springs, California.  Desert Hot Springs still retains its desert feel, even though it is a fairly large city.  The approach to Sam’s is no different; the roads are dun and dusty. Once you arrive at the grounds, the campsites retain that desert feel – ours had a large saguaro as well as some smaller desert plants, and we shared our RV site with a desert hare who seemed to accept our presence as a mild inconvenience.

The central feature of the RV park is the lake, complete with ducks and other wildlife.  It’s a true oasis, a very tranquil centerpiece and a nice change from the surrounding desert.  There are walking paths around the lake and a large well furnished rec hall.  There is a volleyball court and picnic tables.  And of course there are the springs.

The Lake at Sam’s (from Tripadvisor.com)

Outdoor soaking pool at Sam’s (via Yelp)

The spring water is pumped from deep underground Desert Hot Springs aquifer, and comes to the surface at about 105 F.  There are 5 soaking pools and another pool for smaller children, along with a sauna and a regular swimming pool. All the pools are clean and well maintained.  There were lots of times when we were the only ones in the pools so we found it very relaxing.  I really enjoyed listening to the birds singing while I soaked.  I moved from pool to pool, both indoors and out and soaked up the moisture of the oasis after a week in the desert dust.  The lushness at Sam’s is a really nice change from the desert.

Children are everywhere here and it is a great place for them to run around and enjoy the outdoors.  While we were here, we never felt crowded – there was lots of space and many different types of areas to relax in.  There is lots of shade at Sam’s so we didn’t have to worry about the desert sun, but we could step out of the shade to dry off instantly in the desert wind.

Sam’s is one of the best RV parks I’ve ever seen.  It has loads of activities and great hot springs pools in a lush desert setting.  There are very few well developed hot springs in California and I count this as a great place to stay for an extended period, and especially good for families.  Because of the layout of the springs and pools area, it’s one of the few places where a parent can have a relaxing soak while still keeping one eye on the children.  Check out Sam’s Family Spa Hot Water Resort the next time you are in Desert Hot Springs!

Remembering the Healing Springs of Eastern Ontario

Dominion House Hotel, Carlsbad Springs, Ontario

Dominion House Hotel, Carlsbad Springs, Ontario

I live in Ottawa, Ontario, very close to a town named Carlsbad Springs. A hundred years ago, Carlsbad Springs was a renowned spa town, with four grand hotels and steeplechase horse racing. It is rumored that Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, stayed at the Dominion House hotel. The Dominion House burned down in 1930 as the North American spa culture died out and it was never rebuilt. The last of Carlsbad Springs’ grand hotels closed in 1968.

When I first moved to Ottawa, there were still ruins of a bridge leading to the spa’s site. Today, there is almost nothing left, just one spring house and a plaque to commemorate the glory days of the springs.  The trees have grown in and Carlsbad Springs is part of suburban Ottawa now, with houses on standard size lots and some townhouse developments not too far away.  There is one original spring house still standing and there is a historical plaque along with a small park commemorating the glory days of Carlsbad Springs.

Carlsbad Springs, March 2015

Carlsbad Springs, March 2015. Russel Road Bridge over Bear Brook

I enjoyed watching the spring water gurgling out from under the spring house on the day I took this picture, which is taken from almost the exact same spot as the one above – if I had gone to the exact same spot, we would have a picture only of trees!  The little spring house to the right of the modern photo is the one to the far left of the old photo (I think!) For a detailed history of these healing springs, see the Carlsbad Springs Community Association’s web page at http://www.carlsbadsprings.ca/?page_id=165

Caledonia Springs Hotel, 1872 Photo Source: Library and Archives, Canada Photo

Caledonia Springs Hotel, 1872
Photo Source: Library and Archives, Canada Photo

In researching this post, I learned that a little east of Carlsbad Springs was the even grander Caledonia Springs. This video, featuring University of Ottawa Chief Archivist Michel Prévost, describes the four springs with their different curative properties, the bottling factory and the hotels frequented by rich members of the elite on doctor-supervised thermal waters cures. The video is in French, but the pictures and ruins are evocative even without the audio.

Mr. Prévost raises a good point that bottle mineral springs water was the only safe water to drink in the days before sanitation. A hundred years ago, drinking water didn’t come out of a tap – you needed a well to find it.

Take some time to think about the history of springs and look around where you live to see if there are some springs that may be almost forgotten.  Let us know what you find!

Ad for Caledonia Springs from Harper’s Bazar, 1879.  Unlike Caledonia Springs, Harper’s is still around!

Spa Le Scandinave Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant

It was -25 degrees outside and I had just finished an amazing downhill ski day at Mont-Tremblant, my muscles were tense and my core still shivering from the windshield factor coming down the mountain. Instead of driving straight home to Ottawa, I decided to give myself a treat and stop at Spa Le Scandinave Mont-Tremblant.

20150211_171501I was pleasantly greeted and offered a 20% discount since I had a season pass at Mont-Tremblant. Since this was a spur of the moment activity I didn’t have bathing suits but they had a great selection of swimwear and had all the necessities such as bath robes and flip-flops available on site. I was starving and the free basket of locally grown apples at the corner of each entrance was a delightful snack for me, I later had a delicious chai tea and vegetarian wrap in the lobby overlooking the river near the fire place.

 

20150211_163630My first feeling hopping in the hot tub was that I felt cocooned and wrapped by the trees and snow banks surrounding the baths just like being in a warm blanket of warm goodness. The aroma of the burning wood caressing my nostrils helped to deepen my breathing and letting go of the day’s high tension activity. I was in a winter wonderland and appreciated the heated pathways as I was walking around barefoot with ease from one hot tub to the other. As the sun was slowing setting, I made my way down the Diable River where an accessible underwater dock was at our disposable for a cold dip. The view was breathtaking and just being in that present moment was a delight to all my senses.

20150211_175229I tried all of the different stations, saunas and hot tubs and found the place very clean, quiet and beautifully decorated in Nautica apparel. I also got the chance to nap outside in extra-large cozy blanket in front of a massive Scandinavian looking fireplace overlooking the river, the fresh air and waterfall sound cuddled me to sleep and it was pure bliss! The tubs are suitable for up to 8 to 10 people therefore it is best to come on a week day as it can get easily overcrowded on the weekends. There is also a snowshoe and cross-country path that comes through the spa and under the trees easily accessible for a pre spa workout or nature walk.

 

 

Feeling Energized at Spa Le Scandinave Mont Tremblant

Feeling Energized at Spa Le Scandinave Mont Tremblant

Walking back to my car in the covered snow trees pathway I felt relaxed yet re-energized for 2 hour drive back home. I highly recommend Spa Le Scandinave as it is a great muscle relaxation after a day of winter sport activity as it is for the mind body and soul.

 

To find out more about Spa Le Scandinave at Mont Tremblant and its sister spas at Whistler, Blue Mountain and Vieux Montréal, click here!

Not quite a hot spring, but it is For Sale!


Here is an interesting offer.  It’s a house that is for sale.  How does that relate to hot springs?  Well, it’s across the street from Spa Le Nordik in Chelsea, Québec.  It’s also close to some great skiing and mountain biking.  So if you’ve got a million dollars or so and you’re looking for a place to live or a very nice cottage, click here to check it out!

 

Signing Off from Tecopa Hot Springs

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On The Sorting Table at China Ranch

I only spent three days in Tecopa – that wasn’t nearly enough to even begin to explore this place!  I thought I had done my research before I went and I knew of 3 hot springs in the town so I figured I would have enough time to explore them along with a side trip to the China Ranch date farm.

In reality, there are at least 5 hot springs to visit in Tecopa.  There are ultralight tours, hiking and biking trails, Dumont Dunes and more.  The stark beauty of the desert takes your breath away.  The feisty Amargosa River sneaks up on you in Tecopa – I had to laugh at swatting away mosquitoes in Death Valley!  I didn’t spend enough time just looking at the rocks – who knows how many opals I overlooked?  Tecopa is a remote and deeply spiritual place, and I was glad to have met Lady Gaia on this trip.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Al & Rhea, Hot Springs Aficionados

I met many great people in Tecopa, and I have a special shoutout to Al & Rhea, fellow hot springs aficionados, who told me about Saline – I didn’t get there in the end, but I will try to go another time.

The water here is great, soft and silky on the skin, with a mineral texture.  Every time I mix up the bentonite mud masque I brought back, the scent makes me feel like I could close my eyes and be back in Tecopa, in the desert.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe geology of the area, called the Amargosa Chaos, blew me away.  The path of that little Amargosa River from Beatty to Tecopa to Lake Manly is an astounding, hidden path.  Lake Manly?  Did you know that Death Valley is a Lake?  Lake Manly and Death Valley are the same place – its name depends on how much rain has fallen.  Very occasionally, rainfall makes Lake Manly reappear and the lucky few who are prepared can kayak across Death Valley… click here for the photos to prove it.  It’s proved yet again on the drive to China Ranch, as you descend into a canyon that is oh so obviously the bottom of a mud puddle.

It was much too short a time to spend in Tecopa, yet it was wonderful.  I learned so much there and later while completing these posts, about geology and history and the interplay between earth and water.  One thing I learned in Tecopa is that I feel deeply thankful that I am a Hot Springs Aficionado – this path has helped me meet wonderful people, soak in warm adventures, and enjoy life so much more than before.  So please join me and a growing tribe of other Hot Springs Aficionados as we share our stories, our favorite soaks, and choose to consciously live life in the hot springs of the world.

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This post is one of a series of on the Hot Springs of Tecopa; to see others, click on the links below:

Post #1: Tecopa Hot Springs

Post #2: Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Post #3:Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Post #4: Tecopa Hot Springs Campground & Pools

Post #5: Signing Off From Tecopa Hot Springs

Tecopa Hot Springs Campground & Pools

Tecopa Hot Springs Campground

Tecopa Hot Springs Campground

Locals refer to these as the “county baths”. These baths are operated by the Tecopa Hot Springs Conservancy, whose members are working very hard to increase awareness and responsible use of the Amargosa River.  They have developed an excellent website for the Tecopa Hot Springs Campground that is full of useful information to help you plan your trip to Tecopa.  This is an excellent campground with fabulous views and great walking trails.  The campground even supplies GPS tracking systems for hikers, and all campsites have wifi.  I didn’t realize it then, but the new management had only been in place for about three weeks the day I was there and there are a lot of plans for the future.

The View from Tecopa Hot Springs Campground

The View

At the center of the campground are two large segregated bath houses, one for men and one for women. There are two pools inside, one with spring water flowing directly in for an average temperature of about 103 F, while the second pool is supplied with the overflow so it is a little cooler. The pools are enclosed in large but simple and freshly painted cinder block structures. The main pool doesn’t have a roof so you are more exposed to the elements here than in the other bath houses in Tecopa.

Once you enter the bath house, hang up your clothes then take a shower. After that, it’s only a few feet to enter the baths. The pools are very deep, about 4’, so you can easily get a full soak and float experience here. The pools have rounded gravel on the bottom and the open sky overhead gives you a sense of being truly outside – the walls are purely for modesty here. The walls are plain and functional, the pools are plain and functional, and the waters feel wonderful. You can float here for a long time, looking up to the evening stars.

The baths are open long hours and offer a pleasant place for socializing. The office keeps a small supply of drinks and snacks available. As always when heading for Tecopa, I recommend your bring your own water and wine and food. You’re only allowed to bring water into the baths, but for some reason if I had to choose a drink for here it would be a light green tea. That seems the perfect accompaniment to the warm healing waters and wide open spaces of Tecopa California.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This post is one of a series of on the Hot Springs of Tecopa; to see others, click on the links below:

Post #1: Tecopa Hot Springs

Post #2: Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Post #3:Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Post #4: Tecopa Hot Springs Campground & Pools

Post #5: Signing Off From Tecopa Hot Springs

Delights Hot Springs Resort, Tecopa, California

 

Delight's Hot Springs Resort

Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

You can’t miss the entrance to Delight’s Hot Springs Resort – it has the largest sign in town!  Like the other “Resorts” in Tecopa, Delights Hot Springs Resort is mainly an RV park, with some rooms and cabins. It is probably the most “developed” of the springs in Tecopa. The grounds are well maintained, there are nice walking paths and the bath houses are clean and bright. The buildings are mainly made of cinderblock so as hotel rooms they can be dark.

Some people have been coming for decades and are avid fans. But don’t expect luxury here; there is no cell service, no phone, no TV, and only occasional wifi. There is no restaurant on site at Delights (and the nearest place for breakfast is in Shoshone) so pack what you plan to eat and drink. I don’t even know where the nearest liquor store is, so bring your own wine if you’d like a glass. As always in the desert, bring water, lots of it!

Bathing at Delight's Hot Springs Resort

Bathing at Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Pool Rules at Delight's

Pool Rules at Delight’s

The atmosphere at Delight’s is more structured than some of the other resorts in Tecopa and there are clear rules to follow. There are 5 private bath houses that are large and clean and were freshly painted when I was there in January 2015.  As per Inyo County law, you must bathe naked.  There are showers in the bath houses and you must shower before bathing.  All the showers I saw were modern single unit fiberglass models that looked like recent upgrades.  There was ample hot and cold running water in the showers I used.

Delight's Bath House

Delight’s Bath House

The bath houses are very spacious with room for a few people on the deck as well as in the baths.  The baths themselves are large, close to 10’x10’.  The water is quite hot where it enters the pools – probably about 106F, so the pool temperature is a glorious 103-104F.  The water is deep so you can really sink into it and feel the heat soaking through your bones.  These were the best bath houses I found in Tecopa.  I was solo on this trip, and it would have been nice to share the privacy of these baths with a few close friends.

There are fabric sunbrella roofs over the bath houses to cut the sun. On the day I went it was raining and tiny droplets of rain seeped through – it was a real pleasure to enjoy feeling my body floating in the warmth of the springs while a gentle and cooling rain misted my face.

Hot Springs Aficionado: hard at work in Tecopa!

Hot Springs Aficionado: hard at work in Tecopa!

The overflow from the bath houses trickles down the hill in the form of a small creek winding its way towards the Amargosa. The frogs were signing when I was there – that was a hallmark of Tecopa for me: frogs signing in the desert!

A Stream in the Desert, Delight's Hot Springs Resort

A Stream in the Desert, Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

This is the third in a series on Tecopa Hot Springs. Stay tuned for more on the wonderful hot springs in this little town.

This post is one of a series of on the Hot Springs of Tecopa; to see others, click on the links below:

Post #1: Tecopa Hot Springs

Post #2: Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Post #3:Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Post #4: Tecopa Hot Springs Campground & Pools

Post #5: Signing Off From Tecopa Hot Springs

Snowshoe & Soak – A Perfect Evening!

Snowshoe & Soak Under the Stars at Le Nordik

Snowshoe & Soak Under the Stars at Le Nordik

We had a good snowfall this weekend, about 8″ of fresh dry powder, and Tuesday was a beautiful clear day so I decided to take advantage of Le Nordik Spa-Nature’s Snowshoeing and Spa under the Stars.

It turned into an absolutely perfect evening!  I arrived at the Gatineau Park around 6 pm to pick up my snowshoes (included with the package).  There were two guided groups of about 10 people each, one in French, one in English.  We set out for an easy hour long snowshoe hike in the darkness lit by our headlamps.  It was a crisp dark evening, about -5, no wind, and a perfectly clear moonless sky.

Snowshoeing in the Gatineau Park

Snowshoeing in the Gatineau Park

Diane, our guide, led us on some packed trails and into some deep untouched powder, showed us animal tracks and talked a lot about animal behaviours in the Park.  I met a new friend, Cécile, who works at Le Nordik (how cool is that job?).  We took group selfies with snowshoes, and ended our hike with pink cheeks and smiles all around.

After we dropped off our snowshoes we headed around the corner to the baths at Le Nordik.  We headed straight for the hottest pool and relaxed and chatted for at least 30 minutes.  Then we headed to the lounge area for drinks and a light supper.  I had a trio of sandwiches and a champagne flute filled with pink bubbly and strawberries that looked so appealing I just asked for “one of those” and forgot to ask the name!  It was a perfect complement, cool, crisp and sweet – just like the evening.

Arriving at Le Nordik Spa-Nature

Arriving at Le Nordik Spa-Nature

We soaked in the large pools, then basked in the largest sauna until it was almost closing time.  We capped off the evening in the Infinity pool that overlooks the cities, naming the stars and trying to count the Pleiades. We talked about how soaks contribute to mental health, a balanced life and wellness.  All too soon the staff were making rounds for the last call.  We had closed the bar and closed the baths – it was a truly excellent evening of “snowshoeing under the stars”.

A Magical Atmosphere

A Magical Atmosphere

Every Tuesday evening until March 10th is a snowshoe, soak and stars evening at Le Nordik, so it’s easy to book your own perfect Canadian winter adventure or add an evening in this magical atmosphere to your work week.  Just click here to head for the trails and the baths!

Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route

 

The best Hot Springs item I found on twitter this week was bikepacker Casey Greene’s Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route | Adventure Cycling Association.  The map looks like a fantastic route if you are looking for some wilderness mountain biking to add to your hot springs adventure.

Idaho Hot Springs, photo by Casey Greene

Idaho Hot Springs, photo by Casey Greene

The route can take you to 40 undeveloped backcountry springs and 11 developed springs.  It sounds absolutely fantastic!

Casey takes amazing photographs, and he has quite a nice section on hot springs on his web site.  Click here to check out his great posts on Goldbug and other hot springs!

Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

 

 

Tecopa Hot Springs Resort - A Vintage Vibe

Tecopa Hot Springs Resort – A Vintage Vibe

There is a vintage vibe about this place. There are no TVs or telephones in the room. There is no cell service. There is an unending series of mountain vistas. There is dust. There is the hot dry desert sun. And oddly enough when I was there in January, there were frogs, lots of frogs singing. I was even more surprised to find mosquitoes here in the desert – or maybe I was more surprised that they found me!  I get the feeling that life is hard here, but I also got a feeling of deep serenity.  This is an RV park, not a “resort” in the sense that we usually think of them, but it does have a classic vintage vibe and a very welcoming and friendly attitude.

 

 

 

Bathing Rooms inside the Motel Building

Bathing Rooms inside the Motel Building

Like so many places in California, the springs here are semi-developed, enclosed in small private bathhouses.  This resort is a work in progress. Amy, the owner, has been here since 2001, working on her vision of art and healing in the desert’s sacred space. She told me many tales of the history of this place and of the healings that have happened here. She describes this place as “Vast, healing, surprising, calming, serene.” We sit at the bistro overlooking the Amargosa chaos, declared a “wild and scenic river” by Congress in 2009. The Amargosa river’s headwaters are near Beatty, near Bailey’s Hot Springs – I remember seeing that little river and wondering what it would grow up to be. Now here I am, watching the Amargosa in its glory before it turns north into Death Valley.

Overlooking the Amargosa Chaos

Overlooking the Amargosa Chaos

Amy talks of the Resort’s stargazing, of how you can see Jupiter’s moons cast shadows on the planet, of the history of this place, how Harry used railroad ties for his buildings. We talk about technical details; the wellhead provides 120 gallons per minute, at 120 F, we talk of art, and the solstice, the town’s healing miracle cottonwood tree. This is a place to unwind, unplug, be one with the galaxy. It is a good place to be.  This is a good place to “just be”.

Just be.

Just be.

One of the Soaking Pools at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

One of the Soaking Pools at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

There are 5 small private baths at the Resort, three in the motel building, two in a bathhouse on top of the hill. The inflow pipes are placed high so there is the continuous sound of water pouring into the pools. The water is a perfect temperature, about 103F.  Shower in your room before you come to bathe, or in the upper bath house.  Bring a towel and a wrap and your own sandals.

 

 

Aztec Secret Bentonite Clay Masque

Aztec Secret Bentonite Clay Masque

I picked up some bentonite clay that was on sale in the office and tried it out. I was really impressed with the results. My skin was instantly smoother and more even coloured than it normally is!  I do a full body bentonite mud masque twice weekly now and it has really helped my skin.  I’d recommend this for everyone!

 

 

The Pastels Bistro has a small but decent menu that includes vegan and vegetarian options. I had a lentil, kale and barley soup that was a warm and hearty meal for $8.50. The coffee is excellent. It’s cash only, so bring your wallet. The Bistro opens on demand, for a few hours a day at lunch and supper – if you have asked them to!  They don’t have a liquor license, and I’m not sure where the nearest liquor store is, so bring your herbal teas, your own water, and your own fixings. This is the kind of place where I would mix myself a funky martini and watch the sun set after a great day of hiking, rock hounding and soaking in the wonderful waters.

Soaking at the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Soaking at the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

The next time you are in Las Vegas, and looking for something completely different, head to Tecopa Hot Springs to unplug, unwind and soak.

This post is one of a series of on the Hot Springs of Tecopa; to see others, click on the links below:

Post #1: Tecopa Hot Springs

Post #2: Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Post #3:Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Post #4: Tecopa Hot Springs Campground & Pools

Post #5: Signing Off From Tecopa Hot Springs