In Tecopa Hot Springs, just north of the county hot springs, turn right onto Noonday Street, which is a dirt road. Follow this dirt road past a duck pond, and bear left as the main road curves to the right. Follow the road across a dry lake bed, and head toward a lone palm tree in the distance. The hot tub is beneath this tree.
We were sold at once! So, after two full days of loving, climbing, hiking, loving, running, moonlight walking, loving, wandering, adventuring, loving, planning, swooning, loving, and swaying under the stars, we woke up to the most splendidly crimson sunrise I’ve honestly ever seen reflecting off the already vibrantly red rocks, ate a casual breakfast with cafe con Carolan’s, and set off towards the 6X6 cement tub under the lone palm tree in the middle of the vast desert near Death Valley.
As we left the concrete for Noonday Road, which is more unimproved, bumpy, sandy, desert path than dirt road, our excitement began to build. The thought of a tub in the middle of nowhere, two lovers…well, you get it…We could see the palm tree, and drove straight for it.
We pulled in on the near side of the single palm, and delighted in not seeing a single car in the distance. We moved to the far side of the tree just to make sure the tub was empty. However, as we slowed, it became blatantly obvious that the tub was occupied, not by two lovers, but by one VERY large man, whose few rotting teeth flashed from his leathery desert worn face when he saw us approach. I met his eyes, and his face contorted, almost painfully, into an open invitation.
Hmmm…Not quite what we had in mind.
We hesitated about 30 seconds before deciding the Tecopa Mud Baths might be a more enticing choice. We arrived at the pond while the sun still shone high in the clear desert sky. It was an incredible sight. Tall, golden reeds lined the pond with several semi-private pools around the outside. Thin wisps of steam hovered low on the still water.
The pond was completely secluded, save for the road a mere 150 meters away, and the six clothed Russian tourists sitting around the pool at the far end of the water. Neither John nor I had brought swimming suits.
“They have to expect it,” I said matter of factly as I pulled my shirt over my head, back facing the crowd. I undid my bra, and can only imagine the shade of fire that burned my cheeks (both sets) as I walked, hands hanging limply by my sides, back carefully held straight, into the pool we’d chosen, where I immediately sunk to my knees, losing peripheral sight of the other bathers.
The mud smelled of sulfur, and remained cool to the touch, a relaxing contrast to the steamy water. I found myself shifting my knees back and forth to bury my legs even deeper in the cooling goo. John eased his way into the pond, and an instant mud fight broke out between the two of us, resulting in flying fistfuls of foul-smelling earth clumps that made a fat SPLAT when they hit and stuck to their target. The battle raged on, much to the amusement or chagrin of the docile, clothed, Russian tourists. I’m sure I won that one, if I remember correctly. 😀
We spent close to an hour in the water, and after spreading and smoothing the sulfur smelling therapeutic lumps into a full body salve, we rinsed off as well as we could and made our way back to the reeds through the sucking mud. There was a circle the size of a large kiddie pool flattened beside our chosen pool. We lay there, our dripping, quickly cooling bodies welcoming the warm caresses of the afternoon desert sun. We lay in silence, enjoying the tender touch of natural heat, a touch that teased our senses, and sent chills that spread over every bit of skin vulnerable and exposed to Mother Nature’s warm kisses. I felt his hand on mine. He leaned over and whispered sweet somethings (nothing he tells me may be categorized as a nothing, idiomatic phrase or not!) into my ear.
I giggled…and then it happened…
She came out of nowhere with a bike and two large dogs.
“Hey there! This is a nice spot you found there….What’s that big hairy thing over there? A man? Hope I’m not interrupting anything too intimate…” she said flatly. I sat up just in time to watch her brown sagging breasts disappear into the water. Her jowls hung loosely, gobbling up her neck, and they jiggled as her chin rolled into a radiant, sparsely toothed smile. I immediately thought of being a matchmaker. I’m sure the big guy in the hot tub would love to braid her back hair!
I kid. I kid.
In a series of strategic questioning, I gleaned that she hailed from New York City (get a rope) and loves hot springs. (See! 8.5 years of Military Intelligence really paid off. :D) But that’s not all I learned. I ALSO found that she thought it fascinating that I could be Native American, although I tried to explain the difference between the Taino and Navajo several times.
Around the third time that she asked if I was “ah Indyan” after having heard my explanation, I decided that it would be much easier to tell her no, to which she simply replied, “Awe, that’s too bad, you’d make a pretty Indyan girl.” Then a minute later, “So, what tribe are you from?” John and I decided we should take our chances with the big guy at the tub, and after dressing rapidly, we politely excused ourselves, and all but sprinted back to the car.
We laughed the entire way to the tub, which, to our surprise, was EMPTY! Suddenly excited, we jumped out and stormed the slight hill to the tub with towels on our arms and smiles on our faces. The sky was ablaze in the sun’s final firey salute to yet another magnificent day together, as we hurried from the quickly chilling air into the soothing heat of the tub.
The heat enveloped us to our necks. The steam tickled the tiny curls around my ears, and we sat, enjoying the stillness of the only tub under the lone palm tree in the middle of the Californian desert. That night, we left the pups in the car as we listened, alas, not to violins, but to something much grander; a chorus of coyotes singing their little hearts out, welcoming us to the desert night.