Tuesday was to be a break in the overcast and the warmest day of the week . . . a possibility of showers in the late afternoon (snow above 3,500ft) but for the most part nice. I needed to check the mail for Scenic Hot Springs anyway so I headed on up to Skykomish. Passing Sultan, the roadside sign stated 61F . . . warmer than I expected. So 10 to 15 degrees cooler in the mountains . . . doable. I picked up my mail, had a quick lunch at the Cascadia and then headed east towards Stevens and Scenic Hot Springs . . . unsure of exactly what the snow conditions were. I parked in the BNSF/Surprise Creek Trailhead parking area and immediately confronted this huge plowed pile of snow blocking the beginning route up to the springs. But there were old tracks over the twenty foot high pile of snow so I knew others had made the trek. Weather not too bad for 10am . . . the skies clearing with the promise of lots of sun for the afternoon.
of cascades into the pool. This is the knoll overlooking the falls.
The clearcut. Great snowshoeing!!!
Hard to tell from a distance but that is twenty feet
of fractured snow there
While I'm studying the fractured snow and taking photos, two pitt bulls come scurrying down the upper BPA road. A moment later, their owners appear . . . all dressed up for some serious winter weather. So much for having the mountain to myself . . . instead of worrying about what they might think of a crazy nude hiker on the snow, I wonder about more mundane things like 'where did they park?' I hadn't seen another car at the only reasonable parking area. We exchange hellos and I ask about the springs. "Utopia!" is an happy answer as I'm passed with nary a sideways glance . . . except for a thumbs up and 'Rocking, man'.
Looking down, there is no way to make the traditional access. Twenty-five feet of sheer vertical, unstable snow. I have to backtrack and attempt my way in from above to old latrine. Gratefully I set my backpack down and anticipate immersing myself in that inviting water.
the gentle area just to the right of the tree trunk
Of course, I had to explore the snow pack, trying to figure
out how to take measurements from the sources
A large block of snow ready to fall down to the pool area
It started to rain a little while I soaked. Eventually, that let up but I kept watching the clouds forming up as the afternoon waned and knew temperatures in the mountains would soon drop. My thermometer said high 30's. I started down, fully reheated and just as nude as before.
Snowshoeing downhill is harder than going up. You must constantly plant and dig the cleats into the icy snow or risk falling on your bare butt . . . something I did a number of times on my way down. I also figured out I was out of shape as my quads started cramping up from the unnatural use of muscles attempting to control my descent.
I ran out of daylight about halfway back. Out came the headlamp . . . off stayed the clothes. I felt fine. No shivers, energy good and feeling unchilled. The worst of the descent would be under that canopy where I needed to see the trail and avoid pitfalls. Didn't work too well and at one time I had to dig my leg and snowshoe out of a very deep tree well while laying on my back, head down on a very steep slope . . . in darkness. I never had any strong desire or need to put clothes on . . . that may have protected my bare skin from the abuse it was taking. But I was glad to eventually get back to the large snow berm at the BNSF yard that shielded me from my car . . . and put some clothes on. What a great day . . . even if I did have to soak away aching muscles in my bathtub at home.