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Death Valley Naked

Rox and I are either driving Death Valley or leaving Las Vegas. I crack open my guide book and read aloud:

A side road leads several miles to Tecopa Hot Springs, a series of rich mineral baths once used by the Paiute Indians. Today this natural resource has been transformed into a bizarre tourist attraction.

If there is a last outpost before the world ends, this will be the place. A white mineral patina covers the ground everywhere, as if salt had been shaken across the entire desert. Water sits in stagnant pools. Wherever you look – back-grounded by rugged, stark, glorious mountains – there are trailers. Hundreds of trailers, metal refuges against the Mojave sun, painted white like the earth and equipped with satellite dishes. In a kind of desert monopoly game, if you collect enough mobile homes you can hang a sign out front and call it a motel.

The species that inhabits these tin domiciles is on permanent vacation. This is, after all, a health resort; people walk about clad in bathrobes. They wander from the private baths at the trailer parks and “motels” to the public baths, which, in the single saving grace to this surreal enclave, are free.

I believe that Rox and I are actually leaving Death Valley, having stopped for a bite at the Crowbar Cafe and Saloon in Shoshone. I don’t remember much about the Crowbar except that an abnormally huge beetle creature flapped its wings in the doorway. [Shoshone was also the first point of contact for Pa’s geologist coworker who whilst on a government-sponsored trek to Death Valley, fell down a gorge, broke a few ribs, dislocated a shoulder, crawled back to his campsite, popped some Vicodin and awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of his cot being carried away by a huge band of plump desert rats. He freaked out, stumbled into Shoshone and was ultimately airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital.]

Anyway, I convince Rox that it’s a good idea for us to say hello to Tecopa. So we do.

Tecopa Hot Springs

The guide book description is pretty accurate (bizarre trailer colony, free springs) except that it fails to mention that most of these resorters are over 80 and that bathrobes are optional. In fact NUDITY IS REQUIRED for the springs so be prepared to shuck your skivvies. Rox and I have a nice conversation with a couple of confident snowbirds preparing for a dip who proclaim the waters to be “miraculous.” Rox and I smile, nod and bid them farewell.

UPDATE: Word around the desert is that the county leased the springs to a company called California Land Management who now charges a fee to access the springs. Locals are none to pleased…

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