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!

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

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

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

Tecopa Hot Springs

My first official trip to do research for Hot Springs Aficionado was to Tecopa, California.  I’ve been to the desert before, so as soon I picked up my Jeep (shout out to Sixt car rentals of Las Vegas for giving me a brand new Rubicon!!!) I also picked up a case of water.  35 x 500 ml bottles, about 4 gallons – the kind of detail that makes a real difference in the desert.

The drive to Tecopa reminded me again of just how vast and remote so much of California can be. Tecopa lies about 75 minutes off the interstate that runs from LA to Las Vegas. That 75 minute drive brings you into a whole other world. There are vast big skies and painted deserts populated by tough resilient folk who value their independence. Cell phone service is a luxury. It is majestic, serene, grandiose, daunting.

Big skies on the drive to Tecopa

The drive to Tecopa

The geology around Tecopa is complicated by the Amargosa Chaos and there are at least two aquifer sources for the springs in Tecopa.  The water from one Tecopa aquifer comes to the surface at about 118F. It is fairly high in fluoride and arsenic so it’s not recommended for drinking. But it is perfect for bathing! County law requires that you bathe nude so most of the developed springs are enclosed in private or segregated bath houses. There are a few undeveloped springs in the area too – to find those, you will have to go to Tecopa and search for yourself!

Hot Springs Aficionado: hard at work in Tecopa!

Hot Springs Aficionado: hard at work in Tecopa!

Tourist destinations in Tecopa include the famous China Ranch Date Farm (worth a visit!) and four developed hot springs baths: the County Baths, Delights Resort, Tecopa Hot Springs Resort and Petersen’s Resort. All the “resorts” are primarily RV Parks with a few cabins or motel rooms – this isn’t the Caribbean all-inclusive type! The central core of Tecopa is quite pretty, and I am surprised it hasn’t become more of a “destination” town, like Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs or Las Vegas. I’m sure that it will happen one of these days. Right now there seem to be quite a few Korean tourists: Delights Resort has a Korean sign and on the day I went to the county baths, all the other guests were speaking Korean. Amy, the owner of Tecopa Hot Springs Resort, told me that all her rooms had recently been booked by a Japanese Hot Springs Association tour.

There is a strange funky vibe to Tecopa.  Sometimes it seems almost otherwordly.  It’s hard to explain, but maybe this video will help.  It’s from the annual Tecopa Take-over, when artists from Las Vegas book all the hotels and perform for fun. There is lots to see and enjoy in Tecopa as long as you are prepared to leave your cellphone and TV lifestyle behind. Bringing an open, silent mind will help you enjoy your discoveries in Tecopa.

I’ll be writing more about the individual resorts in future posts, so stay tuned to learn more about this funky town and its wonderful hot springs!

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