Zen On Dirt

Day 17 – Hot springs!

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I think it was semi-rad who once wrote that there were two types of people in this world: Hot springs people, and non-hot springs people. There were those who’d go to great lengths to seek out secluded pools and soak for hours, and those who didn’t really understand the big deal.

I, having never soaked in a natural hot spring pool, considered myself in the latter category, but was always curious about the fuss.

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So when Scott piped up on our last day in Grants – I think I’ve found a route from Cuba to Abiquiu that keeps us mostly off the Tour Divide route and takes us by a hot spring! – I said – C’mon, twist my arm a little further.

We had what some would call a lazy morning in Cuba. It was somewhere on the order of 7:30 when I finally rolled out of bed and we made our way over to the Cuban Cafe. We’d seen a picture of their breakfast burritos on the Facebook and knew it was a place we needed to visit.

The owner was super friendly and gave us a nice little spot to stow the bikes and we walked in, ready for a big meal. And Rick was there! Sitting at a back table, we invited ourselves over to eat with him. Well, it’s more like we just sat down across from him and said – Hi stranger! We traded war stories – Drizzle and mud for him, lack of trail for us.

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He looked tired. New Mexico is a hard state on the Divide route, and while it may be good to get it out of the way early, there’s a whole lot of learning to be done on the trail that’s easier to do when you’re not 100’s of miles between resupply points and water sources.

From breakfast, we headed to the BLM/Forest Service office across the street. We needed beta on our route to make sure all the roads we wanted to take were open to bikes, and Scott wanted to give the BLM an earful about keeping trails closed to mountain bikes. We succeeded with the first, with vague directions to the hot spring (look for a parking area and a break in the fence and then hike down) but failed at the second, as the BLM had moved the office to ABQ. (Except that if you call the ABQ BLM, they tell you that they have someone in Cuba. And then want to know if your question is about oil and gas.)

Then back to the room. Blog post. Email replies, A little bit of work. At 10:30, we went to go request a late check out. Sign the hiker log book. Pack up bikes. Decide we were hungry again.

It was only after lunch at the BBQ joint across the street that we finally hit the trail. We followed the TD route north, climbing 1,900 feet on pavement, burping up BBQ chicken and hamburgers and left the route on the other side of Senorita Pass. Scott had put together a beautiful route of dirt roads, some smooth, some rough, some really rough, but never, ever flat. It was a super cook traversal of the San Pedro range.

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Tire tracks. Bear tracks.

Once on 144, we started looking around for our parking pullout with the break in the fence. The one car we saw all day came by as we looked confusedly at another pullout that backed up to a cliff. We could see the river and structures by the spring below. “Do you know how to get to the hot springs?” they asked.

“We were going to ask you the same question!”

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They went looking one direction, we went the other, finally spotting the trail heading down a weakness in the cliff band. We stashed the bikes in the trees and headed down the 400 foot scramble. A quick march along an old dirt road, a climb up the other side, and there were the San Antonio hot springs. The couple in the car had beat us down, choosing to take a longer, but more straightforward route.

It was…beautiful? Soothing? The perfect place to watch the sun set?

The ideal hiking diversion from a bike route.

We soaked. We shared a beer (and by shared, Scott had a sip, declared – it tastes like beer – and let me finish the rest). We tested out all the different pools.

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I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty – I’m a hot springs person.

We scrambled back up to our bikes, just beating darkness and set up camp at the edge of the cliffband. I’d opted to haul 2+ pounds of leftover Mexican food from El Bruno last night, which made for a delightful dinner. What was a fiesta platter last night, was a giant ball of beans, rice, avodabo, chicken, ground beef, chile relleno, and cheese. Sometimes my insistence of not wasting food turns out just fantastic.

Tomorrow, Abiquiu and on to Ghost Ranch. Giddy-up!

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2 thoughts on “Day 17 – Hot springs!

  1. Great stuff, Eszter! You’re helping a high school principal in Texas maintain sanity through the last days of the semester (until I can get on MY bike).
    Have a great time in CO!

  2. San Antonio is a good one, and should be on the GD route.

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