After San Francisco, Vanessa had a birthday surprise planned. It goes without saying, that it's hard to plan surprises when you're living in an RV. Everyone is pretty much in everyone else's business, so surprises are few and far between. But, Vanessa did a great job at keeping this little gem a secret.
Orr Hot Springs is nestled deep in the rolling hills of the Mendocino Coastal Range. It's the type of place that if research wasn't done prior to visiting Ukiah, you'd never even know it existed. Which is honestly what the Hot Springs probably prefers. They revel in exclusivity, not in a pompous "look-at-us-we're-fancy" type of way, but in a way that truly has the visitors in mind. Besides, if you have a bunch of people flocking to the Hot Springs like it was Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, who would really be able to enjoy themselves?
After a 12-mile trek through the mountains, up and down, around and over, we made it to the right place. It's secluded, it's hidden, it's private—everything we hoped it would be.
Since it's located in such a remote part of the Ukiah mountainside, there's not a sound for miles except for the rustling of branches above our heads and the trickle of a stream which runs through the resort. Silence, seclusion, and a little slice of heaven.
The thing about Orr Hot Springs Resort is that if you aren't staying the night in one of the yurts, cabins, or tents, then they only admit a few parties to spend the day. That's how much they value the seclusion and integrity of the place.
After checking in, we were met by a friendly face who was herself, checking out. The first thing she asked us, was if we wanted some vegetables. A bit confused, we said yes, and Vanessa followed her into the community kitchen.
Turns out, Orr Hot Springs doesn't sell food, or have any sort of concessions. Yet, they offer a HUGE community kitchen and encourage visitors to bring their own food and use everything at their leisure. Since this woman was leaving back to San Francisco, she had a ton of food that she didn't want to throw away. So, we procured:
A 3/4 full bottle of red
That's how we came to have this delicious feast...
The kitchen itself was enormous, and had literally everything you could ask for. It was like a commercial kitchen, that was free to use, as long as you cleaned up after yourself before you ate. That was their ONLY requirement. That, and you needed to compost your scraps for the chickens. We had a blast cooking our meals with fellow hot springers (is that a thing?), listening to someone play the piano in the other room. It was such a relaxing environment....and I haven't even mentioned the springs yet.
There were different ways in which you could enjoy the springs, located throughout the property. From the two HOT pools, which could fit about 10 people in each comfortably, to the giant cold pool in the back, plus a barrage of claw-foot tubs which featured water directly from the springs at various temperatures. At the top of the highest deck were two stargazing tubs, where you could soak and watch the stars. They also had a handful of private rooms, each with an individual tub of their own. Plus, there was both a wet sauna and dry sauna at the back of the property.
After you were done with a tub, you drained it, scrubbed it out with a scrub brush, and refilled it for the next person. It was that simple. Every time you approached an empty tub, it was already filled with fresh spring water for you to enjoy.
It was truly a tranquil, magical place.
In case you didn't know why hot springs are so damn great, it's not just because they're warm and relaxing. The mineral waters are heralded as bringing relief to arthritis and rheumatism, and to blood, kidney and liver disorders. This is why many hot springs were deemed "healing waters" in the past, due to the variety of health benefits from just sitting and absorbing the minerals into your skin.
Everyone was extremely friendly and respectful—especially because it was clothing optional. I've never really experienced anything of the kind before, but it was nice to see people of all different shapes and sizes completely comfortable in their own skin. There were no creepy men, no insecure women...everyone was free and confident which added to the serene atmosphere. Being a naturalist herself, Vanessa felt right at home.
We fell asleep in our bath tubs at one point, the sun shining overhead. The water was extremely pleasant, not too hot, not too cold. But after the few weeks we had of running around from state to state, it was a glorious way to unwind, and soak in some sun and minerals. We will absolutely be back to visit Orr Hot Springs, maybe a bit more prepared with our own food, and perhaps we'll bring our tent and camp next to the stream for a nice, quiet weekend.
Until then...it's back to living in an RV for us!
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