On our way to Death Valley National Park we drove through an interesting point on the map named Tacopa Hot Springs in California. An interesting mix of trailers, an RV park, small hotel and “official” hot springs building of sorts, the town was dotted with old cars and odd outbuildings. We commented on the oddity of this place, and I secretly wondered why someone would come here to sit inside a hot spring that’s located inside something akin to a double-wide. Driving in and out was a fast affair, taking somewhere along five minutes, give or take. Out my window I glimpsed items that niggled my brain but I let it go. I let it go. We were going to Death Valley National Park and nothing would deter me.
Right outside Tecopa Hot Springs was this lovely wetland located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, surrounded by salt flats leaking out from Death Valley. We had to stop and take it in. Bob had long whizzed past a subtle sign that I didn’t catch but figured it would be simple enough to find out later just what it is. A wetland. Those who know me realize how cool I think this is. Wetlands are some of my favorite places. A wetland in the Mojave Desert close to Death Valley made me almost giddy. The golden grasses reminded me of the salt marshes where I live. As well, I was reminded of our trek through Kansas with its fields and fields of gold. Sting’s Fields of Gold was playing in my head.
Now home and preparing to write this blog I Googled Tecopa Hot Springs to learn about this wetlands. It is Grimshaw Lake, a great birding locale and protected wetland. Spring and fall migratory birds swarm to the marshes and canyons in this area. There were many ducks swimming about and some wading birds off in the distance.
The grandeur of this place touched deeply within my soul. So quiet I could hear the ducks quibbling among themselves far, far away. It was a chilly morning. My hands noticed the cold as I took photos. Those hot springs came to mind.
Tecopa Hot Springs was originally called Yaga. Yaga was the largest Native American Paiute settlement in the region. Clearly, the hot springs, wildlife and wetlands was a huge draw but also proximity to the trading routes that became known as the Old Spanish Trail. Eventually, a series of mining camps were build here in the late 1800s. These camps were named after Tecopa, a Paiute leader who was famous for negotiating peace during those turbulent times.
Today, winter travelers flock here to take advantage of the warm springs. The spa and accommodations look decent online and the area itself is gorgeous. There is a large labyrinth made from rocks collected from the region. The Yaga labyrinth is named in honor of the original settlement of the indigenous Paiute peoples. Tecopa Hot Springs turned out to be a pleasant surprise. There’s an art gallery, a bistro, hot mineral baths, star gazing is encouraged, full moon hikes in the desert and the labyrinth experience is free. Their mission:
“We see ourselves as a group of individuals
of like mind and heart committing to thinking and acting
We see ourselves as stewards
of a sacred land
and ambassadors of goodwill.
Our Mission is to create
a self-sustaining enterprise that serves and engages local
communities and visitors from around the world.
Our aim is to see that every person drawn into our
enterprise takes away something wonderful, an experience
that is hard to describe in words.”
Learning about Tecopa Hot Springs was humbling to me. In my haste to see the larger event – Death Valley – I snubbed, or rushed though what could have been a wonderful experience along the way. I’m better than that. My tendency is to avoid people and seek out nature, but … people are nature, too. I keep forgetting that. Tecopa Hot Springs is my kind of place. Not fussy, not overblown, it’s real and humble. The trappings aren’t what’s important – it’s The Experience. Note to self.