After my little off-road adventure, I wandered over to Deep Creek. The weather was perfect for freehiking, getting into the low 80s on my way down and dropping to the 60s on my way back up. I was working so hard I didn’t even notice.
I have been here enough times that the people at the gate recognize me and don’t bother with the long spiel about the rules.
The best way to get to Bowen Ranch: Find your way to the corner of Central and Ocotillo roads, SE of Apple Valley, CA. Head east 2+ miles to Bowen Ranch road. Turn right and drive 6+ miles on an easy graded dirt road. Once on Bowen Ranch, it gets a bit bumpy so take care. Still okay for street cars. You could take Roundup Way instead but it is a gravel road.
Don’t use your GPS other than to get to the corner I have circled. I tried it and it was a bust.
I really hate the trail from Bowen Ranch parking to the springs but it is still the shortest and fastest route to get there. From the top you go down a very steep and eroded slope, a combination of rocks and sand. This trail needs to have switchbacks like the flowers need the rain. Instead it goes almost straight down the hill. It is now a hazard to hike and someday soon it will become a ragged gully. Plus it is a PITA to get up that last couple hundred feet at a 20+ percent grade.
That red circle is where you are going on the first leg of your hike.
I remember long ago being able to hike down a gravel road to the same point. Much easier and much more environmentally sound. I wonder what happened?
Next you head gradually downhill on what is noted on the topo map for the area as the “Goat Trail”. Just before the end it takes another steep dive where you lose 500 ft. of elevation over about half a mile. The topo map shows a switchback but it isn’t usable any more.
I didn’t bring any hiking sticks. I hate hiking sticks. You have to carry them even when you are not using them. They tie your hands up so if you need to grab the camera to photograph a bear, you won’t get there in time. Still, they have become a must have for me on steeply inclined trails, going up or down. My knees won’t have it any other way.
Yuccas are truly miracle plants. The staves are as light as balsa but much stronger,
making them good for construction where wood is not available. Dried, shredded, yucca is good tinder. The leaves have natural cordage in them attached to a very sharp sewing needle. The sap from the green leaves is a natural soap, shampoo, and disinfectant. It can also be used to temporarily stun fish so they are easily gathered. The flowers and seeds are edible. Per WebMD, the roots have many medicinal purposes. The root is edible with cooking and can be used for beer.
The very best “natural” hiking sticks are yucca staves from dead yuccas. You need to stand far away from the yucca plant as you can, grab the stave and break it off. Some of the leaves at the base may come with the stave. You will need to very carefully remove them. The leaves have points so hard and sharp you can use them to sew with and they will easily penetrate through pants (if you are wearing any) and deeply into skin. The top end will have little branches. Get a sharp rock or a knife and knock off the little branches. Break it off at about 5-6 feet, depending on how tall you are. Now you have a robust lightweight walking stick. Grip the fat end and use the skinny end to drive into the soil.
With two sticks I was able to dramatically reduce the impact on my knees on the downward and assist my leg muscles on the upward. This day I was far from the slowest hiker on the hill! Even better, I didn’t have to feel bad about tossing them when no longer needed. Someone else will be grateful to find them.
As soon as I left the car, I rid myself of the pesky fabric that confined me. Some people had driven all the way here from home that way. Don’t violate speed laws and don’t drive next to big rig trucks or buses and you shouldn’t have a problem. That is why God invented tinted windows. (I’d be more than a bit nervous about it myself.)
Since I got there in the middle of the day, lots of people were trudging up the trail. One youngish nudie guy coming up solo with an erection wagging around. (Rolling my eyes here. I suppose it takes all kinds.) Then there were a couple of couples including some nudies and one large group of what looked like Japanese exchange students. The girl bringing up the rear called me “Sir” and apologized for making me step off the trail. (My stepping off trail was merely what trail etiquette required.) When have I ever received such respect from an American hiker? Especially a young person. Incredible.
As I mentioned in another blog post, Deep Creek is internationally famous. I’ve met people from Mexico, Japan, India, Canada, Columbia, the UK, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Israel and probably others I don’t remember. They come here because it is a clothing optional area deep in nature, one of the few places where it is accessible and wild and nudity is allowed. There are plenty of natural hot springs that are easier to get to where it is not.
Once you get down, the hot springs were brilliant. Today was a very good day. Perfect weather and colleges were in session so not too many crazies. The male to female ratio was close to even which was rather unusual. Mostly a local crowd with batches of tourists. Maybe because of that there was a higher percentage of nudes and even a fair smattering of children. There were at least a dozen dogs about and people were exceptionally friendly, saying “Hi!” to me even though I was just walking by.
It was a young crowd while the groups I was with were the oldest people around. The pungent scent of marijuana was on the air. Maybe that’s why everyone was so nice.
I didn’t really go there to socialize, smoke pot or just lay about. Made the rounds and said hello to everyone I knew and chatted with a few I didn’t. My desire was to hike the PCT downstream a bit. Not enough time to get more than a couple of miles because I wanted to be on my way home before sundown. That’s when the Bowen Ranch people start charging double
Deep Creek is lined in places in willows, aspens, and cattails. Willow bark tea is the original source for the anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant Aspirin. Cattails are another incredible natural resource. It produces a rhizome that is edible. So is the tender interior of the stem. The hotdog shaped seed bundle at the top produces fluff that is great tinder and is good insulation when it matures and you can easily pull it apart. The leaves are good for weaving and the dense growth provides shelter for numerous small edible creatures (minnows, frogs, and crayfish).
Aspen (and Sycamore) are useful too. In the spring the inner bark (cambium layer) is high in sugar. Not as much as a maple, but enough. Eat it directly or drain the sap off for “sugaring“. Bark can be stripped off for weaving and any dead wood can be used for all the things wood can be used for. If you decide to pull off bark for any reason, go for a narrow vertical strip. This will heal quickly. A horizontal strip risks killing the tree by girdling it. Even in survival mode you should treat nature with kindness.
As I head upstream, I see the trail could use some repair. Fallen rocks have made it occasionally a little dicey. Happily this stretch was on the shady side of the canyon. It was a bit warmer down here than at the top and the wind was much less.
About a quarter mile up I met the Bradford Ridge Trail. This is a use trail that has recently become a popular way the get to Deep Creek. I met three people as I passed it making there way to the springs. The two guys had backpacks full of gear and were each hand carrying carrying two gallons of water. The woman appeared to be carrying two or more cases of Budweiser in cans in hers. My hat is off to these well prepared backpackers.
According to them, the Ridge Trail has a lot of ups and downs and one section is almost vertical. However, I understand the trail has a split and actually comes out two places on the PCT. I’m looking for the one farther downstream. This map is from another blog, Stav is Lost.
Now, it looks like one should be able to hang a left right around that 4400 foot plateau and follow the ridge right down to the PCT without any desperately steep terrain. Then the PCT loses elevation at a gradual rate until the first intersection. Much easier on the knees. I hiked to the second probable location where I found some trailishness and then followed it up the ridge. I didn’t go all the way for lack of time but I did go far enough to see there was indeed a trail that appeared to go right down the center of the ridge as far as I could see. I shall try that route next time as the parking area is closer to LA.
Heading back upstream I met two people who were heading back up the Bradford Ridge trail but couldn’t ID the proper turnout. I mentioned where I’d met the others coming down and they seemed to think that that was it.
The two other routes to Deep Creek are about 7 miles east from the Mojave River dam and 9 miles south from Splinters Cabin by Arrowhead. I did the former trip years ago and didn’t bring a camera. A more recent trip from Splinter’s Cabin is here. Everything more than a mile from the trailhead is clothing optional here per the forest ranger I spoke with so that’s 28 miles of nudity (round trip) if you’re interested.
While I was hiking I took photos looking both ahead and back. To the east, you could see the PCT wending along the canyon side as far as you could see. To the west is the trail to the hot springs.
Evening came and I headed back up the trail to the car. It had been a wonderful day with many smiles and friendly people. I must come out here another day to reconnoiter the new route.
More about Deep Creek Hot Springs: