Sykes Hot Springs

Upon hearing of Maddie’s trip to Sykes Hot Springs in the Ventana Wilderness, I envisioned dozens of steaming water bubbling from enclosed rock pools alongside a raging river. This vision firmly planted in my mind, I quickly agreed to go with Maddie and the Stanford Redwood Outdoor Club to Sykes this past weekend. There’s not too much information on Sykes on the Internet, but I did get a few nuggets from Felix, who went there with Sarah three months ago.

On Friday afternoon, Rae and I drove up to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park with Austin, a freshman at Stanford. When I was a frosh years ago, I never knew there was an outdoor club. In fact, there were a lot of things that I didn’t know back then or wasn’t involved with until after graduation like photography, cycling, and backpacking. Maybe I should go back to Stanford to get a graduate degree and relive my youth!

At Pfeiffer, we car camped with the other 9 Redwood students, Maddie, Chris, Kwong, Megan, Caroline, Michael, Andy, Alex, and Naomi. It’s easy to get lost among the 100+ campsites at Pfeiffer, and we circled around all of them before figuring out we were the first ones to have arrived around 6:00 pm. My cell phone seems to have better reception in the wilderness than in Cupertino, and I was able to, with my precious one bar of signal strength, eke out calls to the others informing them of our arrival at campsites 19 and 21. The others arrived at various times throughout the evening, capping off with Maddies’ arrival deep into the night when most everyone was already asleep.

Everyone woke up or was awakened at 7:00 am in preparation for our 9:00 am departure for the hot springs. From the Pine Ridge Trailhead, it’s a 10-mile hike up and down a well-travelled trail to Sykes Hot Springs. Rae remarked that the trail resembled the one alone the Skyline to Sea trail. We didn’t see any banana slugs on this trail, but yes, it did look very similar.

On the hike to Sykes, I talked with some of the people in the group, including Alex, Michael, Andy, and Caroline. Michael’s studying Symbolic Systems, and we had fun discussing the program and Tom Wasow’s disappearing and reappearing mountain man beard. Alex and I had an interesting discussion about the incredibly shrinking CS Department. Eric Chen was telling me at Reunion that CS106X recently had more students than CS106A! Guess the depressed economy and the dot-com bust is affecting students’ choices of majors!

At the conclusion of a 6.5 hour hike, we arrived at the Sykes campsite, which bordered a smallish-looking river. Along the river banks, we spied the tents of those hikers that had passed us during our hike in, along with others who arrived even earlier. Maddie and company found a spot about 200 feet from the trailhead, but there was space for only 4 out of the 5 tents, so Rae and I camped a little ways upstream. After setting up our abode for the evening, we all hiked to the springs, which are located about 3/4 of a mile downstream.

“No expectations, no regrets,” remarked Sarah during my sophomore year. Clearly, I wasn’t listening to her while dreaming of the dozen steaming pools at Sykes. That vision quickly became hazy as it became clear there were only three small pools of water ranging in temperature from lukewarm to warm. “These are the hot springs?!?” I wondered aloud. Alas, beggars can’t be choosers, so I had to suffice myself with a quick dip of my hand, as there was a long line to get into the pools with darkness approaching. Sure enough, it was warm, and the myth of Sykes Hot Springs became a reality. My quest completed, I hiked back with Maddie, Rae, and Alex in falling light, stopping to take some photos of the lovely cairns marking the entrance to the hot springs. The dreamy view of water rushing by the artistically arranged cairns made the trip ultimately worthwhile.

The next day, the group split up on the way back, with Michael leading three others out early in the morning. Rae and I departed our campsite at 9:30 am, and we made a tiring and knee-busting 10-mile trip back to the car at 2:45 pm. We passed a number of hikers on their way to Sykes. It certainly appears to be a popular destination, even at the end of the weekend!

3 thoughts on “Sykes Hot Springs

  1. Flo

    Hi Adam,

    Sounds like a fun excursion. The photos of the event are gorgeous. We will have to hangout the next time I am in the Bay Area. It has been too long!


  2. Those photos are gorgeous. Good work on catching the precarious cairns. I need to get down to exploring California’s hot springs eventually, but at least I have kept track of Oregon’s with an old hot spring website of mine. When I first read “bubbling from enclosed rock pools” I thought of this place out in Eastern Oregon that has a soft gravel bottom and you can watch the little bubbles rising to the surface:

    but the view is quite a bit different than from where you guys went:

  3. Oops. The photos didn’t work. The first one was of the Hart Mountain Hot Spring, and then the second was of the view.

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