Scenic Hot Springs . . . Two Years Later

August 8, 2004 at 9:09 am 3 comments

Scenic Hot Springs is still there . . . and a pool exists. However,

the site is in disrepair. Is there hope on the horizon?


Soaking late at night in the one remaining pool at Scenic Hot Springs

I was to meet Robert (aka the Naked Gourmet) and a few other “Friends of

Scenic Hot Springs” for a ‘work party’ at the springs on Saturday

morning. However, with the rain squalls of Friday and seemingly the

same early Saturday morning . . . I was the only one to show up at the

access road. There was one car there at 7AM so I assumed the work party

had gone up ahead. I proceeded up to the springs on my own. As the

morning was cool and threatening to continue the rains from Friday, I

wore my rain gear . . . mistake, would have been better to get soaked

because this hike generates lots of heat on the steep slopes.

The access road is gated about a quarter of a mile up. Unlike the last

time I went up, there was no “No Trespassing” sign . . . an encouraging

omen. Parking is limited and iffy at best. The rains didn’t help much,

softening up the muddy shoulders. There is barely any room to turn a

car around. Beyond the gate, the road has been improved somewhat with

fine gravel at least to the power lines. The road beyond that is still

four-wheel, high-clearance drivable (assuming the gate ever comes

down). I hear that there is an unmaintained trail leading up to the BPA

access roads from the Surprise Creek Trailhead (which has plenty of

parking near the railway tracks for those with FS Passes). I intend to

explore that option at a later date . . . particularly as a winter

parking spot.

A Minimal Attempt to Keep the Last Pool There

The trail up has had work done on the lower sections . . . trees dropped

haphazard, etc., to widen it for ATV access (as I learned later).

However, it is still a hard hike with lots of large rocks and tree snags

to twist the ankles of the unwary. When I arrived at the springs there

was a group of teenagers soaking. The day was barely started and the

springs engulfed in heavy morning clouds and non-stop,

get-everything-wet drizzle. First sight was a huge disappointment.

What a f*cking mess. The remains of King County’s ‘dismantling’,

lumber, piping and blue tarps haphazardly tossed all over the place . .

. and the trashed remains of someones squatter-campsite. The remaining

deck-work was in poor repair. Plus, it was raining pretty good now as I

scrambled down and surprised the half-drunken teenagers in the one

remaining pool. Beer bottles disappeared quickly and the guys seemed

embarrassed. Not the three girls with them though. Obviously

nowhere else for me to go, I was upon them. So I hung my pack up, found

the poncho to shield it from the rain . . . smiled and said my hellos,

and then undressed to join them in the pool.

They made room for me and the half-drunk bottle of beer eventually came

back out of the pigeonhiles they had hidden them. I even accepted a

beer, though I rarely drink. Nice soak. The water is hot. Not as hot

as Lobster before, but muscle-relaxing hot-tub hot. We all relaxed and

enjoyed it. They had spent the night there ducking in and out of the

pool throughout the night to keep warm. Eventually they left probably

because I suggested they clean up the mess they had made. I continued

to soak for awhile longer before I decided time to do something. I gave

up on the rest of the work party and started my own clean up of the site.

Garbage and Torn-down Construction Materials Abound

The irresponsible continue to party up here. From what I hear, not as

bad as in the heydays of the springs because of the hard hike all the

way from Hwy 2. However, the evidence is all around, from beer bottles

tossed by the hundreds down the slope from over the pool edge, to

discarded, forgotten clothing rotting in standing water . . . even some

condoms. No needles but I suppose drug-users are not going to hike

strenuously for an hour or two just to shoot up. Still, I wouldn’t walk

about without good sandals on my feet.

I filled four-45 gal trash sacks and still made little dent in the

garbage. The site remains un-maintained with a lack of some responsible

person or organization; but to give the Friends of Scenic their due . .

. this was supposed to be the first cleanup since the destruction two

years ago. The only thing in reasonable shape is the remaining pool,

itself, which has a new liner. There looks to be attempts to

reconstruct an upper pool but even that seems to be an unplanned,

half-hearted attempt that got no further than some excavation. Run-off

from the rain and spring water from that abandoned work has deposited a

thick layer of mud and gravel on the decking below. I cleared the deck

of mud but without proper drainage, the slope will slide and run again.

Standing Water is a Problem and will Eventually Destroy This Beautiful

Location

The outhouse appears to be in good repair with someone keeping a

protected supply of toilet paper up there. The outhouse is an open

sided affair with a sloped roof on it just a little ways along a side

trail. If you are the sort of person who likes privacy in these

affairs, this outhouse is not your cup-of-tea. No walls and wide open

to any viewer. Better to hike up into the tree-line for your privacy

and dig yourself a cathole. The toilet is a composting type, though I’m

not sure it is in the right location on such a steep slope . . . and it

could certainly (in my view) be a lot further away from the springs and

possible ground water contamination.

That, again in my opinion, is the main problem with the springs and any

attempt to expand and build amenities into them. The water, because of

these attempts, is being forced to accumulate rather than run-off

naturally. The entire site has a stench to it. At first I thought it

might be the sulfur content of the water from the springs, themselves,

but that is not the case. The wood from the decking and tubs is

rotting. Water runs out the remaining pool over channels in the lips.

The water falls haphazardly, pooling around the base and forming

standing little pools just downslope. Additionally, the pipes that were

quickly re-routed after the original site was torn down in 2002 are not

protected nor maintained. They leak like sieves and form their own

standing pools and algae-encrusted channels under and around the

decking. That is the source of the smell that is not necessarily

overpowering (yet) but noticible if you go walking around the area.

With the garbage and unpacked out remains of food-wrappers, clothing and

so on . . . the area just around the site is becoming a cesspool.

Critters and Free Handouts are Expected

There is a problem with wildlife as well. After about an hour soaking

in the pool a cute little chipmunk scurried up onto the deck and stood

there waiting for a handout. It was certainly not afraid of us humans

which means it has been fed. Maybe I’m a purist but I think feeding

wildlife is always a mistake. My mind scape goes to images of bears at

Yellowstone harassing cars for a handout. The last thing we need is for

bears to start congregating on the slopes around the springs and perhaps

the unthinkable happening late one night to a soaker.

The work party never showed up (prolly rain-canceled, I thought and no

one let me know), so I packed out as much of the garbage as I could,

figuring a later party would take the rest. At least it wasn’t on the

slopes waiting for an unshod foot . . . or still rotting at the base of

the pool.

The Friends of Scenic Finally Show Up

About halfway back . . . where the trail exits onto the BPA access road

. . . I met up with another of the work party on his way up. He looked

disgruntled also and even more so when I told him I was ‘it’. We hiked

back down together and along the way he brought me up to date (most of

which my poor memory forgets . . . can’t even recall his name but then I

was always bad at names). He is loosely associated with ‘Friends of

Scenic’ and a board member of Goldmeyer Springs. He mentioned that the

sale of the springs acreage is likely to go through this September. The

new owner *had* plans on commercializing the springs but has run into

code restrictions from King County. Any attempt to put a commercial

operation at the present site is going to require the owner to deal with

not only the sanitation problems (including a proper toilet), but the

county is going to force him to deal with the hot water effluent runoff

from the operation. The concerns are about hot water impacting the

streams and the Tye River down below. He says the county is requiring

the owner to pump the water back into the mountain . . . an unworkable

solution, it seems.

A Commercial Operation?

Instead, the prospective owner is exploring the possibility of drilling

for hot water sources on his property and then piping it back down the

slope closer to the access roads where it is believed, a commercial

operation can be conceived and eventually constructed. That site would

have all the amenities including restrooms, parking, and ‘artificially’

constructed rock pools. What this means to the original site is iffy.

I was told that the ‘Friends of Scenic’ has an understanding with the

new owner to keep the original site intact and perhaps ‘improve it’.

They would be left for the die-hard hiker to reach and presumedly would

be kept clothing-optional. Whether the proposed (but yet out of the

fancy of the owners mind) commercial and easily accessible lower site

would be clothing-optional was left unanswered.

Problems in Paradise

When we arrived back at the lower access road we encountered the rest of

the work party trying to rip the lock off the gate with a chain to one

of their four-wheelers. Seems that someone (Forest Service, BPA, owner)

had changed the lock from one that the ‘Friends’ had a key. There were

a few bad feelings going around including remarks about ‘deals’ and such

. . . and the ‘Friends’ were simply going to tear to gate open. I

figured this wasn’t my idea of fun and made my excuses to leave.

Actually, my opinion of this group changed to the negative in those few

short minutes and I’m not sure I like the idea that they have any

authority and/or influence in the future direction of the original hot

springs site. They seem self-centered and possessive of the springs . .

. to me . . . to the exclusion of anyone else. My opinion, though. The

guy I hiked down with shared some of those feelings as well and believes

it will be a long time before we see any improvement of conditions at

the original site.

A Nighttime Return Visit to the Springs

It was only a little after noon when I got back down from the springs

and instead of wasting the day (which was turning out to be a very nice

day free of the clouds and drizzle of early morning) I took a chance on

hiking the Deception Creek trail two valleys down the highway. No

vehicles at the trailhead so nude from the get-go. Found a great

sunning ledge at the second log bridge and got three or four hours of

tanning done. Hiked back out nude, figuring I shouldn’t surprise and

shock anyone as it was getting late and few hikers would be on their way

in, which was the case. Now I needed that soak and besides, I was

intrigued as to whether the gate still existed in its’ original form. I

drove back up the highway and parked as usual. By now the sun was going

down and this became a personal challenge to me. A confidence-builder

about things that go bump in the night . . . visions of walking through

the Mirkwood Forest (from Lord of the Rings, book, not movie).

Cool out, but not too so. No cars so I was the only one heading up. I

stripped, tucked a few supplies (including a rain suit just in case) and

strapped on my headlamp. For those of you who do not own one of these

lightweight neon headlamp, get one. About $30 at any camping store,

they throw out a powerful cool-color beam that perfectly illuminates the

trail in front of you without destroying your night vision. Three AAA

batteries last an average of 40 hours of continuous illumination.

Also, I trying out one of those electronic mosquito repellents . . .

dubious at first, but I hate mosquitoes. Either there were no

mosquitoes (unlikely, they always seem to find me) or it really does work.

The gate was in place but with a different lock than I remember. But

the knobby tire tracks beyond it were obvious. The ‘Friends’ had gotten

through and I easily followed the ripped up tracks all the way to where

you turn off and up from the high-tension lines that hum and click in

the night. Fascinating is that some of the larger boulders also click

audibly along the road, which gave me a few starts in the darkness. I

conjecture that there is a sympathetic relationship between the iron

content of the boulders and the high-tension lines about. Anyway, at

least it’s not a bear waiting to eat me as I pass by.

The return hike to the springs was uneventful and I actually relaxed,

only occasionally to start at a quick shadow . . . the headlamp does

produce some sharp and flitting ones as you pass foliage. I came upon

the springs and lit up a couple of the candles left there by previous

visitors. I had the springs all to myself and alternately soaked and

got out (to cool off) till way past midnight. Staring over the lip of

the pool downhill and to the right, you can watch the headlights and

taillights of cars on highway 2 far below. The State Patrol was out in

force that night as I made out several obvious pull-overs on the stretch

leading to the hairpin rise to Steven’s Pass. At first I thought all

those lights were other hikers working up the trail but no one ever

arrived. Cars, my brain finally figured out. Absolute darkness does

funny things to your perception. You hears things and see things

without regard to distance. Several times I made out the bobbing

headlamps of other night hikers . . . and plainly heard their idle

chatter amongst themselves. Yet, they too, were not on the Hot Springs

trail and I have to presume they were way over on Surprise Creek which

is the next trail west of the springs.

The best is the night sky. Just lay back and stare up between the

towering evergreens and the stars blaze back at you in their

multitudes. Snuff the candles, let the darkness close in around you and

the sky landscape is mesmerizing. This is Scenic Hot Springs at it’s

best and I plan on doing an overnight trip soon. There are a few good

tents site above the springs and if the burn ban ever goes off, a

beautiful fire ring in a cleared space to sit around and enjoy nature.

An occasional short walk down to the pool for a soak and back up to

toast marshmallows. Yeah, I could enjoy that. Now, if only all those

drunken teenagers would just stay away.

Rick

Entry filed under: Hot Springs. Tags: .

>Scenic Hot Springs . . . Two Years Later Exhibitionism or Nudism?

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Banged Up Shins  |  September 5, 2004 at 9:39 am

    Belated post . . . one week later

    The Spotted Owls and the Marlots have finally finished their mating season though I hadn’t a clue what that factoid meant until I chanced
    upon a happy-go-lucky, any-chance-to-take-a-break-and-chat-with-the
    idiot-backpacker-trying-to-negotiate-his-way-back-down road crew on the BPA Access Road that we use to get to Scenic Hot Springs.

    Went up there last night (Friday) with the intention of camping and just enjoying the quiet solitude of soaking. Night hike up so I didn’t notice the improvement of the road surface immediately . . . that is, until you reach the power lines where only four-wheel drives used to dare. The road surface is drivable even in my low-clearance Honda Civic (assuming the gate ever comes down). Nice job! They had finished regrading almost all the way up to the trail entrance. There was a moment of indecision on my part when I cam across a twenty-foot difference between old and new road beds but on the return trip down the next morning the dowzer operators had smoothed all that out and were working there way up.

    I asked them if they were working on behalf of the new owner or BPA, thinking that maybe something was afoot concerning Scenic . . . but the road work was simply scheduled and just waiting for the foremention
    spotted owl mating season to end before permits could be issued.
    However, this vastly improved road does benifit the new owner and the guys I chatted with said Mike (the owner) had been up the day before checking it all out. Of interest, the crew has scraped out an area that could (and probaly will) be used for parking under the power lines. Coincidence?

    The second pool is under construction at the springs . . . still little more than a mud hole but taking shape with built-up rocks. The site look a lot cleaner than the last time I went up so things are looking up.

    I checked out access to the Surprise Creek Trailhead from the BPA access road and was met with a chasm that seemed unnavigatable. Looking across, there seems to be a trail and in fact, there is a trail
    coming onto the access road from what seems is that direction. But it appears to be a tough and long hike. Will explore more the next time.

    Rick

    Reply
  • 2. Banged Up Shins  |  September 5, 2004 at 9:49 am

    Things are happening at Scenic. A revisit on Sept 2nd, 2004 brought surprises and concerns.When I dropped by Scenic this last weekend that that new owner has actually bulldozed and graded a one lane road off the BPA access road and two-thirds of the way up the trail to Scenic. The hike up is actually harder because of the slippery straw covering placed on the graded surface for erosion control. The bulldozing stops right where the runoff of the springs crosses the trail and it would be a simple matter to running plumbing down from the springs to this point and then on down the road to a commercial operation.

    Disturbing chit-chat from a guy named Mark who is
    building the new rock pool bolsters the plumbing
    theory. He also said he heard that the owner plans to cap the outlets up at the Springs themselves and pipe that water on down for a commercial operation. I don’t know how much truth there is to that but the
    fact that a road was bulldozed most of the way up
    seems to imply construction on a larger scale than the original efforts by Friends of Scenic. Short of
    Robert (the Naked Gourmet) most others seem pessimistic all of a sudden. Aside from their pool
    construction and a general tidying up of the site
    (litter and construction materials) little else is
    happening, perhaps because of the impending sale and
    uncertainties about the future of the Springs. If you are going to make a trip I would suggest it be sooner than later.

    Personally, the whole thing pisses me off and I keep
    thinking about the possibilities of ‘discovering’ hot
    spring outlets further up the mountain side beyond the Wilderness Area boundary. There must be other outlets just wanting to burst from the ground in that granite pluton. Now wouldn’t that be something . . . allow a natural hot springs to ‘accidentally’ evolve outside of private land and slowly work a trail into them from over the summit as a spur of the popular Surprise Lake Trail. Fait accompli’! What a way to end a strenuous backpacking trip! Ah well, I’m a dreamer.

    On a positive note, Sunday (the afternoon I was up
    there recovering from my miserable backpacking trip)
    was a popular day with several couples and a trio of
    college girls enjoying the Springs for the
    first time. . . timidly at first and then all au’
    natural.

    I spent some time exploring the area around the
    springs and was surprised at the number of potentially good camping sites there are just above and easterly along the slope. I wonder if the new owner knows what a gem of a location the original springs are?

    Rick

    Reply
  • 3. Anonymous  |  September 8, 2004 at 3:36 am

    Yummy

    Reply

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