A healing mineral cocktail
The sun was just coming up when I ventured south to Ensenada. Traffic was heavy even then on the narrow poorly maintained road at the south end of town heading to Maneadero. Watching out for potholes and lumbering container-trucks hugging the centerline, I looked for the turn off to the Baja Country Club. A new gas station had been added on the corner since my last trip many years ago, when a friend first introduced me to the San Carlos Hot Springs. She took me on a crazy ride in her Jeep and I remember having to ford a few streams and being glad I wasn’t driving. I made a left turn across traffic and turn onto the paved road, which ends in a few miles. Onward to the rough dirt road, I see up ahead, as I remembered, an immense electric tower, like a many-armed-alien thing, standing sentinel at the gateway to the inner mountains. At this point I knew the rest of the way would be dirt and rock, however I didn’t expect to encounter too many water crossings for it was late fall and there had been no rain since last winter.
Baja has a volcanic history. The peninsula first cracked off from mainland Mexico as part of the disruption on the San Andreas Fault some 15 million years ago. The seabeds rose up and still today seashells can be found in layers hundreds of feet above sea level. The hot springs were formed as rain seeped below the Earth’s surface, collecting in aquifers. Molten hot magma heated this water, then flowing back up through vents in the Earth’s mantle. The journey of this water collected many minerals along the way, each one possessing unique healing qualities. It is said and scientifically verified that the water contains fifteen different kinds of minerals: boron, calcium, chloride, sodium, sulfate, lithium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, silica, zinc, fluoride, phosphate and nitrogen. When the body is submerged in the mineral cocktail, minute quantities of these minerals pass through the layers of skin and enter the bloodstream giving the body both emotional relaxation as well as a nutrient elixir.
The drive in for the hearty Baja traveler will not pose a problem, however those in passenger cars could be challenged, if they are expecting a fast easy trip. Consider ten to fifteen miles per hour and give yourself an hour for arrival time. Off-roaders can make a little faster go of it, however, people do live out here, so being a thoughtful visitor is appreciated.
Bouncing along I spy a white cross high above on one of the hilltops. I tried to imagine the heart of the faithful who would make such an extreme climb to plant an icon of love. Penetrating deeper into dense scrub, ancient eucalyptus trees, oaks and maples, I am careful going over the rocky but dry stream beds, until I encounter the first of two streams that run all year. Maybe about 8 inches deep, but during the rainy season, I’m thinking 4 wheel drive would be necessary. Finally, I begin to see small blue Km markers suggesting I’m getting close. Still, there was a ways to go, ducking through a dark bamboo tunnel and out the other end. There was a surprise at every turn.
With welcome relief I pull up to the main gate, pay my $8.00 fee at the current exchange rate. I drive beyond the heated pools, sparkling in the morning sun. Even though it is mid-week, there are a few people already here. Over 40,000 people have visited here since San Carlos developed their Facebook page to record visitation. But if one included the first people who lived here thousands of years ago, it is likely hundreds of thousands have visited since before recorded history. Today there are three ways to visit: day use, camping and rustic cabañas. So while getting here requires love and commitment, it doesn’t stop people from enjoying the benefits. I’m looking for a quieter place to set up so I can write this story. But first I must experience the joy of slipping into the velvety warm water.
Ah, yes, this is heaven. Being submerged in the water to my neck, the experience touches beyond the 5 senses. One old Yaki medicine woman reports there are actually 13 senses. Being in this water allows a few more of these senses to open. I appreciate the granite boulders included in the concrete pools to sit or lay on. One can choose between very hot or more bath-like temperatures and several smaller more private pools are clustered around the two larger pools. From this bod in the mineral bath, I gaze out at the open sky, the mountains and the quivering poplar trees, their leaves just now being touched by fall’s yellow. A tiny stream still runs by the pools through green grass and large white geese visit. The stillness is broken by children laughing, a group of women are in lively conversation and Norteña music is coming from someone’s campsite. I, of course, wish that I was the sole inhabitant of this experience. My thoughts journey back in time, when this miracle of nature was enjoyed by the Native Indian groups. Without the cars and music streamed from the iCloud, there still would have been children laughing, women washing clothes and gathering to gossip. In this otherwise arid region this would have been a luxury. Hot water in which to bathe. But oh, the nights under a star studded sky would have been a romantic time, slipping into this gift of nature. Bringing myself back from this reverie, I dry off and make my way to the far end of the campground. I sit at this picnic table by the sparkling stream, a bullfrog croaks, the trees whisper overhead of the ancient times. I pick up my pen and write this story.
If you prefer a lazier quiet time to visit, consider avoiding summer months and weekends for most of the year. Open 365 days from 8am to 10pm. Day rate: $140 pesos per person. Camping overnight: $200 pesos per person.
Martina's email: mteomaya(at)gmail.com