Despite the fact that I love San Francisco there are times when I just need to get the hell away for a while, away from email and cell phones, from keeping up appearances and making the scene, to enjoy some unstructured, uncomplicated being-in-being for a while. This past weekend the boyfriend and I hooked up with a half dozen friends and new acquaintances for a weekend at Mercey Hot Springs, a much-needed sojourn into warmth and sunshine that required nothing more from us than our presence at mealtime. Our entire weekend's activities consisted of a short hike into the empty expanse of an ancient volcanic landscape, lots of soaking in sulphuric waters, and spontaneous napping.
I'm reluctant to say much about Mercey Hot Springs itself, since it seems to be a largely undiscovered and undeveloped retreat consisting of nothing more than a half dozen rental cabins, a swimming pool, and ancient clawfoot bathtubs on a wooden deck with direct pipes to the hot springs below. Situated among rolling basalt hills, it's surrounded by hundreds of square miles of open, empty land, since the topsoil layer is too thin to support any real vegetation, and average rainfall is in the single digits. We saw lots of rabbits, mice, and the occasional jackrabbit, and at night heard the distant howls of the foxes that prey upon them. Standing at the top of a ridge we could see for miles and miles into a landscape that probably has not changed in thousands of years, and I found myself meditating on the geologic forces that shaped it. It was a pleasant change to find myself in a completely quiet, still environment in which my presence meant absolutely nothing.
Of course I had thoughts about what it would be like to stage a party in this isolated and lovely locale, and I know that at least five prior events have taken place there, but I was genuinely happy to enjoy this spot for what it had to offer, rather than what I could take there. A get-together with a small sound system might still happen at some point in the future, but part of me would rather keep this as a place to go when all I want to hear is the call of the morning dove, and where I have no responsibilities beyond sitting on the deck with my eyes closed, feeling the sun on my face.