We began our San Diego junket, after an uneventful flight and a quick lunch, with a trip out to Jacumba Hot Springs. Some might question the logic of a cross-country journey followed immediately by a drive out to the middle of nowhere. But when my aunt offered to take us to the natural springs, it seemed an opportunity not to be missed.
We drove nearly an hour outside San Diego, past some stunning desert landscapes. It's easy to forget that the lush green scenery we take for granted on the East Coast is not the norm in other parts of the country. Or, as my grandmother famously declared upon first visiting her daugher in San Diego, "These mountains don't grow trees, they grow rocks!" OK, it's not for everyone, but I relished the change of surroundings.
Before hitting the springs, we made a run for the border. Jacumba is literally right across the border from Mexico, and this was an opportunity to check out the infamous fence. Politics aside, it was a bit of a trippy experience. The actual fence was a mishmash of materials, ranging from corrugated metal sheets to a porous-looking series of rusty beams. The omnipresent border patrol skulked around in the shiny SUVs, and the Mexican side of the fence actually looked more well-maintained.
Border approach duly documented, it was time to hit the Springs! Jacumba Hot Springs Spa is a quirky little morsel of times gone by, when Depression-era movie stars came to soak in the sulfuric salubrity. The place is retro and then some! Back in its heyday, it was the place to be seen. These days... well... my aunt put it best as we were getting out of the car: "funky!"
There are several different pools fed by the nearby spring, but to really soak up the essence of the place I recommend spending time in "the spa," a small room containing a tiled pool about the size of a hot tub. It was hot & stinky and a little slimy, but the most interesting characters streamed through there. For, as with days gone by, one goes to the Jacumba Hot Springs as much for the peoplewatching and conversation as for the purported health benefits of the mineral-laden water.
Sufficiently aromatic, and more than a little pruney, we piled back into the car and headed back to civilization. By the time we got back to my brother's place in San Diego, between the jetlag and the somnolent car ride, we didn't last long before crashing. But our San Diego stint was off to a great start!
Next up: Torrey Pines