Sunday, September 18, 2005

Scenic Hot Springs: A Pictorial Visit

Scenic Hot Springs continues to get visitors despite the 'No Trespassing' signs and the gate across FS Road 850. Of course, for the majority of the hike you are not on private property but on National Forest Service land and you have every right to be there. The private property part starts way up higher on the mountainside on the higher levels of the BPA maintenance road that this Forest Service road runs into when it enters the BPA clearcut area.

A shortcut trail or bypass is to be found to the right of FS 850 just beyond the first curve past the gate. You could just continue on the FS road but this steep bypass cuts off a substantial distance.

The second bypass is on the left rise of the BPA maintenance road as we come out of the trees into the sunlit easement area. Often this shortcut is marked by stacked rocks but the best indicator are the tracks. Taking this bypass uphill avoids a large dipping loop segment.

At the top of the second bypass shortcut you're on the final leg of the BPA road that takes you on up to the trailhead near its' end. The hike up to the springs follows the BPA maintenance road for a good third of the trip and there is lots of sunshine to soak in on this exposed road. It's also fun to watch the surprised looks on other visitors. I just tell them, 'Hey, I'm gonna get naked in the springs . . . might as well hike up naked." Makes sense to me and most agree.

Behind me lies the Tye River Valley with Windy Mountain of the left (west) and a hint of Cowboy Mountain of the Steven Pass Ski Area to the right (east). Just beside my left leg you can see a hint of Highway 2 as it makes its last steep gradient to Stevens Pass.

The BPA Transmission Line towers are always fun to play on and make for a good pose (at least I think so).

This is the entrance (or trailhead) to the springs, themselves . . . almost at the end of the BPA maintenance road. From here to the upper springs is another 3/4 miles of steep hiking. Note how the trail has been widened in anticipation of development. This widening goes about a third of the way up before it narrows to a rough trail again.

The property has been signed "No Trespassing" but few pay any attention. The sign is on the tree in the background to the right.

A short distance up you come to the first creek or stream . . . Honeymoon; and to the left 80 feet up a very steep slope is where the Honeymoon springs flow into a small rock pool. Honeymoon is the coolest of the spring areas with temperatures around 80-90 degrees typical. However, these springs also have the larger flow of any springs in the area. They are popular with couples seeking privacy . . . and sometimes people think these are the springs and have no inkling that the best is further up the mountainside.

Halfway up is a special place for the Naked Gourmet of days-gone-bye. This is the NGs Spirit Tree and the new owner was so taken by Robert's passion for this tree that it was spared the bulldozer when the trail was widened up to this point.

I see these more and more . . . trail markers, typically three rocks of descending size stacked atop each other; indications that first-timers are being guided to the springs by the knowledgeble. This marker was at the forking of the trail with a newly brush-cleared logging road from the fifties. A first-timer might have assumed the easier route of the logging road over the very rough-looking trail just ahead and to the left. I left the markers in place. No need to get a newbie lost on the mountainside.

This is easy stuff compared to some of the refrigerator-sized boulders ahead. This is also the steepest and hardest part of the climb. You need good hiking shoes on these ankle-biters

Finally, we reach a switchback on the trail that leads onto a major bench of the mountainside. The hiking gets very much easier. We are close now.

Another few hundred feet, passing a much used and illegal fire-ring, the last-remaining pool of the upper springs (the Monster Tub) comes into view on the slope below.

A closer picture from above of the divided tub with it's crystaline-clear hot waters. The tub is fed from two seperate spring sources, Bare Springs at around 113 degrees and Lobster Pot Springs from about where this picture was taken, at 122 degrees. The divider down the center segregates the pool into hot and scalding hot soaks.

After two years exposed to the elements and vandals, I really am surprised that my sign is still in place next to the tub. It was this sign that got me involved with the new owner of the property and keeps me pretty busy during what free time I have between work and other activities.

Of course, my real dream is to nudge Scenic Hot Springs and the entire 40 acres on this mountainside into a nudist-friendly nature area where we can roam the trails, sunbathe or soak without bother of uptight textile hikers.

A closer view of the removable divider in the pool. Even on a nice sunny day, as today, the steam rises heavily into the air, for the pools are only a few degrees cooler than the spring sources feeding them.

The water level is normally higher but I am in the process of siphoning the pools as I scrub the liners clean with a stiff brush. Algae is quick to build up without this every other day routine and the tarps become very slippery. Fortunately, there are a number of people who take the time and effort to keep these pools as clean as possible.

The cleaning routine: Scrub the pool thoroughly and siphon the water out to be replace by fresh, hot water from the springs. The siphon is the white tube on the left, which we submerge, block one end with a palm and toss quickly over the side to establish a very powerful and efficient suction to empty the pool . . . or in the case of a quick cleanup, siphon the pine cone and needle debris from the bottom of the pool. It takes about an hour to completely empty the pool of all 3,000 gallons. The siphon is self-limiting, meaning that when the water gets to the bottom air enters the tube, suction is broken and the tub begins to fill up again. I often leave the siphon in place after I scrub the tub, knowing that the pool is refilling automatically while I'm hiking back down the mountain after my soak.

Scrubbing is important. The algae is not easy to see and often the only indication is the slipperiness of the tarp surfaces. When you see black algae, the pool hasn't been cleaned in awhile.

The yellow flex hose on the right is the source waters coming directly from the springs (in this case, 122 degrees Lobster Springs.

The soak is always the best part . . . even with the pool barely halfway full with fresh . . . and definitely hotter water. I while away the rest of the afternoon in the pool until I can take no more. The skin is luxuriated and glowing and it feels really sensuous to hike back down the mountainside with the cooling air soothing your overheated skin.

I meet a few couple headed up for the night time soaking and let them know that I have cleaned the pool and refilled it with sparkling clean water. They are always appreciative and promise to carry out as much litter as the almost-full garbage sack that I carry.

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