October 24, 2013 – Here we sit in the Fountain of Youth Spa & RV Park in southern California overlooking the Salton Sea. Our friend Doris, who came on our first Baja tour, spoke highly about her experience and we thought we should try it out, good decision for sure. This is a large park with 800 sites and all the amenities you could imagine. Quite a treat for us Baja travelers. We arrived just before the rush of Canadians who will begin showing up on mass November 1st. We spent yesterday between hot springs fed pool and hot tubs, they have 8, under blue skies and warm temperatures, yesterdays high was 90F, 31C.
The origin of this park and the hot springs was hot water hidden beneath the desert floor for centuries; until it was discovered in 1938 by construction workers who needed a water source to mix concrete for the All American Canal. They found the water was full of minerals and too hot to use and created settling pools to cool the water and remove the excess minerals. After the Canal was completed the ponds were left abandoned. They were rediscovered after WWII, by another group of construction workers who were improving Hwy. 111, the ponds became a favorite spot for bathing after work. These workers were the first to recognize the therapeutic and healing effects of the artesian mineral water, and spread the word.By the late 50’s people from all over the country were coming to camp by the pools, one of whom was Clyde Hays, a carpenter from Oregon who worked winters in Brawley. Hays convinced J.T. Trily, a local contractor, that the addition of facilities and utilities would make the area an ideal spot for an RV and mobile home park. Trily and prospector Frank Domeno began a 2 year process of collecting water samples from all over the area to find the best location to tap into the hot water. Once found, a well was drilled, producing 250 gallons a minute of 137 degree water. The Fountain of Youth Spa was born.
After leaving Modesto we continued south on Hwy 99 then east on Hwy 58 heading for Joshua Tree National Forest. Along the way we stopped at the Rio Tinto Sodium Borate Open Pit Mine to visit the Borax Visitor Center. We learned lots about what is commonly known as Borax, the mine itself and the 20 Mule Team that hauled this across the desert, something many of us can recall from our youth.
Twenty-mule teams were teams of eighteen mules and two horses attached to large wagons that ferried borax out of Death Valley from 1883 to 1889. They traveled from mines across the Mojave Desert to the nearest railroad spur, 165 miles (275 km) away in Mojave, California. The routes were from Furnace Creek, California, to Mojave, California, and from the mines at Old Borate to Mojave. The wagons were among the largest ever pulled by draft animals, designed to carry 10 short tons (9 metric tons) of borax ore at a time. After we left the Visitors Center we headed off to the local RV park in Boron, reasonably priced and clean.
The next day we were off to the Joshua Tree National Park, located in southeastern California. Declared a U.S. National Park in 1994, it had previously been a U.S. National Monument since 1936. It is named for the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) forests native to the park and covers a land area of 790,636 acres, – an area slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island. A large part of the park, some 429,690 acres is a designated wilderness area. Straddling the San Bernardino County/Riverside County border, the park includes parts of two deserts, each an ecosystem whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation: the higher Mojave Desert and lower Colorado Desert. The Little San Bernardino Mountains run through the southwest edge of the park. After visiting the Visitor Center we went to Keys View for a spectacular overlook towards Palm Springs, the Imperial Valley, the Salton Sea and the San Andreas Fault. We stayed the evening at the Jumbo Rocks Campground, the rock formations reminds us a lots of Catavina on Baja. It was a cool night at 4400 ft, but everyone had a great sleep. The next day we headed down to the Salton Sea, 300 ft below sea level.
Did You Know?
The Fountain of Youth is a legendary spring that supposedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks or bathes in its waters. Tales of such a fountain have been recounted across the world for thousands of years, appearing in writings by Herodotus, the Alexander romance, and the stories of Prester John. Stories of similar waters were also evidently prominent among the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean during the Age of Exploration, who spoke of the restorative powers of the water in the mythical land of Bimini.
According to legend, the Spanish heard of Bimini from the Arawaks in Hispaniola, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. The Caribbean islanders described a mythical land of Beimeni or Beniny (whence Bimini), a land of wealth and prosperity, which became conflated with the fountain legend. By the time of Ponce de Leon, the land was thought to be located northwest towards the Bahamas (called la Vieja during the Ponce expedition). The natives were likely referring to the Maya. The legend became particularly prominent in the 16th century, when it became attached to the Spanish explorer and conquistador Juan Ponce de León, first Governor of Puerto Rico. Allegedly Ponce de León was searching for the Fountain of Youth when he traveled to what is now Florida in 1513.
In the 16th century the story of the Fountain of Youth became attached to the biography of the conquistador Juan Ponce de León. As attested by his royal charter, Ponce de León was charged with discovering the land of Beniny. Although the Indians were probably describing the land of the Maya in Yucatan, the name—and legends about Boinca’s fountain of youth—became associated with the Bahamas instead. However, Ponce de León did not mention the fountain in any of his writings throughout the course of his expedition. While he may well have heard of the Fountain and believed in it, his name was not associated with the legend in writing until after his death. The connection was made in Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo‘s Historia General y Natural de las Indias of 1535, in which he wrote that Ponce de León was looking for the waters of Bimini to regain youthfulness. For over a hundred years the Spanish unsuccessfully searched every “river, brook, lagoon or pool” along the Florida coast for the legendary Fountain of Youth.