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Back in February I was sitting in my chair recalling the previous summer’s backpacking adventure. Five of us took on a weekend trip into the Domeland Wilderness. I enjoyed every minute of that trip, even though we had some surprises come our way. We didn’t get to relax much as I had hoped because of those problems. I wanted something a little bit different this time around. I wanted a trip where one could get away from everything, yet not have to be hiking all weekend to do so. Scrambling through my topo programs, I discovered a trail to Jordan Hot Springs.
Jordan Hot Springs is within the Golden Trout Wilderness on the Inyo National Forest. I had never backpacked into the Inyo before and having a hot springs to welcome adventurers like me at the end of the day sounded great. Five miles in, relax all the next day, and then hike back out on the third day to return home. It sounded wonderful and so preparations began! The trip was going to be over Labor Day weekend…just 7 months away.
Day 1 – We Arrive…a Little Past Schedule
After waiting 7 months for the weekend to arrive, the day to depart into the wilderness had arrived. The majority of people couldn’t make the trip. School started for a lot of people and others just got a new job, so it was only Joe and I. I decided to bring my dog along, since we had the room, and offered Joe to bring his dog along. We thought it would be a good time to help socialize and train them in the outdoors. We introduced both dogs to each other at his place. There was the usual barking and all that, but within a few minutes they just wanted to run around and play. The gear was loaded in the truck and the dogs were secured in the back end. At 1230 PM we were off to the wilderness!
The dogs were having some problems along the way so we stopped several times. Since they were knew to each other, we later concluded they must have been nervous so a lot of bathroom stops had to be made. The stops pushed our arrival time further away. The other delays were dealing with the temperature outside. The temperature outside was 108 and we stopped a couple of times to give them water and to hose them down. We even stopped at a station in California Hot Springs to fill up the bed of the truck with 3 inches of standing water. Both dogs happily laid down to soak up the cool water. We finally arrived at the trailhead around 440 PM.
With our backpacks on and the dogs ready to go, we set foot on the trail around 5 PM. We walked about 200 yards along the trail and reached the Golden Trout Wilderness Inyo National Forest sign. That was the only uphill part of the trip as we would end up going downhill from approximately 9,000 feet elevation to 6,500 feet over 5 miles.
An hour had passed and we were all enjoying the outdoors. Sheila was leading up ahead of us while Shiloh was learning to keep the distance Joe was instructing her to keep. A stringer meadow followed along side the trail until we reached Casa Vieja Meadows at 550 PM. It was a pretty meadow and we snapped a few photos of us with our companions.
We were making good time and decided to push for arriving at Jordan Hot Springs. We were behind about an hour and a half, but we also had almost 2 hours of day light left. Down the mountain we continued as quickly as we could. Sheila ended up disturbing a hornet’s nest so we ran down along the trail pushing the dogs. Both dogs had at least half a dozen or so hornets on their faces and backs stinging them. Sheila kept diving into the dirt in hopes to get them off while Shiloh would stop to try and scratch them off. All we could do is keep pushing them along until we were far enough away to safely stop. Both Joe and I made it through without being stung.
About three quarters of the way to our destination we passed by a huge rattlesnake. He didn’t warn us till everyone had passed him. I heard him start to rattle and quickly turn to see him off the trail and behind us about 15 feet. I yelled at Joe to come and take a look at how big this snake was that we just missed. He couldn’t see the snake, so I went down to pick up a piece of wood to toss near the snake. What I didn’t count on was Shiloh coming back up the trail and rushing towards the stick to retrieve it. You talk about a lot happening within seconds. Instantly as Shiloh passed by us both Joe and I were trying to get her to come back without her getting bit. She found the stick, but didn’t see the snake yet. Looking at us with confusion as to what the commotion was all about, she finally heard the rattling of the snake. She turned to see him coiling and rising up. The dog no longer was listening to us, but was intrigued with this newly discovered living creature. I kid you not, the dog got so close to the snake, the tongue from the snake touched Shiloh’s nose. The snake still wasn’t striking yet, though tightly coiled and ready. I quickly put my trekking pole in between both of them and pushed the dog back. The snake was still there, but Shiloh’s fixation with the snake was broken and Joe was able to get her. We then continued on the trail with me apologizing a few times.
We eventually made it to camp around 740 PM. Tents were setup with thee headlamp, as Joe had later put it, and then dinner was cooked. The dogs being tired of walking on the trail had a new found energy and began playing while we worked. Around 10 PM, we went to bed only to be woken up a several times of the dogs playing at night.
Day 2 – Relaxing
I got out of my tent at 6 AM like I always tend to do. I started a fire and worked on cooking breakfast. After a little while I did let Sheila off her rope and the dogs continued right were they left off. Now needing to refill my Nalgenes, the dogs and I went down to the creek. I met up with our neighbors while filtering some water. She mentioned her group was heading out today and had been in Jordan Hot Springs since Thursday. When I was done filtering the water and returning to camp, she went used the same rock I was on to filter her group’s water. A few minutes later back at camp, Joe had come out of his tent to start his day.
Around mid morning we both decided to go down and see what the Jordan Hot Springs looked like. There was some evidence of old development of the area, but most of it was probably washed away over the years. The area was also within the McNally Fire, so the high flows that came through also damaged some of the developed pools. However, since then people had started reconstruction on it the best they could. Rocks were used as barriers and some of the old pipes were used to collect the hot water. It was still a little bit early to jump in one, so we decided to train and play with our dogs a bit.
After eating lunch, we decided to go fishing. Joe grabbed his fly rod and I grabbed my camera. He did all the fishing as I just was enjoying going on a walk alongside the creek with my dog. The previous night we had to cross the creek by “charging through.” We couldn’t find a bridge or a way to cross. We didn’t want to take off our boots either. Well along my way up the creek, I found the foot bridge I missed the night before. I was also able to this time check out the old historical cabin that is still standing near there too.
Mid afternoon, the dogs were finally tired. Seeing the dogs were out cold, Joe decided to follow their lead and take a nap of his own. I retrieved a ham radio from my backpack and was trying to see if I could get in touch with my dad. I didn’t have any luck, but it was fun trying out other features with the handheld ham radio. The dogs came with me while I tried to get to higher ground. I still didn’t have any luck, but exploring the area was enjoyable.
Around 5 PM, both Joe and I decided to get in the hot springs. Joe remembered reading how refreshing these hot springs and come to find out, they were. It was like a warm bath. I sat in one of the pools for a few minutes to enjoy the cleansing warmth the waters provided. All the washed off me and my muscles were relaxed. After getting out, we returned to camp to cook some dinner. This time it was still light out when we cooked our food!
Day 3 – Leaving It All Behind
We were both up at 6 AM, eat breakfast, and packed up camp. We both had a great night sleep. Not just because we relaxed in the hot springs, but we tied both dogs up. The previous night, the dogs played all night long and kept waking us both up. Unfortunately for Joe he was closer to them, so naturally he woke up more often then me. Refreshed and ready to go, we went down to filter some water and make our way back up to 9,000 feet.
It was a nice easy pace and we both made sure we stayed hydrated on our way up. I snacked on trail mix about every hour to make sure I had enough energy. The trial mix of choice was two kinds by Bare Naked called Sierra Trail Mix and Banana Nut. If you never have tried their trail mixes before, you are missing out. It is the best trail mix I have ever had. They are as natural and unprocessed you can get.
Anyway, we crossed creeks on our way up, had to run uphill this time through the hornets nest, and eventually we were able to get to the top of the steepest part of the climb. The steepest part is from Jordan Hot Springs to Casa Vieja Meadows. We arrived at the meadow around 1130 AM and eventually arrived at the truck around 1 PM. We were home at 430 PM with no dog troubles this time around. They slept most of the way home. The weather was also a lot cooler, so we didn’t have to water them down this time. In fact, we had the windows down about 95% of the time. It was a nice drive home.
One thing we were keeping count on the whole weekend was how many trees were falling over. We counted 15 trees had fallen within hearing distance. We saw one about a quarter mile away fall as a cloud of dust came up into the air. We were in a safe camping spot practically in a meadow. No snags were near us, so it was different to hear them fall all around you that weekend.
So that concludes another adventure out in the Sierra Nevadas. It was a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it for anyone wanted a weekend adventure. The hot springs are refreshing and you have some great views of the landscape and surrounding tall peaks.