We decided to go somewhere close (originally we wanted to go all the way to Death Valley) in case something happened. Tools, our across the street neighbor suggested we go to Mendocino National Forest. We kind of forgot about this place, but it was actually the best place to go, since its just about the closest national forest, and we already knew a little about what to expect. We didn't get out of Oakland until about noon, so it was getting dark just as we pulled out of Upper Lake (on the north end of Clear Lake), where the road enters the National Forest land.
Night was fast approaching, and we tried to climb the first mountain as fast as possible. But dark came upon us and we had to find the closest camping spot we could. Luckily, as if by magic, an off-shoot road appeared and we followed it about a 1/4 mile to a nice opening. We could see all of the thin wispy clouds in the sky glowing bright pink and orange with the sunset as we built our tent.
The next morning, we woke up pretty early, and packed up. We had in plan to explore as many of the M roads as we had time for that day, before having to head home. We started out on M1, and then took the turn to go on M10. This part of the trip was kind of uneventful (except for some fun stream crossings), as the road was nicely graded. We passed by a bunch of rolling hills, climbing one of them steadily. Dense oak tree forests gave way to large open meadows.
A video of the baja doing its first stream crossing!
We made it all the way to Bear Creek Campground, and decided to look at the map, because we already took the route out of Bear Creek CG before, and knew of another road we hadn't gone on yet. Romy, with his eagle eyes, spotted the road on the map, and then spotted something even more interesting: a hot spring! It was marked on the map with the usual symbol, and there was a road that went right to it. So, we made it our goal for the day to reach the hot springs and check them out!
The road to the hot springs looked like the "main" road on our map (FR17N16), but it sure was not in very good condition as we started driving along. First of all, to get on the road, you had to cross a wide but shallow stream. Then, you had to navigate your way around sections of the road that were washed out, with ditches at least a foot or more deep! It was like this almost the entire way to the turn-off towards the springs. The road followed the ridge of the mountain we were on.
After about 2 miles on FR17N16, we found the turn off for Deer Valley Rd, which immediately started going down, down, down the other side of the mountain. The road was also washed out, and some parts had very loose dirt/gravel, making it kind of difficult. We basically knew about half-way down the mountain that we were committed to going out of the forest on his route because there was NO TURNING BACK! The road was so steep and loose, all you could do was hope for a nice controlled descent. So we were crossing out fingers. . . .
We saw bubbling waters at Crabtree Hot Springs.
Soon we saw a private property sign, and this bummed us out. We were really hoping that this hot spring wasn't another one of the privately owned springs which forbid public access. Then we saw a really weird collection of junk, and a trailer shack thing, and school bus near the bottom. It looked like somebody was living there (more like squatting or something). WTF!? The set up looked plain old nasty. But shortly after passing that, the land went back to being national forest, so our hopes went back up that the people who "owned" the shacks didn't also own the springs. We hoped anyways.
When we got down to the creek at the bottom of the mountain, we parked the baja. Nobody was there and it was totally silent. We saw on the map that the springs were slightly downstream, so we found a trail and started walking. Only about 5 minutes later did we start to smell sulfur very strongly, and BAM! Bumped right into a no trespassing sign saying the springs were closed. We looked around, but didn't go any further, fearing that one of the people who lived in the shacks would come running at us with a shot gun or something! I normally don't get scared of things like this, but this was giving me kind of a bad vibe!
More bubbling waters at Crabtree Hot Springs.
We turned around and walked back to the baja. We were hoping that the road out of the forest was passable, since we had no other options. But it turned out to be an okay road, without much events. I was just thinking about the hot springs, wondering about them along the whole way back. It was late afternoon by the time we got out of the forest, so we got back on the highway after taking a small detour to see the Indian Valley Reservoir. What a weird place, too! The reservoir must be kind of new, because the tops of old tall trees are sticking out, or the water level must be really low (although it didn't look like low water). Whatever the case, we want to go kayaking on it and paddle up to the freaky trees!!!!!
Indian Valley Reservoir, with freaky trees sticking out.
When we got back home, I Googled "crabtree hot springs" and was sooooooo surprised to see what turned out. Check out this link! It seems as if we had kept walking past the no trespassing sign, we would've got to some big HOT pools! However, the hot springs are kind of shrouded in some drama right now. Apparently the owners (who many think are squatters) have closed off public access to the springs, after first buying the property with the intention of "saving the springs" and having them be open to the public. Reading some info on the hot springs forums online, they seem to only allow people to come in if they bring a bottle of alcohol with them for the owners, or they are friends of the owners, etc. Also, it seems as if the owners are generally unpleasant people, and have basically ruined the soaking experience of many people who used to go there for years before. The most recent thing I read (as of July 2011) said that the woman owner became ill, and has left the property. The boyfriend of the owner has left as well. The springs are now free of their presence, and the shacks we drove by are supposedly unoccupied. The whole thing seems fishy to me. Hopefully the drama will end soon and the next time we return, we can actually soak without worry of crazy people!