When we lived down in LowCal half a decade ago one of the things we'd often hear is something like "I've lived six blocks from (insert major tourist attraction here) and I've never been there." It's our goal to see as many of the sights as we can and one of the reasons for that is so we can report back to you about these experiences in Lake County. But this does take some time.
Recently we made the time to put some dirt under the tires of the ol' F-Bomb and drove the entire stretch of Bartlett Springs Road. We packed up Ginger and Zora who love any sort of "go for a ride/go for a walk" type of trip and turned up Bartlett Springs Road for what would be a three-hour tour.
Bartlett Springs road is a dirt road that follows the path that early wagons took on their way to the huge Bartlett Springs resort complex. These resorts are what initially put Lake County on the map with the rich mineral water promising all sorts of miraculous remedies for a variety of what ailed people.
In 1870 Green Bartlett and L. Thorpe built several crude cabins in the area after sitting in the mineral waters that flow naturally and finding that they felt much better following the soak. Bartlett brought others back to experience this "miraculous cure" and so it started.
By 1873 the popularity of the area was such that a two-story hotel and about 40 cabins were justified in the area. Business was booming.
In those days you'd pack your steamer trunk, which probably held all your belongings, and make the long trip from San Francisco to Bartlett Springs to soak in the waters and cure what ailed you. Often times the wife would take all the kids for the entire summer while hubby would remain busily working for more of this period. Then, the Mr. would come up for some time in the waters. Again, it was quite a long trip.
Since medical science was more of an art form in those days, it wasn't difficult for the resorts owner to have medical practitioners swear that sitting in this or that water would cure all sorts of maladies. While a nice hot bath in mineral water is certainly pleasant and calming, it's not certain that you're really going to cure anything by doing so and eventually medical science caught up with the these places. While we've heard tales of people who were very sick looking at a summer of soaking as a potential cure, today we know better.
The resorts in the area truly prospered with people returning home claiming miracle cures - probably a better choice than to admit that nothing really happened. As more people came the resorts got larger and larger with Bartlett Springs listed a a first-class resort with five hotels, 350 cabins and other buildings able to serve up to 5,000 guests at a time. Today all the lodging combined in Lake County can only serve a small fraction of that number.
But the dawn of the automobile meant that people's vacations were shorter and closer to home and, by 1934, Bartlett Springs resort burned to the ground never to open again.
On our journey over Bartlett Springs road we stopped at the site of the old resort with a few remnants of the main gazebo's pool facilities still in place. Driving up Bartlett Springs road affords some great views of Clear Lake with the windy, dirt road steadily rising above the the area and snaking back and forth making for ever better views at each turn until you venture inland toward the resort.
Even though the weather was perfect for a nice long drive, few people were interested in sharing the road with us. There was the occasional motorcycle and even one or two other vehicles, but that's all we saw during the drive.
This is also not the road to go on right after you've had a car wash, which is why we took the F-Bomb. After 200,000 miles it continues to serve us well but we certainly don't mind getting the ol' truck dirty or putting it to work when called for. And it still runs as well as it did when we bought it new almost 20 years ago.
While modern medicine may have eliminated the claims made by "doctors" in the olden days, this didn't stop French company Vittel from setting up shop in these hills in 1985 and bottling the magic liquid that continues to pour forth from the mountains to this day. Today the bottling plant that was Vittel, and then Bartlett Spring water, still exists at the base of Bartlett Springs Road and has most recently been known for serving Tulip Hill Winery. Today that building is being used by the Nice Wine Company and predominantly does private crush operations. Apparently lead in the water isn't such a curative thing after all.
Back up on Bartlett Springs Road once you've passed the site of all the resorts the road continues to snake along the top of Walker Ridge until you get to a huge reservoir which happens to be Indian Valley Reservoir. This is a fairly sizable body of water that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says provides a variety of recreational activities including hunting, boating, fishing and such. Apparently they only had one taker when we were there as there was a lone motorhome parked along the banks of this reservoir.
This type of getaway is for someone who definitely likes to be away from it all as it took us over an hour to get to this point and there are no services to be found. In other words, if you forget the can opener or need a tank of gas it's going to be a long drive back to get it. And that's lesson number one, don't take this road unless your fuel gauge starts somewhere near the "F."
After passing Indian Valley Reservoir we continued to bounce along the road and head up. It's surprising to see a cabin or home here and there because, once again, you are away from it all.
Eventually you get to a fork in the road that really isn't marked at all. Would a left return you to the civilized world, or would a right do that? And would it have made sense to bring a paper map along because there is zero cell signal back here in the woods? Oh, and remember that suggestion about having a full tank? That comes from experience as the ol' F-Bomb can hold over 40 gallons of gasoline but we didn't have nearly that much when we started this journey and now the "E" was making nice with the pointer that shows how much, or how little, of the petroleum stuff was left in the tank. Ooops. Bring a map, make sure your fuel tank can withstand three hours of creeping along in first gear.
So after two hours of bouncing along the road at no more than 15 miles per hour we now were hoping to see some signs that our decision of which direction to take in the fork in the road was a good one. Up some more hills past some more trees and other local plant life but no signs of human invasion, other than this road and the now-filthy hood of the ol' Ford.
Finally after getting a little too friendly with that "E" on the gauge we spotted the freeway. Now Peggy's been in the desert many, many times and has even been stuck there for a few days. Tony, on the other hand, thinks that roughing it means a mall without an Apple store or a car show without beer.
But a bit of nervousness aside, it was a fun journey to cross a path that was cut over 150 years ago by a few early settlers looking for a bath. And speaking of baths, the next stop for Tony, Peggy, the formerly white truck and two dogs was respective bathing opportunities to get the dust off.
A blog about happenings in Lake County.