Wood-Fired Bath in the Mountains

I shouldn’t even be writing about this, because I haven’t posted the video yet… but I’m so stoked, I can’t help it! So here’s a sneak peek at an adventure I just finished, which I’m still working on editing.

Surprise, Surprise…I’m back in Surprise Canyon again!

The other day I undertook the grueling hike up Surprise Canyon to Panamint City ghost town for the third time. This hike is so grueling, I never thought I’d do it again — I can’t seem to find the exact stats online, but it’s between 5-7 miles, with a 4- or 5,000-foot elevation gain. Ouch!

I’ve already been up there twice, and made a couple videos showing the ruins of the old mining town. So why did I do it again? Well, it turns out I had somehow missed the coolest part of the whole dang town — hidden off the to side in another canyon, there’s a very nicely maintained volunteer cabin… with a wood-fired bathtub out front!

My friend Widget was the one who told me about it — he’d backpacked up there himself, and had taken a hot bath (with a glass of wine — he’s classy like that). Well, after I saw that photo… I knew I had to go back there myself. Even if it meant undertaking that monstrous hike for a 3rd time!

Thankfully, I found a buddy who was willing to backpack up there with me — a random guy I had met while soaking at a hot spring this past summer. We made plans to meet at the base of Surprise Canyon, then hike up to the cabin together and spend the night.

Sun rising over Surprise Canyon

Because of the crazy monsoons this past summer, the road to the trailhead was all washed out, and we had to park at the side of the road and hike an extra .75 miles — which made the journey even tougher! But it was fascinating to see the damage the water had wrought on the road — and the trail. And this wasn’t the first storm to wash out the road to Panamint City!

Back in the day, Inyo County maintained a graded road up to the mining camp — so people were able to bring heavy equipment and even trailer homes up there. At one time, around 2000 people lived in Panamint City! But a series of storms wiped out the road around 1984… and after that, only modified Jeeps and rock crawlers could make it up the canyon. Then, in 1996, the Gov’t closed the trail to vehicle traffic completely… so nowadays, you can only get to to this ghost town the old-fashioned way — on foot.

Trucks that were washed away in the 1984 flood still sit in the middle of what used to be the road

But the difficulty of accessing Panamint City is what makes it so cool — hardly anyone goes up there, so there’s tons of stuff left! Trucks, equipment, beer cans, houses… it’s all just peacefully rusting away up there, virtually unmolested.

But I’d already been up there twice to poke around the ruins — this time, I was on a serious mission: to take a bath! My hiking buddy and I made a beeline up the side canyon where this “nice” cabin and bathtub lay in wait, and we got there with just enough daylight to figure it out.

Home sweet home… for the night, at least!

First, we had to repair the plumbing — and when I say “we,” it was mostly my buddy! Water is piped to the bathtub (and the cabin) via a long PVC pipeline from a nearby spring up the hill, and the pipeline had come apart in several places. So all that had to be reconnected, so that we could turn on the water to fill the boiler… which was basically a giant 55-gallon drum rigged up on a bed of fire brick and rocks.

Then, as the boiler slowly filled, we had to gather firewood — enough to heat the bath water, but also enough to keep us warm through the night, as the cabin had a cozy little wood-fired stove inside. So we ran around gathering downed branches — which thankfully, because of the monsoons, were plentiful! When we finally had enough, I built a fire under the boiler… and waited for the water to heat.

The hardest I’ve ever worked for a warm bath!

Now unfortunately, time was against me — I would have preferred to wait until the water was piping hot, so that I could take a nice, hot soak. But daylight was fading fast — despite leaving camp at 7:30am, that monster hike had taken around 7 hours, so by the time we reached our destination, fixed the pipe and gathered the wood… it was already getting dark. And because I needed enough light to shoot footage… I ended up having to take a lukewarm bath, on a chilly evening. But it was still awesome!!

My hiking buddy joined me in the tub — it was no big deal, since we had initially met soaking naked in a hot spring, anyway! We drank some wine and tried to pretend the water was hotter than it was, as the sun went down and stars started to come out. It was magical!

I’m not shivering!! You’re shivering!

But eventually, I had to get out. I dried off by the boiler fire, got dressed, and went inside to make another fire in the wood-burning stove in the cabin. There were three cots in there, so we made our beds, boiled some water, and settled in for an evening of chatting and drinking whiskey-spiked hot cocoa. The stove kept the cabin pretty toasty all night long… even though I think it was in the 20s overnight, considering we were at 6200′ elevation.

Ran into this furry little tarantula on the trail

Anyway, it was definitely the hardest I’d ever worked for a warm soak… but I felt it was totally worth it. And it definitely made me appreciate the hot spring just a mile down the road from my house — which I can walk to in flip flops, carrying nothing more than a Ranch Water!!

Video coming soon… stay tuned!





32 responses to “Wood-Fired Bath in the Mountains”

  1. John Weythman Avatar
    John Weythman

    Sounds like another great video!

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      Working on it now!

  2. Kirk Voelcker Avatar
    Kirk Voelcker

    Thank for the post! Some of us still prefer blogs, and you have skill with the pen.

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      Thank you! I’m trying to make time to get back into it.. glad it’s appreciated!

  3. Vincent c Albertson Avatar
    Vincent c Albertson

    I love when you do this stuff you always are amazing 🤩

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      Thank you!

  4. Paul Joseph Molnar Avatar
    Paul Joseph Molnar

    What an epic adventure!!! Beautifully written, great pics !!!!!

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      Thank you!

  5. Robert Lee Avatar

    Wow, Buzz’s spider from Home Alone is still alive.

  6. John Rush Avatar
    John Rush

    This is your website; you should write what you want when you want to. What you write here is a good promo for the video. Yes, you’ve made this hike before. I wonder if a motorized dirt bike can help you make the distance in less time, or if that can’t be done on the terrain. Of course, I’m curious about the truck, and am looking forward to longer shots of it at different angles. From just one pic, I can’t tell what it is, or when it was made. A Chevy from the 1960’s, maybe?

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      There’s no way you could ride a dirt bike up this canyon.. you have to climb up multiple waterfalls and then the vegetation is so densely overgrown, it would knock you off the bike! Plus, it’s considered Wilderness Area and they don’t allow motorized vehicles

      1. John Rush Avatar
        John Rush

        Saw the video, and a motor bike wouldn’t have gotten you much further than your 4Runner did. Even after such an early start, you didn’t have much daylight left after reaching the cabin; a motor bike could have given you a few more hours, had it been possible.

        Powermaster was the name of the automatic transmission in that Chevy truck. The 2-speed automatic transmissions in Chevy cars were called Powerglide. The first fully automatic Mopar transmissions were called Powerflite. Lots of Power in those days.

        1. wonderhussy Avatar

          I don’t even think a motorbike could have gotten up the waterfalls! I didn’t really shoot enough footage to show it, but you are basically hiking up a steep series of waterfalls at the beginning of the canyon. I can’t think of any vehicle that would have been able to make it!

  7. Larry Kramer Avatar

    Back in 2018, me and a friend camped out where the road ends and the hiking trail starts in the canyon. I slept outside on the concrete pads and he stayed in his 4×4 camper. The next morning he told me he was woken up by something moving around his head – turned out to be a mouse LOL! We hiked up a short distance into the canyon then left for Saline Valley Hot Springs.

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      Saline Valley is a lot more fun in my experience!! But this was pretty cool, too

  8. Kevin Avatar

    When will your 2024 be ready for sale?

    Saving a primo spot on shop wall!


    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      I’m starting to shoot it tomorrow! Got a late start because of scheduling conflicts.. hoping to have it up for sale by the 15th! I’ll post about it everywhere when it’s finally ready! Thanks for asking

  9. Jimmy Mingo Avatar
    Jimmy Mingo

    Finally checked out your blog spot. Great work Sarah. Easy to maneuver. Got a question. What unit do you recommend for quick hot water for coffee while camping?

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      I don’t have any magic solution.. I just boil water the old fashioned way! But I will say that a jetboil stove seems to do the job a bit quicker than other stoves, I guess.

  10. Cat Jefferson Avatar
    Cat Jefferson

    Thanks for writing about it. I lost the ability to hold a book in my hands for any length of time or to read much that’s printed on paper. My hands cramp up and I wind up with headaches within just a few pages. 🙁
    I appreciate being able to read stuff on the computer. A big plus, of course, is your writing skills being exceptional make it an enjoyable read.

  11. Patrick Cobb Avatar
    Patrick Cobb

    Baller…that must have been a pretty uncomfortable hike, going up those waterfalls. Looking forward to the video. :p

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      You know.. to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting! I feel like the waterfalls weren’t really any worse than the previous times that I hiked up there. The only real downsides were having to park three quarters of a mile from the trailhead, and having to do a lot more bushwhacking. But it was still worth it!

      1. Patrick Avatar

        You make it look easy! And that was such an excellent video with such excellent narration. Now I’m even more determined to go back!

        1. wonderhussy Avatar

          It definitely wasn’t easy!!! That’s one of the toughest hikes I’ve ever done … I was just extremely determined to get to that bathtub!

  12. nick Avatar

    “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      100%!! I always try to take the road less traveled by.. that’s where all the interesting stuff is!

  13. Jed Avatar

    You’re living my dreams. Can’t wait for Wednesday. I love your adventures. Every year I copy a few.

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      Thank you! I just posted the video of this particular adventure…. Check it out!

  14. Sabra L. Comer Avatar
    Sabra L. Comer

    I just want to say I love your videos. You are awesome writing and speaking you tell a very good story you’re very inspiring I just want you to know that and thank you for all that you do. You are appreciated

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know! I appreciate your kind words… Glad you’re enjoying!

  15. Scott lorito Avatar
    Scott lorito

    I cannot tell you how much i love watching your videos, volgs, whatever you want to call them. you are an insperational person and i value that in a person. Girl keep doing what your doing and just enjoy your time out there. i would love to visit you in death valley one day. have a drink together and just shot the breeze on whatever comes up.
    Loe you!!

    1. wonderhussy Avatar

      Thank you, friend! It’s really nice to know my work is appreciated!

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