Entrance to the Jacumba Hot Springs Resort
The entrance to the Jacumba Hot Springs Resort. Photo by Daniel Smiechowski

On old Old Highway 80, about five miles from Interstate 8, is a neglected desert outpost with a handful of homes, a trailer park, a county library, an elementary school, a few churches, a grocery store and an iconic spa — the Jacumba Hot Springs Resort.

It seems like only yesterday that my mother and father brought me here on a Greyhound bus from Milwaukee 54 years ago. In 1966, the spa served as a way station for the venerable bus line, before Interstate 8 was completed through the desert.

But revisiting my past wasn’t my real motivation for coming here. I came here for the sake of my beloved sport of triathlon, and it was a match made in heaven—a mecca in the high desert. Running here was blissfully sensual. Yes, I considered the extreme temperatures, but common sense solved any danger to the body and mind.

The resort maintains a quaint little restaurant and, according to renowned author Wen Chang, who lives right up the road in Boulevard, they serve the most nutritious and tasty food within a 40-mile radius. Having just returned from a visit to France, I was impressed.

Although heavy at times, the samplings are without doubt of the highest quality, fresh as a fallen snow. I had the country breakfast, biscuits and gravy, two sausages, scrambled eggs, potatoes and a decent cup of joe. It was delicious.

The resort’s amenities include a jacuzzi and two pools fed by the hot springs, and a dry heat infrared sauna. The combination lowered my blood pressure and helped me maintain normal vital signs, despite the intense heat and training for triathlon.

It’s easy to understand why the Hollywood elite frequented the original resort during the 1920s and 30s. That structure, located across the street, was destroyed by fire in the 1980s. But the mineral springs remain. The water covers your body like a blanket of silk. The therapeutic benefits are unequaled.

The paved, but almost completely deserted road heading east to the Desert View Tower is a triathlete’s dream. I happily sampled a stretch, despite the heart.

The renowned Valley of the Moon trail is practically next door to the resort. The rock formations much resemble Joshua Tree and are simply breathtaking.

If you strive for health and happiness, this remote outpost of little more than 500 residents amid the desert’s beauty is not to be missed.

Daniel “Danny” Smiechowski is a Clairemont resident, prolific writer on education issues, former candidate for San Diego City Council and current candidate for Mayor.

Daniel Smiechowski running in the desert near Jacumba Hot Springs. Courtesy of the author