An Epic Adventure to a Remote California Spring Water Source
A road trip full of legends, steam caves, an abandoned resort and a helicopter ride to natural springs
I travel for pleasure and turned it into a business because I thrive on learning in the field. And, into the most beautiful lush landscape I went to see natural springs in the San Bernardino mountains that have been one of the spring sources for Arrowhead® Brand Mountain Spring Water for over 100 years.
What I saw proved much different than I expected and the experience involved my first helicopter ride, a historic abandoned hotel, pore-clearing natural steam caves and a trek into remote hillsides in search of water.
This will certainly go down as one of my most interesting assignments to date. And, it is absolutely fascinating how the arrowhead is much more than a symbol or name in this part of the world.
Table of Contents
First Things First: The Arrowhead
Springs run at the base of the giant arrowhead rock formation. It measures about 7.5 acres in size and miraculously reappears even after wildfires. Legend has it that Native Americans believed the arrowhead fell from heaven and burned itself into the side of the mountain to mark the sacred location of the healing hot springs right below it.
Arrowhead Springs is unique in that it has both consistently flowing hot and cold springs.
Journey to the San Bernardino Mountains
It took a bit less than two hours to reach San Bernardino from San Diego and GPS led us to a desolate, gated road that seemed to lead to nowhere.
The helicopter bit had me a bit nervous as I prefer jumbo jets over small aircraft by miles. Out-of-sorts could be a simple way to describe how I felt but I was game for the adventure.
Larry Lawrence, Arrowhead Brand Natural Resource Manager responsible for studying and monitoring the springs, found us and told us to head on up to the hotel to meet the others in the group.
A hotel? Here? Puzzled, it felt almost like we were in the middle of a of science fiction movie happening below the iconic arrowhead rock formation which, as I already mentioned, is steeped in legend.
A Golden Era Resort Built Around Water
Steam from hot springs rises from grates and natural vents along the road to the hotel which is intentionally located directly beneath the arrowhead.
To say this spot has a colorful history is putting it lightly. The first sanitarium was built here in 1864 with the hopes that the area’s gloriously-pure water could heal otherwise incurable diseases. Over the property’s history three hotels have operated here, partially due to natural cycle of wildfires and subsequent recovery.
The building that stands today was erected as luxury resort and once again welcomed famous guests (like major Hollywood actresses) who came to enjoy its natural surroundings and the legend of “healing waters.”
Now abandoned, it was a serious treat to go inside. Much of its original decor is intact and I can only imagine what the walls would say if they could talk. The furniture is a collector’s dream as the hotel was decorated by Dorothy Draper, considered a revolutionary designer in her time.
In a nutshell, the hotel revolved around water. The pool was naturally heated by hot springs. Each spigot on the gold fountain above delivered water from a different spring so guests could drink from their favorite.
And, the spa took full advantage of being located below the hotel sourcing steam from natural caves. We walked through—it’s definitely nature’s sauna. Hot water still literally pours over the walls.
No one has had a treatment here in decades but what a treat it must have been.
In Search of Springs… Via Helicopter
Still in awe of the history witnessed minutes prior, it was time to fly. The helicopter waited for us on an open field near the hotel. This is the only way to see the natural cold springs—one of several spring sources from which Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water bottles their water—unless one feels like hiking through rigorous terrain for hours and hours while clearing branches and bushes along the way.
It was like a sports car for the sky. I loved it.
The roughly 5-10 minute ride showcased lush green hillsides, trees (many showcase damage from previous wildfires, a natural part of the ecosystem’s grown and development), valleys and every once in a while we’d catch a glimpse of a water pipeline. There were no cars, houses, trails or signs of human life once we left the pad.
We landed on a small patch of grass and hiked through tall grasses, mud, and bushes. There were wildflowers, spiders, birds, and canopies of trees that would be a dream to sit under to meditate. Larry had to cut away branches every so often so we could pass and he thoughtfully packed all sorts of safety precautions and snacks just in case. Translation: This part of the world is isolated.
And then we heard the faint sound of water trickling through a creek.
Have a look at this short video shot with my GoPro that showcases a bit better what our epic trip was actually like.
Along the way, we asked questions about water. As Californians, it’s a hot topic of conversation.
What I Learned About Arrowhead Brand Mountain Spring Water
Spring water naturally flows to the surface of the earth, and does not require pumping to extract it deep from under the ground. Water collection is guided by what the spring and surrounding watershed can provide within its natural cycle and that of the surrounding groundwater system. It’s part of Larry’s job to monitor the springs for long-term sustainability because water is one of the state’s most precious resources.
Eleven of Arrowhead’s 13 spring sources are in California and 80% of the mountain spring water sourced in the state is delivered here.
Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water is naturally filtered by the earth and minimally processed for guaranteed quality. They run it through a UV light and have a 10-step quality control system to ensure the mountain spring water meets their high standards. But the naturally-occurring minerals provide the taste, and the intent is to leave it as Mother Nature intended.
Californians are recycling which enables Arrowhead to currently use about 50% recycled plastic (rPET) in 8-oz, 12-oz and half-liter bottles in California. The goal is to increase that and consumers can help by continuing to recycle eligible plastics.
Commitment to California
Much of what is played in this video that speaks to the company’s California heritage is again what I saw from the helicopter (minus the snow, of course).
I was born and raised in California and spent my teenage years skiing on weekends in the San Bernardino Mountains. But I never really understood how much of a role water plays in the area’s past and present.
I can honestly tell you that I feel better about drinking the Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water I keep in my car for thirsty kids and emergencies, knowing it’s coming from a largely undisturbed California source. To me, California is one of the best places on the planet to live and vacation. It’s an honor to call it home.
Share what California means to you using the hashtag #NaturallyDifferent.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Arrowhead® Brand 100% Mountain Spring Water. The opinions and text are all mine.