Baden-Baden’s Caracalla Therme

Emperor Caracalla

I think this was the first fully developed hot spring baths I ever went to. If you’re going to start going to baths, where better than in a town named Baths-Baths?  Baden-Baden is one of the most famous spa towns in Germany.  There have been baths here since at least Roman times.  The most modern of these is Caracalla Therme, named for the Emperor Caracalla who visited this town almost 2,000 years ago to treat his arthritis.

Twelve springs supply the 4,000 m² of pools and saunas at Caracalla Therme.  There are many different bathing areas, including a large “no-bathing suits” sauna section.  The overall feel is very clean, white and modern with a passing salute to Rome from the columns and statues by the pools.  There are three outdoor pools and some poolside seating but most of the baths and saunas are indoors.  It can get quite busy and the atmosphere is family friendly, accepting children aged over 7 years, so it can be good to go early in the day when there is less traffic.

In the adult only nude section, there can be older German men who unabashedly ogle women.  I was there with my husband so I don’t know how they behave with single women.  I took it in stride as a cultural thing – when you travel you can’t expect everyone to behave the same way they do in your home country.

hot springs aficionado caracalla bubble jetMy best memory of Caracalla Therme was the bubble jet bath.  I love underwater air jets, especially where these were located in the middle of a larger pool – it gave a real sense of airiness to the experience.  I loved the sensation of so many tiny bubbles massaging my body.  It gave me a tingling sensation running up my back and bubbling to the surface like champagne – it was almost a feeling of being immersed in a giant cup of bubbly Reisling, very light and airy.  Being surrounded by white columns and white statues gave a very classic feel to the experience!

hot springs aficionado caracalla whiteWe spent many hours at Caracalla Therme, wandering from one experience to the other, trying different scented saunas, relaxing in the outdoors area, dining, and always returning to the centerpiece pools with their tall glass solarium walls that marry the feeling of being indoors with the feeling of being open to the air. That was my overall memory of Caracalla: a sense of airiness and openness.

In the lobby is a fountain from which you can drink the waters – at the time I went, little telescoping cups were provided as souvenirs, and I still have mine! The waters are from natrium-chloride springs and are quite strongly flavoured with salts and sulfur, so they taste medicinal and you won’t be drinking very much. The temperature at the main spring is 68C (155 F).

Add Caracalla Therme to your travel plans if you are going to the Black Forest – it’s a wonderful place to spend a day relaxing and recovering from your trip!  Watch the promotional video below to see more of the interior of Baden-Baden’s Caracalla Therme.

 

Living Waters Spa Hotel

Jeff and Judy are your hosts at this “clothing-optional” hotel and spa. Jeff and Judy are naturists and massage therapists who found this perfect location to live their lifestyle. The site is completely private and gated, so it is very secure. You have to buzz to be let in and it is best if you call ahead to make sure there is someone to greet you.Displaying 20141112_093628.jpg

The spa consists of one swimming pool and one large jet pool. Both pools are fed by the Desert Hot Springs underground aquifer, which provides 105F water at the Living Waters well head. The jet pool is maintained at about 100F, while the swimming pool is in the high 80s.   You can spend all day in the pools, or lounging beside them in the warm desert sun. I spent a few days here working on my tan, lured by the excellent kitchen facilities. I was able to make all my own food while I was here, and never really felt the urge to leave the compound.

I spent most of my time on the pool deck, being buzzed by the resident hummingbirds. There are quite a few of them vying for territory around the bird feeder, so sometimes I felt I was in a mini war zone with mini jet fighters engaging in dog fights around my head!  It was fun – I’d never spent so much time with hummingbirds in my life, and they are truly beautiful up close.

There is a great view of Mount Jacinto from the pool deck. I loved watching its colours change from dawn to dusk, all oranges and pinks and purples.

Most bathers here bring a good book and spend the day relaxing and focusing on tranquility. The compound is not huge, so you are fairly limited to being in your room or on the pool deck. It forces one to relax! I went for hikes every morning in the nearby hills as my daily dose of activity. Living Waters is located close to downtown, so there are lots of services within a short drive.

The hotel consists of nine rooms with full, well equipped kitchens.   The rooms have only one entrance, the patio doors which open on to the pool deck, so be prepared for a certain lack of privacy. There is wifi, but there are no televisions, so it is very quiet and peaceful. After a few days the absence of electronic stimulation seems very strange, disconcerting even. There is nothing but you, the waters, the hummingbirds. Your mind focuses on small natural items or sensations. The focus here at Living Waters is very much on lifestyle, mindfulness and naturism. Shutting off and relaxing is the norm. Jeff and Judy also lay out a full breakfast every day and provide fun theme meals for special occasions such as Oktoberfest or Thanksgiving.

The day spa is open from 10:00 am to 5:00pm so during that time there are more people. In the evenings, there are only the hotel guests so it is very peaceful.

http://www.livingwatersspa.com/hot_mineral_water.htm

https://www.facebook.com/LivingWatersSpa

 

The mineral content of the spring water is:

Sulfate 493.60
Sodium 268.60
Bicarbonate 129.00
Chloride 120.50
Silica 46.4
Calcium 45.10
Fluoride 5.30
Magnesium 5.10
Iron Oxide – trace
Aluminum Oxide – trace
Barium – trace
Copper – trace
Manganese – trace
Total Dissolved Hardness 110mg/l
Calcium Hardness 144mg/l
ph (units) – 8.3
Specific Conductance (mphos) – 1803
 

Buckeye Springs: All natural, au naturel!

Buckeye Springs, California, 7200 ft (38°14’22.1″N  119°20’28.8″W)

Buckeye Springs are completely natural. Completely! Depending on the day, you probably won’t need a bathing suit here, but you will need good rock scrambling shoes to clamber back up the hill to your car. And you will need a car to get here – Buckeye is completely off the beaten track. Bring lots of drinking water, and be prepared for an altitude of 7200 ft.

To get to Buckeye Springs, you will have to travel a fair distance down some backcountry dirt roads in the remote eastern Sierra Nevada. You will start in Bridgeport (pop. 575), then head up for about a 30 minute drive into the mountains. While you are in Bridgeport (http://www.bridgeportcalifornia.com/), stock up on water and food. Make sure to bring lots of water!

On the road to Buckeye Springs

On the road to Buckeye Springs

Enjoy this very scenic drive, the views from the mountainside are fabulous! From the 395 in Bridgeport, just past the Gas &Go (water!), you will turn left onto Twin Lakes Road. Follow this road up the mountain for about 7 miles until you see Doc and Al’s Camp and Cabin Resort (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Doc-Als-Resort/472867532765517) – then turn right onto Buckeye Road.

A short while after you decide that you missed a turn and have become completely lost, the road will hook down to a bridge and ta-daa, the springs will appear! For detailed directions on how to get there, click here http://hotspringsoak.com/buckeye-hot-springs.html .

As you cross the bridge over Buckeye Creek, you will see the springs. The parking lot is at the top of a little hill and you have a short scrabble down some very steep scree to the pools. The hot water emerges from the hillside and as you scramble down you will see little rivulets streaming down the rock face. Be careful, some of these rivulets are hot!   Remember to keep enough energy at the end of the day to get back up this hill – it’s not an easy climb at this altitude after a few hours in the hot water.

From the rock face, the spring water drips into Buckeye Creek. The hot spring water mixes with the cool creek water to make warm water pools. One of the fun things about Buckeye is that you get to develop it yourself: the pools are made by moving rocks around until you get a mix that is just the right temperature for you.   There are usually a few people there, so the pools get moved around as the day goes on.   This is a great place to spend an afternoon, or have a picnic lunch. Since these springs cater to young or young at heart nature lovers, some of the bathers also enjoy natural herbal products in the peaceful atmosphere.

On the day I visited, there were eight people who came and went over a few hours. The atmosphere was very friendly, relaxed and open. All of us were nature freaks who had gone a fair distance to come to these springs. There was only one local: a man in his 60s who lived nearby and took great pride in the springs, meticulously moving the rocks around so we could all have the perfect temperature. One visitor was David, who had been hiking the nearby Pacific Crest Trail for months and told some great stories of his backcountry experiences on the trail. Thierry and Éliane were French students who were spending the summer visiting the United States and had stumbled upon someone who had suggested they come here. We built up a lot of camaraderie in just a few hours.

The pools are not very deep with only about 18” of water, but deep enough to lie down in and be fully covered. The environment is exquisite, Buckeye Creek is more of a river here, babbling along with almost musical notes through the rapids. At one point, some children came to fish from the bridge close enough that we could hear their laughter in the background. The air is crystal clear, with the smell of pine mixed with a little sulfur from the springs. The experience of sitting in this perfect mountain wilderness, sharing tales in the warm water was a little slice of heaven.

Buckeye is remote, so we had made sure to bring a picnic lunch. Ours was low key, in keeping with the environment, chicken salad sandwiches with a White Zinfandel. It was the perfect pairing!

With darkness falling we decided to leave and we found it a little difficult to get back up the scree to our car. But with one final burst of energy, we made it, then flopped down puffing in the parking lot – I am so terrible at altitude!

If you want to spend a few days in the beautiful eastern Sierra Nevada, you can camp in the National Park Services Buckeye Campground. Buckeye Springs is just within the limits of the vast Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and nearby trails lead into Yosemite National Park. Or you can stay at the nearby Doc and Al’s Resort.

Click on these links to plan your trip to these remarkable hot springs!

http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g32110-d523510-Reviews-Buckeye_Hot_Spring-Bridgeport_California.html#photos

You can stay at the nearby Doc and Al’s Resort (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Doc-Als-Resort/472867532765517)

Or camp in the National Park Services Buckeye Campground (http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/htnf/recreation/ohv/recarea/?recid=65272&actid=29)

 

Nearby attractions:

Travertine Hot Springs:

Mono Lake and County: http://www.monocounty.org/

Bodie ghost town (about 1 hour drive): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodie,_California

Mammoth (about 1 ½ hour drive): http://www.visitmammoth.com/things-to-do/