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We had been talking about a trek to this storied oasis outside of Hesperia for awhile now, and a trip to Vegas in June finally afforded us with the opportunity to visit. It turned out to be a true adventure, one that I highly recommend every water-loving Angeleno have at some point!
Before we left I checked out the online bulletin board deepcreekhotsprings.net to get a sense of the conditions from the regulars who post there. We set out from LA at 8am and arrived at the Bowen Ranch “gate” around 10.15am (the Ranch is about 22 miles from 1-15; directions here; there is an alternate trail, longer but less steep, to the springs too; directions here). The drive was a little bumpy and slow at some points on those last 7 dirt miles, but my non-4x4 vehicle did just fine. A friendly hippie dude greeted us, collected the $5 per person fee ($10 for overnight parking/camping), supplied us with a map and trash bag, and sent us on our way. He advised us repeatedly to take lots of water along, and that the hike in — or more accurately, down — was about 45 minutes, while the return trip up was “the longest 2 miles of your life.” He wasn’t kidding: It’s pretty much all goat trail on the side of the granite-pocked mountains, so you will be baby-stepping and sliding some on the way there, and huffing and puffing on the way back (take breaks!).
I recommend an early hike in and a late (but not too late!) hike out, especially in the hot summer months. The views are beautiful, but also make sure you pay attention to where you are going. We went on a Tuesday so we encountered very few people on the hike. I can’t imagine what it would be like on that narrow trail on a busy Saturday or Sunday!
Once we made it down to the creek, we encountered one of the most pleasant locales imaginable. It’s easy to see why Deep Creek is such a popular destination. The creek passes alongside a huge rock formation with several natural pools situated in its outcroppings. These pools are lovingly maintained by volunteers and each has a special name. From our point of entry, we had to ford the chilly river to reach the springs. Apparently when the water is high after rains, such as in early spring, it is dangerous and/or impossible to do this. During this time, the springs can only be accessed via the alternate 6-mile year-round trail mentioned above, so be forewarned. No matter what, bring your water shoes!
Luckily for us, it was perfect weather and we crossed over to a handful of amicable naked folks, families and cholos hanging out in the pools. There are two smaller pools at the low point of the rocks that are quite hot - one is called the “Crab Cooker”, I believe. The large pool in the middle is the perfect one, big and warm and deep, and appropriately termed “The Womb.” Above this is the “Anniversary Pool” which is a bit hotter, and which supplies the shower that you can stand under in the creek below. It’s possible to jump off the rock outcropping into the creek as well, but it’s pretty shallow so use precaution. We stayed for hours, hopping from hot to cold, and swimming all around the nooks of the creek, exploring its mini-falls and boulders. Heavenly and fun! Big trees provided a few shady spots on both sides of the water, and some people seemed to have set up camp. I totally get why people want to camp here, especially after such a long hike, but it is illegal and you can be ticketed for it. Just sayin.
We did not want to leave this water wonderland, but we still had to hike out and complete a 3-hour drive, so we took off at about 2pm. Crazy, I know. By this time, things had already started to get somewhat boisterous in the pools anyway. Everyone was really nice, but a few more locals had shown up, bad guitar was being played, and a drunk kid hit his head on a rock. It seemed like a good time to go, so we wet down all our clothes then put them on and soldiered up the mountain. It was intense - we’d brought just enough water and poor Ric got a sunburn on his head! We made it back in just over an hour, with a sense of accomplishment in tow.
I feel like I had the optimal Deep Creek experience and for that I am lucky. It is a special place that is worth the visit, but the timing and the preparedness level have to be right. There are a surprising number of helicopter rescues here as it turns out, and the summer/fall weekends are, by many accounts, a shit-show. If you are not cool with naked men, you should also take heed, although most people had suits on and everyone seemed comfortable. My advice: Go early and on a weekday, and expect to spend your whole day there. If you haven’t done much physical activity lately, be ready for a serious workout. Backpack. Food. Water. Hiking boots. Hat. Sunscreen. Water Shoes. And of course, no glass and no garbage!!
Someday I will return to these wonderful hot springs, dear readers, mark my words. Lord only knows when, but it will happen!
Almost everything you need to know is here: http://www.deepcreekvolunteers.com
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1350 SEPULVEDA BLVD. (map)
(South of Wilshire, part of the Westwood Recreational Complex)
LOS ANGELES, CA 90025
SUMMER LAP SWIM SCHEDULE (until 9/18, check website above for updates!)
MONDAY 9am - 12.45pm, 6 - 9pm
TUES-FRI 6.30am - 12.45pm, 6 - 9pm
SATURDAY 9am - 12.45pm
SUNDAY 10am - 12.45pm
YEAR-ROUND / INDOOR / HEATED (81-83 degrees)
25 meters x 25 yards (10 x 10 lanes), 3-16 ft. depth, diving board
COST: $2.50 / $2.00 with LA library card
$55 pass for 30 admissions
FREE FOR CHILDREN / SENIORS / ADAPTIVE
First off, apologies for the lack of active posting on my part - I know it’s summer and therefore crucial swim time, but it is also the only season when I am able to take off on an annual west-coast road trip! As you might imagine, I had some fantastic hot springs experiences that I intend to chronicle in the near future. But today I plan to discuss a horse of an entirely different color. That horse is the Westwood Pool - a place I’m sure you’ve driven past a million times but somehow never noticed as you trudged down Sepulveda in rush hour traffic. (That’s also because the entrance to the pool is on the “back” side of the building, adjacent to a huge park - FYI.)
Now, to continue the metaphor, I love horses, but this is no Lipizzaner stallion. It’s more like one of those horses attached to a carriage in Central Park - cute but haggard, seemingly made for a life of work. And work is probably all that you will want to do here. But before we get to that, let’s begin with the locker rooms.
As you can see, no frills here. It’s a little old, but I must confess, I’ve seen worse at other city pools. What’s different is the panopticon shape of the changing stalls - the attendant (who works on the safety-pin system) can see everything that is going on, as can everyone else – no curtains, my ladies! The showers are especially antiquated, but in a way that actually works out well, since they are faucet and not push-button. There were also several signs saying “don’t do this or that”, including a number that indicated no shaving or razors were allowed. I shuddered briefly as I imagined the situation that had prompted such a forceful display of concern…
But anyway, on to the pool itself! It’s pretty much a glorified garage: built in 1998, it’s a corrugated roof on a box with a few sets of bleachers. And yet, it gets the job done. My initial reason for coming here was that it has a wide range of lap swim hours, until 9pm(!) on weekdays, which is really nice in the winter. There are pull buoys and kickboards too. Of course, as a year-round city pool, a lot of other stuff is happening here at the same time: swim lessons, aqua jogging and, most importantly, SCAQ masters swim at 5.30am, 12pm and 7pm. What this means is that it is BUSY (though more in the fall/winter than in the summer). I’ve heard that the AM session is (overly) plentiful with bodies and I know that at night you can expect 3-4 people per narrow-ish lane by 7.30pm. In other words, if this is where you choose to swim, either out of convenience or necessity, push through your work-out, save the full-blown shower for home, and blast the eff outta there! I recommend arriving right at 6pm if you want an optimal experience. Good luck!
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Last weekend Ric and I went on an impromptu adventure up to the Malibu Creek State Park. It was a gorgeous day of hiking and the Memorial Day crowds were in effect!
The park is really a little gem up in the Santa Monica mountains: there are a bunch of trails, camp sites and interesting things to see there, including a small dam and resevoir called Century Lake, the old set where the TV show M.A.S.H. was filmed and a ranch that Ronald Reagan used to own. Only in LA!
The best part, however, is the Rock Pool. It is only a 1.5 “hike” (aka, walk) from the parking lot to this little oasis in the forest. If what you desire is tranquility, I recommend coming here on a weekday. On the day we were there it was jumping — literally. There were about 50 people there with families, food, babies, and beer, all enjoying the spectacle of people climbing the volcanic rock formations surrounding the pool and jumping into water below (check some of losangelesswimmin’s action shots here)! Some cliffs were as high as 40 feet! Whoa!
We did not have the guts to jump off any rocks, but we did take a swim in the very brisk and refreshing water. I overheard a lady saying that there was another pool in the vicinity that was only accessible by swimming through a tunnel that goes under the rocks. That sounds really amazing, but also scary. Maybe next time…
HOW TO GET THERE: From Pacific Coast Highway, turn inland on Malibu Canyon Road and proceed 6.5 miles to the park entrance, 0.25 mile south of Mulholland Highway. If you’re coming from the San Fernando Valley, exit the Ventura Freeway (101) on Las Virgenes Road and continue four miles to the park entrance.
BEWARE: Parking in the lot is $12 but you can park on Mulholland and just hoof it in, if you don’t mind the extra distance. Also, watch out for poison oak!!
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7900 LOYOLA BLVD. (map)
LOS ANGELES, CA 90045
(Be sure to check the MONTHLY CALENDAR on the website!)
Monday & Wednesday: 6:00am - 1:30pm; 3:30pm - 8:00pm
Tuesday & Thursday: 6:30am – 8:00pm
Friday: 6:00am – 1:30pm; 3:30pm – 7:30pm
Saturday: 8:00am – 5:30pm
Sunday: 10:00am – 5:30pm
YEAR-ROUND / OUTDOOR / HEATED / CHLORINATED
I don’t know what took me so long to visit the swimming pool at LMU, especially given that I’ve been working there for over a year now. I guess if you combine my love of the Swim Stadium downtown with the horrid commute I endured until my recent move to the westside, my non-attendance begins to make sense. But, after finally getting a membership at the Burns Recreation Center and going in for laps a few times in the past three weeks, I can report that I have really been missing out! This pool is terrific and, at least for me, it doesn’t get more convenient than this. (There is even a parking lot right out front!)
Unfortunately for you, the only way to go to this pool is if you have some affiliation with the university and purchase a membership (click here for eligibility info), or if you are the guest of a member ($5 for guests of students; $10 for all other guests). Another way to access the pool is to join the LMU Masters Swim club, which meets for daily workouts here at the crack of dawn, at noon and at 6.30 pm. All in all, I think this is a bit restrictive. At USC, $10 gets anyone in the door.
Anyway, if you are lucky enough to get in, you will pass through a clean, mid-size locker room (bring your own lock), with showers and a bathing suit spinner. The Rec Center is currently making efforts to go green, so they have implemented a towel service, which is a nice touch too. The pool itself is a 50 meter by 25 yard competition pool, and depending on the time of day, it is set up either in a short course (17 – 25yd lanes) or a long course format (8 – 50 meter lanes). You can find out what to expect on the very detailed monthly schedule on the pool’s main website.
The pool itself is in great condition: it was constructed in 2000 and has an advanced deck-level draining system. It is surrounded by a massive deck with bleachers, deck chairs and even a grassy area with a couple picnic tables. There are kickboards, floats and flippers for public use. Because of the pool’s limited access to non-members and because it has such extensive hours, it is never that busy. Having to share a lane is a rarity. How pleasant! The sun-worshippers out there will be happy to know that this pool gets tons of sun, but because it is located up on the bluff, it can be rather windy, and therefore chilly, especially when exiting the warm water. So be sure to bring out your towel. Other than that, go forth and make a splash! See you there.
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RICHARD ALATORRE POOL
4721 E. KLAMATH ST. (map)
LOS ANGELES, CA 90032
(IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF LINCOLN HEIGHTS / EL SERENO)
SWIM SCHEDULE (CHANGES SEASONALLY – check above website):
TUES-FRI 12.30-2.30 PM, 3-5 PM, 7-9 PM
(TUES & THUR = ADULT NIGHT FROM 5-9 PM)
SAT-SUN 1-5 PM
YEAR ROUND POOL / INDOOR / HEATED
COST: $2.50 / $2.00 w/ library card (KIDS & SENIORS FREE)
It’s an intensely chilly time right now in the Southland, and it looks like ‘winter’ is here to stay for awhile. Some swimmers are hardcore and go outdoor year round, which is so admirable/intimidating. But, for the rest of us chicken-shits in the city, access to a nearby indoor pool is a must during this period. Normally I go to Echo Deep for this purpose, and I’m a big fan of the facility there, but the Richard Alatorre Pool is a perfectly good option as well. In fact, I think of it is a slightly smaller and slightly older variation on Echo Deep, just a bit further east. It is tucked away in a residential area on the edge of the neighborhood of El Sereno, which, I should note, makes it a little hard to find, though the parking is easy (there is both a parking lot and spots on the street).
Named after a former city councilman, this pool was refurbished in 1999 and the facility remains in decent shape, although it could certainly use a bit more general upkeep and maintenance. I imagine that will not be forthcoming, given the budget cuts, but oh well. The pool is clean, there are kickboards available for use and there is an adequate though bare-bones locker room situation – green mesh bags, benches, and safety pins. Nothing horrible, to be sure, but nothing to write home about either.
Also like Echo Deep, this place is busy: it has a lot of different community activities going on, including swim team practice, aquacize and swimming lessons. Limited lap swim, which happens during all but the 12.30-2.30 time slot = 4 rather narrow, 25 yard lanes on one side or in the middle of the pool. Ric and I quickly discovered that it’s tough to split a lane here and they are a bit shorter than what we are used to, but it seems like it isn’t a place that is typically overrun with lap swimmers. The other, deeper side of the pool has the diving board and is typically filled with kids. So there you have it.
On a random yet related note, as I was doing research on this place I stumbled onto the blog of a fellow tumblr, Brian Gurrola, who is producing a short film called “Pool”. Check it out here: poolfilm.tumblr.com. It appears that after doing quite a bit of location scouting, the Richard Alatorre Pool was chosen as the site for the film. There are lots of great pics of this pool and a few others on the blog. The movie looks like a thriller of sorts – scary! I have included a few shots from his flickr page below. Hope he doesn’t mind…
So I’ve been checking out losangelesswimmin.com as my fellow blogger LDSA recommended below and there are lots of really amazing places showcased on the site - mostly swimming holes, hot springs and waterfalls. There is a heavy emphasis on photos, which can take awhile to load, and it’s not the most eloquent thing ever written, but it’s clear these guys have a true commitment to ’the swim’. Great camping tips as well. I have much to learn from these guys about natural swimming spots, that is for sure. Definitely a useful resource!
Don’t complain about the heat; do something about it. I’ll be swimmin all week.
And on the topic of Los Angeles water spots, peek at Los Angeles Swimmin for the best of the city and beyond.
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HANSEN DAM SWIM LAKE
11798 Foothill Blvd.
Lake View Terrace, CA 91342
(NORTH ON 1-5, OSBOURNE ST. EXIT)
PART OF THE HANSEN DAM AQUATIC CENTER AND RECREATION AREA
May 29, 30 & 31–June 20: Sat./Sun. 12 PM to 6 PM* (Waterslide Closed)
June 26 – August 23: Everyday 10 AM to 7 PM* (Waterslide 12 PM to 6 PM)
August 23– Sept. 6: Everyday 12 PM to 6 PM* (Waterslide 12 PM to 6 PM)
Sept. 7 – Sept. 26: Sat./Sun. 12 PM to 6 PM* (Waterslide Closed)
SEASONAL (CLOSED OCTOBER-MAY) / OUTDOOR
COST: $2.50 / $2.00 w/ library card (KIDS & SENIORS FREE)
The first time I ever read about the Hansen Dam Swim Lake, I was intrigued but also confused. What exactly is a swim lake? And how come in all my years as an LA resident I had never heard a thing about it? I started doing some investigating in an effort to find out more and I stumbled across this picture:
When I saw it I knew right away that I had to pay a visit. Before giving up the low-down on what a lovely oasis it turned out to be, a little bit of background: The 1.5-acre(!!) swim lake and its 2 waterslides are part of a 40-acre aquatic recreation facility that also includes a proper 9-acre lake in which you can fish, boat (sans motor) or kayak (but NOT swim). The big lake is open year round and also has a jog path around it. The Aquatic Center was constructed in 1998 and is part of an even larger Recreation Area with an equestrian center, a golf course and quite a bit of park/picnic space.
It was determined by the city that this area, on the northern outskirts of the county - way up I-5, and thus quite a bit east of the beach - needed to be restored to the marine-inspired locale it was 60 years ago. As Kevin Roderick tells it on his blog The Valley Observed, “After World War II, the reservoir behind Hansen Dam was allowed to fill and a sand beach was installed. Boating was also welcome. The lake gradually filled with silt from the Tujunga Wash and the beach was allowed to deteriorate.” Check this pic of bathing beauties from 1950 that he culled from the LA Times:
I’m happy to report that the modern-day take on this historic place is ingenious, unique and really refreshing, although I must confess I didn’t see any ladies quite this fabulous there.
My friend Susannah, my husband Ric and I all decided to trek up on a summery Tuesday morning last month and figure out what this place was really all about. Specifically we were wondering if it would be possible to do something like lap-swimming in this strange, long ‘lake’. We arrived after a 20 minute drive, pulled into the parking lot and immediately became very excited. It truly was an updated, inland version of a beach! The lake was huge – one of the lifeguards told Ric that it was 120 meters long and had a capacity of about 3,000 people. Wide gravel swaths leading up to the water serve as sandy areas, and there are a few plastic gazebo type structures where families set up for the day. Adding to the ambience is a volleyball court and best of all, a taco truck where we bought some fries to snack on (which were pretty good!). Even the concrete bank of changing and bathroom stalls are just like the ones you see down in Venice.
After laying out our towels and lathering up with sunblock, we decided to test out the water. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was pretty chilly and, just like at the beach, there is no choice but to wade in, as the shape of the swim lake mimics that of a natural body of water. However, like a pool it has a stucco surface, is chlorinated and features 2 lane lines down its length. Ric did a few ceremonial laps upon discovering this just because it seemed like the appropriate thing to do, but in practice it might only be good to lap swim here for open-water or distance training. For the most part, we frolicked and clambered in and out in order to cool off, like we would have at the shore. The ‘lake’ at its deepest is only 4-4 ½ feet, and this feature, together with the 2 crazy big waterslides (which we did not try out, sadly), makes it very kid-friendly. And indeed, as the day wore on, more and more moms with toddlers and school groups began to show up. Still, there was plenty of room for all! And the weather was perfect, nice and hot – no weird wind or fog to ruin our faux beach day!
While I’m not sure how often I will be able to make it to Hansen Dam Swim Lake, I unequivocally recommend it as a special summer destination. There just isn’t anything else like this place and I love that it’s in LA. And while it obviously cannot supplant the experience of a day on the coast, it is, I think, a pretty great alternative, especially with regard to the drive-time. There are a few days of summer left to try it out, so hurry up and give it a go! You won’t be disappointed…
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ROOSEVELT HIGH SCHOOL POOL
456 S. MATHEWS STREET (map)
(JUST OFF I-5 AT 4TH ST. AND SOTO)
LAP SWIMMING SCHEDULE (FOR SUMMER 2010 – check website above for changes):
MON-FRI: 1 – 5pm, 7 – 9pm
SAT-SUN: 12 – 6pm
DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR
MON-FRI: 3.30 - 8.30 pm
SAT-SUN: 1 - 5 pm
OPEN YEAR-ROUND / OUTDOOR / HEATED
COST: $2.50 / $2.00 w/ library card (KIDS & SENIORS FREE)
ADULT LAP PASS = $55 / 30 admissions
This Olympic-size pool is located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of east LA, on the grounds of Roosevelt High School. (It is not to be confused with the pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which is worthy of its own post.) Like other pools I have discussed, it was recently renovated by the city at a cost of $2 million, according to egpnews.com. It is open year-round, though the schedule changes during the school year, for obvious reasons. I like this place - its clean and simple, but what makes it special is that it is the only public pool I know of that features long-course swimming. There are only 3 lanes roped off but they are hardly ever busy, because you have to be a little hardcore to swim 50 meter lengths. Talk about a work-out!
After parking on the street or walking down from Soto Station (take the Metro Gold Line), you can enter the high-fenced pool area through a metal gate that leads directly to the cashier and changing areas. The changing area is interesting - most notably, it has no roof! So you just have to do your thing there more or less al fresco. (There are some heaters installed up high, but I’ve never seen them in use.) It is very clean and colorful, with lots of 70s wall tiling - a plus in my book. There are a few benches (no stalls), a few push-button showers (which take a little while to warm up, I noticed) and an attendant window where you can check your stuff in exchange for a safety pin. No mirrors and no outlets though, so finish up your toilette at home!
Once you come out on the deck, you realize just how huge this pool really is. There is lots of space to hang out as well, but take note: there is virtually no shade anywhere! And that concrete can sure get hot. It’s probably not a bad idea to wear your flip-flops out in order to avoid burning the crap out of your feet. And if you want to work on your tan, this is a great spot to do it. They have pull buoys for use, though I haven’t seen any kickboards around. Lastly, there is a diving board in the rec swim area. I always like to dive off at the end of my workout, just like one of the kids. Fun!
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