Taking the waters in Texas
Updated: Feb 3
On my Texas road-tripping in January 2022, I made the mistake of trying to do too much: west Texas AND the gulf coast, in one journey.
It meant that I skipped over some west Texas experiences. This year I addressed that omission by taking the increasingly smaller and lesser roads and finally seven miles of dirt track to end up at Chinati Hotsprings.
The final stretch of the journey, the dirt road piece which dead ends in my desired destination, had interesting hand made ceramic tile roadsigns, all obviously the work of the same artist.
As someone who grew up at the end of a miles long dirt road, I found road conditions excellent. It is open range country, vast acres of it, so cattle, horses and even some pigs were frequently on the road or besides it. That too is something I was born to. It does require vigilant driving: all the better to admire the wraparound Chihauhauan desert Chinati mountains scenery, beautiful even in midwinter, and with scant sign of human habitation for miles.
On this road trip, my two night bivouac at the Chinati Hotsprings met all expectations and more.
My adobe and stone casita was comfortable and appropriate to the borderland setting. Coming as it did with it's own private open air cowboy tub for soaking in the hot mineral water, I certainly felt like Numero Uno as the sign on my casita said.
Obviously I spent much of my time at this peaceful no WiFi no phone signal thus no electronics or tv place of retreat, taking the waters.
Repeatedly. Knitting, reading, walking in the desert and yoga also featured but mostly soaking in 21 million year old, sweet, hot mineral water.
I lucked out on a period of cloudless (though cold) weather, getting in and out ahead of a seriously cold and damp winter storm which is currently happening in Texas. By day the vista above me as I soaked was endless enamel tin drum blue. By night, with zero light pollution and in first quarter moon it was a star filled wonder, a canopy of dazzling displays of ancient light.
I bundled up warmly and walked at dawn in the canyon.
The light came up softly on the yellow cliffs though it took the sun a long time to reach in that deep.
There was plenty of evidence that, in rainy times, the path I took is a furious, raging torrent.
I found flowers.
Strange desert flowers. Though maybe (likely) these delicate plumes are adjunct to seeds.
The small compound at these privately owned hotsprings was peaceful with only one other not very visible couple staying there during my visit.
The colours and decor (in the main) reflect the setting and craftsmanship of the workmen and artisans who do the labour to maintain this east coast millionaire owned treasure.
Having already found my Eldorado long ago and far away in another country, I found another here at the end of a dirt road in vast acres of desert.
Vast acres of which, (I've seen the numbers 300,000 mentioned) it seems that the current owner of Chinati Hotsprings, an east coast of USA tech security systems billionaire, one John (Jeff) Fort the Third has set aside as a nature conservancy.
I've heard of private islands being set aside for nature conservancy, but to have such a huge amount of west Texas borderlands envirnomentally protected this way is a wonderful thought.
This means that with Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park and then this private conservation easement, a mind boggling amount of west Texas borderlands Chihuahuan desert is under environmental conservation protection laws. Again here is the argument for private money in nature conservation. Way better use of a material fortune, than buying a social media platform. In my opinion. Of course.
The current billionaire owner of Chinati Hotsprings is also credited with closing the site to camping and walk-in day trippers as well as with the construction of the sunny well appointed kitchen with spectacular views overlooking the canyon where I enjoyed my self catered meals.
Along with no WiFi or phone reception, there is no store within over an hours drive of this place of retreat.
I was born to living a long way from shops and came well prepared to be self catering.
After several soaks and a walk in the canyon, my brunch on day one was my own version of loaded avocado toast: spicy sweet potato cakes, sweet red pepper, cherry tomatoes, olives, avocado on whole grain seed bread. Washed down with a coconut milk latte coffee (my organic Mexican coffee beans are thanks to a vendor at my farmers market) .
Life is indeed good, as my thrift store pottery camping mug proclaims.
Chinati Hotsprings: expensive, yes, but so worth it.
After two nights here I wanted to stay a week, a month, a lifetime.
Hmmm...I wonder if I could find a person with conservation and horticultural qualifications and experience willing to persuade John (Jeff) Fort the Third that he needs a permanent, on-site nature conservator. It IS remote, but not as remote as some places in the world, and doesn't even require four wheel drive for the most part. Excepting maybe rainy season when, in the desert, all bets are probably off with combustion engine transport anyway, what with flooded arroyos and all. Four hooved horsepower is probably preferential then.