Duck Lake ... next chapter

View of Duck Lake from Duck Pass east of John Muir Trail

August 14, 2000
Cascade Valley to Iva Bell Hot Springs
A day to remember ... on a trip to remember

0600-0745 — Cascade Valley (45°F; frosty, clear & calm)

          It is definitely nippy in the woods this morning so we are slow to rise and get going. We don't plan to go any further than the hot springs; so, what is the rush? ... other than the hot springs! I'm ready, now. The meadows are frosty before the sun has a chance to warm things up.

          Notices posted on trees along the trail alert us to an ongoing search for Craig Sweet, a forty-one year old who went for a hike or bike ride on Aug 1st and hasn't been heard from since. This seems pretty strange. It is the height of summer in a very populated wilderness area where the terrain is very moderate and easily navigated. What happened? Is it an accident, foul play or did this guy want to disappear? Makes one pause and consider; "stuff" happens.

Cascade Valley

Spectacular cascade in Cascade Valley

0915-0945 — Fish Creek cascade 37°31.768 / 118°9.560 - 8,291K' (64°F)

          Cascade Valley is just a stroll through the woods punctuated now and then with beautiful cascading falls (see above painting Cascade Valley) and quiet meadows. We pick a spot at one of the cascades for our breakfast break. Cascade Valley is another highly spoken of valley and a favorite horse camp area but we are not overwhelmed; maybe we are just looking ahead to those hot springs.

          We come upon a large group, perhaps twenty kids and adults assembled at the Second Crossing. It appears some in the group chose to wade across the Creek but there is a dry rock hop and tree bridge crossing. Not anxious to get our feet wet again we opt for the dry crossing which although tricky is not another soaking.

          Just beyond the crossing we catch up to the British couple who have like us chosen to detour to Fish Creek. The chap asks if he can see my map since they have walked off the edge of his JMT map. He is an engineer with a compulsion to know where he is. He wears his map and compass around his neck. I am not quite that anal, but close. I show him where they are on my map and he commits it to memory. They hope to reach Reds Meadow and the pleasures of more civilized accommodations including bath and bed. But Reds Meadow is some fifteen miles from here and the day is half done. I neglect to mention the hot springs about a mile from here (to us, four is a crowd at hot springs); I convince myself, they probably aren't interested anyway. They charge off in front of us and we don't see them again.

          Up and over the gorgeous ridge which separates Cascade Valley from Fish Valley we can see the Iva Bell Hot Springs ... I think. We discuss off trailing to the springs on a beeline across the steep wooded slope to save time. Otherwise, it is descend steeply and then reascend steeply. A little bush whacking and we reconsider this plan; we struggle back to the switchback trail. Soon we pick up a secondary trail through the woods and I start tracking based on my memory from our last visit to the hot springs.

1200-1300 — top Iva Bell Hot Springs 37°32.044 / 119°01.359 - 7,415K' (92°F)

          We arrive at the top of the hill where once were three beautiful very hot pools but where now there is only evidence of a mud slide. The former pools are buried and the hot spring creek is redirected. New pools have been fashioned. The highest two are too shallow and could use some maintenance. They are probably much to hot for us anyway. The third pool created between a fallen tree and a boulder with a mud dam is just right for two. The view down Fish Valley from this steep slope is spectacular. The air temperature is 92°. We are probably close to heat stroke from the climb to the springs and we are about to get into 105-110° water. Seems a little crazy.

          Once we are sufficiently satiated and singed (about an hour), we head down the hill to find the other Iva Bell Hot Springs. It is no mistake that we are here on a Monday. We figure the springs would be less crowded if we waited until after the weekend. The meadow around the springs is totally horse trampled but there is not a sole around. Irene makes her way directly to the main tub which is right on the trail and before I know it she is out of her clothes and in skimming scum happy as an "Irene in a hot spring." I look for the best camp.

Iva Bell Hotspring

Iva Bell Hotspring overlooking Fish Creek

1400 — Iva Bell Hot Springs 37°31.968 / 119°01.401 - 7,437K'

          I stake a claim on a site about fifty feet from another hot spring which is improved since our last visit. This spring was once a mud hole; now it is perfectly clear with ample depth, places to sit, and under a shade tree. We enjoy the two hot springs and the natural setting "au natural" for over an hour before taking a break to cool off. Eventually, other people arrive. We know we are no longer alone when we hear the whoops of delight as the newcomers discover the hot springs. This small group (2-4 ... I'm not sure) realize they are not alone and pick a campsite well away from us. We all enjoy relative privacy the rest of our stay.

          Since we had come all of six miles today we celebrate with a glutinous three course dinner: fried corn fritters; sauteed onion, cheese and salami combo; and da spicy minestrone soup.

          After the appropriate rest period for digestion, we slip back into our private hot spring adjacent to camp. It is a quiet, calm and warm evening. We hardly notice any bugs. For all practical purposes, we have the place entirely to ourselves. Thus a perfect day is capped off with a little coffee & sweets and the simple age old entertainments of two people in love alone together in the great outdoors.

0115-0145 — under an almost full moon (64°F; clear, calm, bright & beautiful)

          In the middle of the night we wake and rise for a moonlight hot spring. It is a pleasant 64° and completely calm. It is the date of the full moon but technically the moon will not be full until the next rising. No matter, it is still very bright and full enough. The conditions are perfect for a late night adventure. We make our way across the boggy meadow; the cold damp mud gooshes between our toes. The main hot spring glistens out in the open, bathed in moon glow. It is all ours. We soak in the hot water long enough to stay cozy while we drip dry, put on fleece and return to the dry warmth of the sleeping bags. A night to remember after a day to remember on a trip to remember; the time of our lives.

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