October 24, 2005
This past weekend I made my virgin trip to the Tecopa Hot Springs in Inyo County, California. I went with fellow DHSer, Karl, who had been many times before. I'd been wanting to visit Tecopa for years, but wanted a guide for my first visit, since the place is unusual and unique. First off, the central feature of the area, the Tecopa Hot Springs, is a sex-segregated, county-owned, public bathhouse which is (as far as I know, and if I'm wrong, I'd love to know it) the only publicly owned recreational facility in the U.S. with mandatory nudity. It is NOT clothing optional.
The area around Tecopa (Google map here) is just rife with hot springs bubbling up. The county baths (which is what we're going to call the official public bathhouse in the little buildings) are fed directly with hot water from the earth. The women's and men's buildings are separate. I've read and heard descriptions of the women's side, so my description of any differences is only hearsay. Both bathhouses feature two large tubs that are something like 8 feet by 10 feet with a maximum depth of 3 feet. They're smooth painted concrete, except they say that the women's tubs are gravel-bottomed, which sounds damned unpleasant to me.
The men's side has two undressing areas, one open-sky and the other under a roof. You just hang your belongings on a hook. No lockers. There's a restroom that includes two small stall showers. Pre-bath showering with soap is mandatory. Bring your own soap. Nobody checks on whether you use soap, and I did see one man go directly into the baths without showering. There is no cold water in the showers. You're just showering with more hot spring water. I would have enjoyed the chance to cool off under some icy water, but these Inyo County people are tougher than me.
I'm told that on the women's side, one of the pools is open to the sky, but both pools on the men's side are under roof, which is disappointing. There's the hot pool and the "cool" pool. They actually label it as such, without any quote marks or sarcasm. There are no thermometers floating in the pools, but other experienced men were estimated the temperature as being in the range of 105° to 108° (Fahrenheit, of course). The hot pool overflows through a small opening in the wall to cascade into the cool pool, which is maybe 3 or 4 degrees cooler than the hot pool. The overflow from the cool pool escapes back into nature via a pipe. There are shallow steps with good handrails leading into both pools. Outside the building there is a sign posted on a bulletin board limiting the hot pool to 7 men and the cool pool to 8. These are ridiculously low limits that must have been based on some sort of hygiene calculation; meaning that if you have a flow of X gallons of water per hour, then that's good enough to sweep away the bacteria from 15 men sufficiently well to keep us all healthy. That's my guess. Only a guess. Because the size of the pools allows for a LOT more than those figures. One man told us of visits by busloads of Asian tourists when there would be standing room only in the pools.
The elephant in the room at Tecopa Hot Springs is the recent (less than a year ago) takeover of management operations by a private firm called CLM. The county property there consists of the baths plus a large "camping" area. It took me about 24 hours to realize that in Inyo County "camping" means parking an RV...but tents are allowed too. The county used to charge very reasonable rates to camp. There are several private campgrounds (i.e., RV parks) in the area too. The baths themselves were free of charge and open 24 hours a day. Obviously, those were the golden days, and I've missed them. Now under private management (it's still owned by the county) they charge you $5 per day to use the baths (passes for longer periods are available) and they are open only from 6 AM to 9 PM. Initially they charged skyhigh prices to park in the campgrounds. Overnight they became the most expensive RV park in the area. Since the existing private RV parks were cleaner and offered more features, the county RV park went empty. CLM (which manages other public facilities in California) reduced the prices, but apparently not enough. A lot of people are angry at CLM for these recent changes and are boycotting it. During my visit there were less than half a dozen RVs (and one tenter) in the county park. The private parks were doing a bustling trade. Here's the official CLM web page for Tecopa Hot Springs.
The CLM ranger is stationed in a little building across the parking lot from the bathhouse. During this weekend, the ranger was Vic. He was nice enough, but fellow bathhouse attendees reported that other rangers went out of their way to be obnoxious and bothersome. As you approach the bathhouse, the ranger (who is usually sitting outside enjoying the fine desert weather) will greet you and sell you a wristband for $5. The wristband is your ticket into the baths. I am told the irritating rangers would come through the bathhouse as frequently as every quarter hour checking on wristbands. This would seem to be a pointless exercise to me, unless they actually want to piss off the customers. Tecopa is a VERY QUIET place. There are no teeming hordes. There's only one door into each bathhouse. The ranger can see anyone approaching on the single paved road. There's no way to sneak up or sneak in.
But the county facilities are not the only show in town, as I've said. The private RV parks all have their own bathhouses. Delight's Hot Springs Resort also offers mud baths. Karl and I stayed at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort, a privately owned place immediately next door to the county baths. We rented out their two motel-style rooms. The resort has tons of space for RVs, and I think they plan to open additional rooms and cabins in the future. Tecopa Hot Springs Resort features a private bathhouse uphill from the residential area. It's got two indoor tubs (with two more that are being rehabbed), each big enough for a handful of adults. The water is very hot. And they've got cold water in their showers!
A couple of photos of Tecopa Hot Springs Resort:
There are two popular watering holes outside of this developed area around Tecopa Hot Springs. One is the so-called "wild spa" (or "one-palm spa") out in the desert. More on that later. The other spot is a natural, hot mud bath. I walked to that. It's maybe a mile from where Karl and I were staying. You go northish on the paved road, across the wetlands, and then where you see the cable that prevents off-road vehicles from driving to the mud spa, you turn right and head across the side of the mud hill following the stream. You'll find one spot where someone has laid out a couple of wooden pallets in the stream. I went beyond that to another site where some good person has put an aluminum ladder down into the hot stream and mud. I stripped off — this is in full sight of the paved road, but (A) there is very little traffic, and (B) public nude bathing seems to be legal and widely accepted in Inyo County. I climbed down the ladder. It was a very weird experience for me, never having popped into a mud bath before...much less a hot natural one out in open country. Standing, I sank into the mud about a foot. It's a bit unnerving to walk and feel myself sinking into an unseen, sticky which might hide who-knows-what — except it doesn't hide anything. The place seems to be totally innocent and safe. I reached under the hot water (it IS very hot) and scooped up handfuls of mud to rub on myself. It's just a bit rough and feels like it should be a good exfoliant. It's only a little sticky. A couple of vigorous swishes in the water will wash it right off. The only drawback is that it has a slight odor of sulfur and (maybe) a bit of methane(?) which might put off the squeamish. I stayed only a little while since I was alone and the sun was moving toward the horizon. I think it'd be great fun to be there with a group of people to engage in a bit of mutual mudplay.
Love the Bath House at Tecopa Hot Spring. A rare place where gay and straight can mix happily and beautifully.
Meet the most interesting people there. Guys are open and friendly.
Can lay on a bench nude and catch a few rays in the open area.
The water could not be better - utterly crystal clear, ever changing and the perfect temperatures.
The hottest pool has exercise bars for chinning and along one side for water exercises.
The Staff check who is doing what to whom only rarely - if ever. Its open 24/7 and late at night things can get very educational. But there is a sweet atmosphere at all times in both pools.
Posted by: Harry12349 at Feb 23, 2017 5:48:06 PM
I am surprised at the negative comments about Vic. Maybe he has a dark side, I do not know. He has always treated me well.
Posted by: Harry12349 at Feb 23, 2017 5:40:52 PM
My first comment did not post. As I remember I praised the Bath House. I meet the most interesting people there. Its open 24/7. The hot pool has
bars for exercising. I do yoga and chinning sometimes before a small audience and sometimes alone.
The Staff are really lovely people I greatly like. They rarely, if ever, (2 months ago)
check who is doing what to whom, where.
The guys who come are discrete to be sure. There is no distinction between gay and straight. Its not an issue. I love this.
Posted by: Harry12349 at Feb 23, 2017 5:39:00 PM
AND, being a male naturist who, of course, loves to be naked in the sun and wind in the open desert, this is the place.
Begin hike nude and walk for hours and see no one - even at a distance.
often ending up at a little warm pool
about half a mile from Delights. Meet really interesting people there - always
men and rarely more than 2. Nothing quite like being naked in that lovely spot with other naked men. I have to travel some 2300 miles to get there but this alone is worth the trip. People can be so beautiful.
But then I love being nude with other nude people and hiking nude in the
desert. One thing which keeps me
in shape (32" waist) is knowing I will be nude and others will see me. Love my flat stomach!
Experiencing sun rises and sun sets
from here is also life changing experiences. Alone or with new friends
Oh, the water temperature in the Little Pool is about 95 or so. And if you are very quiet all sorts of desert wild life
appear seemingly out of nowhere. The dragon flies will come right up to you and check you out for a meal! They are harmless - except to small flying insects.
Posted by: Harry12349 at Feb 23, 2017 5:33:17 PM
Tecopa Hot Springs is one of my favorite places in the world - and I have traveled a bit in my work. In the bath house, meet
really interesting people. Very different
atmosphere from where I live (Washington, DC. Gay and straight come together with casual ease. No issue here.
Oh, and its open 24/7 again. I believe
the CLM person checks every now and then to make sure there is no sexual activity. As of 2 months ago, this person did not check at all.
Posted by: Harry12349 at Feb 23, 2017 5:20:33 PM
i was wondering if you could answer some other things for me ? firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by: dave at May 16, 2016 12:02:34 PM
Tecopa is great. I love being nude there. If you are a nudist, this is the place. So great to be nude!!!!!!!
Posted by: nudist at Jul 21, 2014 3:06:50 AM
I thought Vic did a good job. I was at Tecopa a few weeks ago - my first time to see the new staff. Not nearly so sharp. We walked up to the dutch door to pay our money. The CLM employee just sat at his desk and didn't notice us. Vic would be halfway out the dutch door before you shut off your engine. So we said "Excuse me?" to get this new guy's attention. He turned and saw us and, still seated, said "Yeah, can I help you?" So we said, we're here to give you money. Then he got up and walked over to us to take our money.
Much later, when we were leaving the baths, a female employee who had completely ignored us when we arrived, gave us the third degree when we were leaving, attempting to verify that we had actually paid. "Did you pay? Where did you pay? Who did you pay? How much did you pay?"
If they're going to start doing things this way, then they should go back to the old paper bracelets so they know who's paid and not.
Posted by: Ron's Log at Mar 14, 2009 8:29:53 AM
Just so everyone knows the CLM is doing a great job. Vic Lopez is no longer here. The staff keeps the place very clean and safe. Tecopa is very relaxing peaceful charming and fun! Please dont get bogged down by all these scumbags who like to name call and call people mean things on the internet. (its just because they have no guts to do it in person!)
There is also a AMAZING bistro that opened called Pastels Bisrto on the tecopa hot springs resort and it is fabulous!!! It is ran by a 5 star chef from Las Vegas and trust me you will NOT be disappointed.
Posted by: Ryan at Mar 14, 2009 7:31:58 AM
Tubs are closer to 12 x 16 feet each.
Posted by: at Sep 19, 2008 1:59:08 PM
Tecopa is a wonderful place to be, and cheap by any standards, $205 to park your rig,
per month, electricity included and all the soaking you want, all day everyday if
desired for your spouse/significant other etc. Heck it would cost you $300 a month just
to use the baths for you and another at $5.00 and no parking of your RV with
electricity. Come and enjoy, beautiful place, library and a community center a stones-
throw away. Also there is now a first class (food-wise) restuarant next door in Amy's
Tecopa Hot Springs Resort, it's called Pastels Bistro and is run by an excellent chef.
Posted by: Tecopanite at Sep 19, 2008 1:37:53 PM
Or you could just go directly here. Direct links are always preferred over treasure hunting games.
The author is Cyndy Hodo and here's the description of the story: "A true story of adventure in the Mojave Desert, The Heyoka Zone is a tale of the tangled connections the desert weaves in a place where everyone seems strangely familiar, in a place where time stands still and a place where, once on the path of the coyote, anything can happen."
You can buy a paper copy for $8.91 or you can download the 2.3 Mb PDF for free.
Posted by: Ron's Log at Sep 2, 2008 8:55:57 AM
Want the inside story on Tecopa Hot Springs, Victor Lopez and CLM? A book has been written about the outrageous happenings there. It's available as a free download. Go to www.lulu.com and enter The Heyoka Zone into the search field. Names have been changed, but the story is true.
Posted by: Shakti at Aug 27, 2008 8:09:15 AM
We have not set foot in Tecopa now since the CLM prison
camp took over. We use to go for over 15 years before ... Here is a website we found...
Posted by: Henry at Dec 8, 2007 9:21:08 PM
I havn't been to Tecopa in about 5 years. Sounds like it has
changed for the worse. Too bad....talk about trying to fix
something that's not broken.
Posted by: Randy at Oct 3, 2007 8:47:55 PM
Vic is a man trying to do a good job and the majority of the "mud" throwers
haven't got a clue what it would be like to work so hard for nasty little minded
people..........get a life folks and leave the man alone, he is doing one heck
of a fantastic job.
Posted by: Linda Lois at Dec 3, 2006 7:10:47 PM
Vic Lopez is a asswipe is right !!! This guy is a loud mouth asshole to !
Posted by: Brian Kelly at Nov 16, 2006 9:19:56 PM
Vic Lopez is a real piece of shit in my opion !
Posted by: Brian Kelly at Nov 16, 2006 9:17:43 PM
The front of the men's and women's pool houses are now enclosed by an expanse of ornamental wooden fence with a small attendant's room midway. You walk through the front door of the attendant's room, pay the fee (still $5), and then exit through a rear door into the new enclosed space with access to the pool houses. One result is a much more attractive facility, and I've seen people reading on the benches in the newly created privacy of the enclosure.
CLM wanted to also gut the pool houses and replace all the cabinets, showers, porcelain fixtures, etc., but the locals complained about a proposed three-week shutdown, so this work will instead be done piecemeal over the following summers when usage is low.
Posted by: at Oct 24, 2006 5:55:54 PM
Vic is a asswipe ... period
Posted by: bob at Jul 6, 2006 11:51:35 PM
I was in the pools a couple weeks before you Ron. The rangers rarely entered and were friendly. Something must have happened later in the month. There were some bathing suit violations when I was there. Vic had to physically drag four suited bathers out of the water for refusing to disrobe. Also, one bather passed out, probably due to the transfer of blood from his brain into another organ.
Posted by: Arlo at Oct 28, 2005 4:40:04 PM