The Hot Springs near San Juan – Their curative properties – Advice to bathers – A Sportsman’s Paradise

(Anaheim Semi-Weekly Gazette, August 24, 1878)

Editor Gazette. – Having promised to let you hear from me while here, I embrace the opportunity of giving you a brief description of the Hot Springs and their surroundings. They are located about fourteen miles north-east of San Juan Capistrano. I cannot pas this quiet little village, which is familiarly called “Sleepy Hollow,” without devoting a few words to it and its surroundings, and fearing my inability to do justice to the subject, I will give you a description of the place in the words of a friend of mine.


            “Climbing Cemetery Hill, back of San Juan, and looking behind, a scene presented itself to my enraptured eyes which I have never seen excelled. The quaint old Spanish town with its red tiled roofs, nestling among the hills, whose sun-kissed heads are raised in grandeur far above, seeming in the act of showering down caresses and blessings alternately upon the smiling little village below, while shady grove of the storied olive trees, with ever-varying tints of somber green and silver, formed a background for as fair a picture as ever the blue skies of California looked upon. Far away, gleaming like a jewel set in richest casing of earth and sky, shone the sea – just a glimpse – too beautiful, too precious to be spoiled by an unfair prominence of any one feature. Nothing was wanting; even the old ruins – indispensable in pictures – rose picturesquely from the centre, gazing sadly upon all around, as if conscious of the wreck and ruin which time with storm and cruel fate had caused. It seemed as if a town of the middle ages had fallen asleep, and been transported by fairy-magic from Italian shores to busy America. Looking at the old tower, I fancied I could see the crowds of half-civilized Indians bearing stone and industriously, if not willingly, rearing the edifice that still remains as a memorial of the days when the good Mission Fathers labored and suffered to reclaim these ‘children of the wild’ and draw them into the fold of Christ.”

            The road leading to the Springs through San Juan Canyon, up the San Juan Creek, is simply lovely; shaded by tall sycamores and wide-spreading live oaks. A lovely little stream flows through the valley, the road crossing and re-crossing it at every turn. Birds sing the sweetest of songs to the listening breeze, and the answering brook, rippling in liquid music over stones and pebbles, kissing the long grasses and ferns, which droop above it, then disappearing among tangled webs of flowers, to reappear again in more enchanting forms.

                The gleams of sunlight quiver

                                Through a network of leaves and flowers,

                And lovingly kiss the river,

                                Idly playing with the hours.

            The dark brows of the ‘everlasting hills’ frown down from above, adding sublimity to a scene which might otherwise partake too much of the beautiful and picturesque. Flowers grow in profusion, and wild roses perfume the air with their fragrance; in fact, one can imagine they are inhaling a draught of divine ambrosia when the exquisite perfume of these delicate flowers first greets their senses. This is all very nice, but romance and enthusiasm are somewhat lessened by a glance at the road ahead which grows rougher the nearer we approach the Springs, which are themselves situate upon the side of a hill not at all ‘green and of mild declivity,’ but steep and barren. The canyon below is supplied with shade trees which are eagerly sought for camping places.


Are situated about half way up a very respectable hill, and are grouped together in close proximity to each other, eight or ten in number. Some of the springs are warmer than others; in the warmest you cannot bear your hand. Having no thermometer I could not ascertain the exact temperature, nor did I learn what analysis, if any, had been made. However, the water is strongly impregnated with sulphur, and is said to cure acute rheumatism and cutaneuous diseases generally. It is also beneficial to old topers who have dissipated for years, boiling them out, and giving them a new lease on life, with greater facilities for consuming their favorite beverages. The length of time required to effect a cure must depend upon the disease and the number of baths taken, as well as the diet used. Ordinarily, thirty days, with proper treatment, will effect a cure. Few indeed, if any, receive permanent benefit from the use of these waters for any period of time less than one month, and then they must bathe twice a day. Patients should commence bathing with the water at low temperature, gradually increasing the temperature from day to day, until they get it as warm as they can well bear it. After each bath the patient should roll up in a double blanket and remain in for twenty or thirty minutes, and while in the blanket should drink from a quart to a gallon of the warm water, rub dry, dress, and if able, take a brisk walk of a few miles. The best time for bathing is early in the morning and late in the afternoon.


Are constructed by visitors out of brush and tent cloths, and are of various dimensions and of motley hues. There were about one hundred campers here when I arrived, only two parties from Anaheim, the majority being from Santa Ana and vicinity. One gentleman was from San Jose, two with their families from Los Angeles, and one from the Flowery Kingdom. As there is no store nearer than Capistrano and absolutely no accommodations at the Springs, visitors should bring everything that campers need, not forgetting necessary medicines, for in case of violent sickness, or a snake bite, the patient would probably die before medical attendance could be procured. Mr. Mendelson at San Juan sends an express out to the Springs twice a week to fill orders for campers and to bring their mail. This is quite an accommodation to visitors, and Mr. Mendelson deserves credit for the enterprise which he displays.

            Even in this out-of-the-way place, one meets with the inevitable Chinaman; John comes twice a week from San Juan, to peddle vegetables, and does not blush to supply his willing customers with green melons and unripe figs.


Is situated just over the hill on which the Hot Springs are located, and it is indeed a lovely little spot, all the beauty of the large canyon, which has been set forth herein in the words of my friend, is concentrated in a space of a few hundred yards. The small valley is thickly studded with live oaks and sycamores; graceful vines twine themselves around the huge trunks of the trees and cover the branches with their leaves and clinging tendrils. Nature’s carpet of leaves and grasses and flowering plants and refreshing ferns is under foot; delightful odors greet the olfactory nerves; the air is soft and balmy – and in the centre of this earthly paradise runs a leaping, babbling brook, whose laughing waters greet you with a smile, and invite you to slake your thirst or lave your person in its limpid waters. Long will the recollection of the pleasant moments spent there remain green in my memory.

            But, as I am going off into romance and enthusiasm again, I will bring my letter to an end without telling you of the large bear and two deer which were killed near here last week, to say nothing of the manner in which I distinguished myself by going seven miles to fish for mountain trout, and then made the startling discovery that I had left my fishing tackle at camp. [s] M.

            August 19th, 1878.