25 September 2014

Golden Trout Wilderness tour: Jordan Hot Springs

Inyo National Forest

Locate the trailhead.


DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6 | DAY 7 | DAY 8

(Day 6 of 8) Today is a very easy day. The morning is to be looking for monuments around Casa Vieja Meadows and wandering three miles or so down the trail. The afternoon is to be sitting in the hot springs and exploring old cabins from when it was a commercial concern. The morning sun on the meadow is stunning, and after some battling with the camera in need of a new battery, I can capture a slightly lesser moment of the light. Then, with breakfast put away, I turn my attention to climbing the small peak just north of my campsite. Manzanita makes a feeble attempt to block my way sometimes and I am quickly into a cold wind, but soon find myself on Doc Peak, as it is labeled in the OpenStreetMap. It is another labeled with a benchmark on the 1905 Olancha 30' map and on the more recent 1987 Casa Vieja Meadows 7.5' quad. The benchmark is there, but has met with some tragedy. There are also two irregular logs that look like they have been placed upright in the rocks north and south of the benchmark. There are also dead trees propped up in cracks, but these two logs are distinctly different.

Casa Vieja Meadows
Ninemile Creek snaking through Casa Vieja Meadows in the morning sun.

2/3 of a monument on the rock
Another USGS elevation benchmark that may date back to 1905 or earlier. Although it is cracked and missing a third, the stamp of 8750 for the elevation can still be read. There is no year stamp.


large wood piece set into the rocks
The southerly of two large logs that seem to have been wedged into the rocks upright.

There is also no denying that this little peak gives a great view. I have not been able to see Kern Peak since standing on it, but I finally can have a look at it.

Ninemile Creek
Looking down Ninemile Creek.

Kern Peak
The south face of Kern Peak.

Casa Vieja Meadows
Casa Vieja Meadows.

The corner should be roughly below a saddle to the northeast, so I head that way down the mountain and into the saddle, then down the slope about the right number of feet. Much walking around does not find anything, so I start to poke around the meadow instead, looking for the spring in the upper portion of the arm of the meadow the trail comes in along. Multiple springs can be found. Then it is back over to the trail and looking for the corner again using other landmarks. I come to the same area and still see nothing except a very large rabbit. I decide to check out the ranger station and then pack up.

very solid cabin in the wilderness
The Casa Vieja Administrative Site, according to the sign, appears to be a very solid building.

Once back to camp and packed up, I start down the trail to Jordan Hot Springs. The trail drops along the creek, occasionally turning back to catch up with the drop of the creek. The creek seems to grow without any input, but then the trail crosses over a couple small springs.

Ninemile Creek
Starting down Ninemile Creek.

bit of log in the middle of the trail
A common error: you are supposed to cut out the part of the log that crosses the trail and leave the rest, not the other way around.

This changes suddenly as I enter a burn area. The canyon is hot under the forest of standing dead trunks. There is a campsite just before Long Canyon dumps its water into Ninemile Creek. I bump into three backpackers, three generations of a family, who have stopped to investigate the tree that fell down just behind them. The tree splintered when it fell leaving the trail clear, but clearly illustrates the danger of the area.

a forest of standing dead trees by the creek
Ninemile Creek passes through a large number of standing dead trees.

Passing a sign for a public pasture, I come to an old cabin. It has many tools and materials people are using to improve the hot spring and looks like someone likes to sleep in it. The roof and walls look like they could not hold any weather out. From by the cabin, I can see the other buildings are along the trail to the pasture, so double back to check them out.

very cute cabin
It is a very cute cabin down by the creek, but it does not look earthquake safe, or even stiff breeze safe.

path to the buildings
Entering Jordan Hot Springs Historical Site.

lush meadow
A couple cold springs feed the grass in the meadow near the buildings. The meadow above is fenced in, this one is open.

large cedars growing through building
One would think that a cedar as large as the two growing through this building would predate the structure.

fairly open structure
Another of the old buildings.

two wood burning stoves
Plenty of wood burning stove space to feed the camp.

Exploring further through the camp finds many tools and mysterious combinations of metal. There is a cold spring for water that I am told about, but do not find. Admittedly, I do not look that hard either. Oh, and there is a two seater. Behind the buildings, a trail leads to a small camp among more standing dead trees.

much metal things
A short bit of wide track, train wheels, and a hand cranked engine for some purpose I cannot fathom.

two seater pit toilet
And by two seater, I mean the biffy. For you and your closest pal.

Deciding it is hot spring time, I head down the trail back past the buildings toward the creek. The third and final group down for the hot spring today is releasing their mules into the fenced pasture and they are showing very obvious delight. There is much rolling in the dirt, trotting, light kicking, and play fighting swinging their heads into each other. There is a large pool, fed from a couple obvious hot springs and at least one underneath it as well as a mostly blocked inlet for cold water, and there are smaller pools. One is fed by a narrow waterfall of hot water while the other is below the large pool. Sandbags have been used to contain the water in the large pool. The grandfather and father are already enjoying the pool, while the son is fiddling with the pool with a waterfall. The water does feel extra nice and there is not even a heavy sulfur smell.

small pool with hot waterfall
Hot water pours into one of the smaller pools.

large pool
The large pool and the bathtub pool below it.

white posts where tubs used to be
Old wooden tubs were built on the other side of the creek but are almost completely gone now.

The grandfather told stories about taking the whole family out into this area for two or three weeks at a time, fishing as they went, and mentioned that hunting season is starting Saturday. They like to do little dissections of their fish and find out what it has been eating. Oh, and there are the fighter jets running the canyon. After a good soak, I decide on where to camp in the open space, well away from any standing dead trees, north of the creek in hope of getting sun in the morning. I can do the actual setting up later and set off to more exploring, water gathering, and even a little sketching. There are creatures in cold pools in the calcium formations north of the creek. It is a curious spot that rewards a little looking, not something to glance at as you pass on the longest day planned.

small pool of water maintained somehow
One of a few puddles in the grass on the white calcium formation north of the creek and hot springs.

creatures in the small pools
The small pools must maintain themselves somehow as there are things living in them.

calcium volcano
They called this the calcium volcano. It is also interesting how the vegetation changes.

After poking around and taking in all the "no camping" signs by the creek, I wander back to my legal camping spot to get some supper together and set up. Tucking in, there is gradually a well stocked sky of stars almost unobscured by trees. There is no moon and it is disconcerting that I have not actually seen the moon during this trip.

mules grazing
After the mules have settled down a bit.

Continue reading: day 7




©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 5 October 2014

1 comment:

kilo50 said...

Very interesting to see your photos of the old Jordan Hot Springs site. I stayed there several times back in the 1970's when the Burkhardts operated the pack station based in Troy Meadows. Never stayed in the cabins as I liked the pine/meadow margin camping zone much better. The old rickety cabin away from the main complex is called "Shorty's Cabin" and predates the main complex by at least two decades. Shorty built small cabins all over the southern Sierra which were always built with his size as as a guiding principle. In other words not for people over six feet. Shorty was a trapper and woodsman and moved from location to location depending on his needs and whims.

On one visit in the hunting season a group of LAPD were staying in the cabins and I volunteered for kitchen duty to help out the cook with the pay to be my meals. I must say I worked hard for those three good meals. Those guys were drunk the entire time. I was glad I was not a hunter.

Much has changed since then. As you noted the bathhouses are gone. They were quite comfortable. It is good to hear some one is attempting to create soaking pools. It is a sensitive area as the north meadow camping area has some Native-American archaeological sites so the National Forest Rangers are probably monitoring that concern. It was wonderful to revisit the place virtually. Thanks.

kilo50