San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

I hadn't made the drive to Puertecitos for several years. Why would I? What's in Puertecitos that you can't find here in San Felipe? Well, there's the hot springs, the geothermally heated tide pools. They attract a steady trickle of hearty souls who want to warm their bones in Nature's own hot tubs. And believe me, after the drive to Puertecitos, their bones need to be warmed. The road to Puertecitos isn't what you might call user-friendly, having shown signs of organ-rejection only a short time after its construction. But since its encounter with Hurricane Nora in 1997, the road has been downright rude. Cynthia, a visitor from Calgary, Alberta, and myself made the journey some time ago. She had expressed a desire to rest in the warm waters of the springs and I thought it might be a good idea to acquaint myself with the current road condition.Saturday Again?

We left at 7 AM. The first eighteen miles of the trip was perfectly acceptable, just as rumors described it. But the next thirty eight miles was a different story. Imagine being trapped inside an enormous rock tumbler and at the same time suffering an attact of St. Vitus Dance. Throw the whole experience on a set of bad shock obsorbers. That's the last thirty eight miles to Puertecitos. In fairness the trip wasn't quite as bad as I had anticipated. Of course the company probably had a lot to do with it. Good companionship makes a difference in how you perceive time. Einstein once said, "One hour with a pretty woman can feel like two minutes. But a few minutes sitting on a hot stove can feel like hours". As always, Einstein was right.

When Cynthia and I arrived, we made straight for the hot springs. But times are tough in the economy of Puertecitos. We were intercpted at the first entrance gate by a Mexican woman who announced it would cost us $1 apiece to visit the springs.

Five minutes and two dollars later we were sequentially dipping our toes in the three main natural hot tubs, the three little low-tide bears.

Visitors Enjoying the Hot Springs.

The papa bear, we decided, was too hot. The moma bear already had two tourists sitting in it and their familiarity didn't invite interruption. So we settled ourself into the baby bear, which was a tad too shallow and cool for our liking. We suspected mama bear was just right. A half hour later mama bear was deserted and we made the pilgrimage. And yes, it WAS just right. Perfectly soothing in temperature and deep enough to bury one's woes up to the neck. Some time later two Americans joined us. Apparently our demeanor wasn't sufficiently intimate to deter them. They went straight from papa bear to mama bear. For the next hour or so people slowly trickled to the site. Cynthia and I had arrived at the best time, just a little after low tide. Once the pools are uncovered, the thermal jets within them slowly heat each natural tub at different rates, depending on their size and the number of hot jets that feed them. So it is generally possible to find one of the five or six pools to suit your temperature taste. But as time passes, the pools gradually heat up and after an hour or so, you may find yourself migrating from mama bear to baby bear.

When the place began to feel more like a health spa than a retreat, Cynthia and I packed up our belongings and drove south, to Campo Costillo where I hoped to pay a surprise visit to some friends. But except for a rather forlorn looking dog combing through an overturned garbage can, the camp was deserted. Not a solitary soul present. We looked for UFO burn marks on the ground but everything appeared normal. Lunch was prepared in the back of the pickup truck; sandwiches made from good dark rye bread, buttered with cream cheese and layered with slices of cucumbers and tomatoes. The dog liked the bread and grudgingly ate slices of tomato, but wanted nothing to do with cucumber. He was thrilled with a package of cookies I had brought. The trip back to San Felipe seemed longer, if only because Cynthia and I both had mild headaches from our overzealous use of the hot springs. And perhaps the cumulative effects of the pogo-stick-like dance of the truck during the entire day's activities. We arrived in San Felipe as the sun was setting and the eastern horizon glowed with beautiful mauve and magenta colors over a calm, reflecting sea. It had been a good journey. Bad road and all.