No real road trip is complete to me without a stop at a hot spring. When I know I have a long way to travel, the first thing I do is head to Google Maps and checked my saved hot spring locations. If there’s nothing on my maps already, I crack up a fresh new google search of my route and see what I can scare up.
In my opinion, the more remote and natural the hot spring – the better. I don’t want to go somewhere over-developed. I’m never upset when someone’s crafted a tub out of stones or a hollowed-out log, (that’s using your resources), but don’t give me a resort. Don’t give me changing rooms, or concessions stands, or any of that. I would like my hot spring to be off the beaten path, down a trail, and surrounded by the natural world that it first burst forth from in all of its underground sulphuric glory – thank you very much.
This month, I went on a road trip from southern California up to Oregon, ultimately ending in Portland. The goal was to drive up there to sell my car, but I of course was looking for every appealing stop along the way. When I opened up my google maps, I saw a pin on a hot spring I’d marked out a few weeks before but hadn’t made it to yet. Remington Hot Spring, a place 40 min east of Bakersfield California and in the lower left corner of Sequoia National Forest along the shores of the Kern River.
I packed my car for the trip and, after finishing work at 6pm on a day that breached 113 F in Santa Ana, I headed north.
I arrived at the National Park late and parked my car to camp overnight. The temperature outside was still in the upper 80s, and sleeping in my car meant I needed to have the windows cracked overnight. The first place I picked to park my car was close to the river. I rolled my windows down a crack – and immediately was bombarded by hundreds of flies, mosquitos, moths and more. In my excitement to camp out near the river, I forgot an obvious fact about the woods, which is that bugs also love being near rivers and flock to any light at dark.
Ditching my first camp spot, I found another higher and drier place with a far lower insect population. Still battling the heat and the humidity, I traded my sleeping out for the night and opted instead to sleep under my towel. It was perfect. I easily drifted off for a few hours of sleep before sunrise.
Five am came quickly, with my alarm waking me before the sun. I should have felt tired, but all I felt was excitement as I got ready. It was Saturday, and the prospect of having the springs all to myself was my motivation to get up and moving as quickly as possible.
The trail down to the river was steep and marked only by sporadic spray-painted blue arrows on the backsides of boulders. After about ten minutes of walking downhill, I reached the side of the river. Having never been to Remington hot spring before, I didn’t actually know where I was going once I reached the river. One part of me had assumed it would simply be right there, in front of me, waiting with open arms and beckoning me into its heated waters. Suffice to say, it was not. In all honesty, I had no idea where exactly it would be.
This is something not uncommon for hot springs. I did my research, but people want to protect their special places, and so offer obscure and rather vague directions to the actual hot springs themselves. I support this- it’s a key part to helping keep spots like Remington and others from getting too overrun by visitors. So, in the spirit of mild obscurity, I won’t share exactly how I found the springs myself, but I will say that if you go on your own and spend a few minutes by the river out there, you’re more than likely to find them for yourselves.
Walking up on the springs, I could not have been happier. At this point, it was just after 6am and I had the entire area wholly, perfectly, pristinely to myself.
There are three pools at Remington, handmade by locals out of smoothly poured concrete, adorned with found rocks, river stones and personal affects donated to the adornment of the space. Several words and phrases are hand-carved into the sides of the tubs, reminding you that you are in a place special to the people who put in the efforts to make it even more enjoyable.
Natural hot water bubbles up out of the earth and is piped into the highest of the three tubs (making that one the hottest), a small rectangular that’s perfect for one person, but could seat two as well. It then cascades down miniatures spillways from one tub to the next, eventually overflowing into the river and getting washed downstream. The lower tubs are larger and by my estimate could comfortably fit 6 or so each. Sitting in the lower two tubs, you can reach over and dip your hands in the cool water while you soak your body in the springs. This place is as close to heaven as I’ve found so far.
As I laid back in the long top tub, I could see golden light kissing the tops of the mountains across from me. The morning sun was cresting over the surrounding hills. Birds were waking up, singing to each other from neighboring trees. I soaked it all in – the warmth from the water, the surrounding sounds and landscape I was being treated to. I took breaks from the hot water, cooling off in the river and returning to soak and stretch again in the tubs, making the most of my morning alone. All in all, I had a full hour to myself, undisturbed in the Remington hot springs on the side of the Kern river.
Eventually, another soaker walked up to the springs to take their own dip. I had been there long enough, and the timing for me was perfect. Taking in one last view of my surroundings, I climbed out of the tub, gathered my things and wished the person getting into the waters a good morning.
I got to my car just before 8am and started it up. The post-hot spring bliss from my time at Remington was still haloing around me and I felt supremely relaxed and rejuvenated. I had a long day of driving ahead of me to get up to Oregon, and I could not wait to get started.
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