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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Update on Scenic Hot Springs

I thought I'd ramble just a little bit about what's happening at Scenic Hot Springs.

Mike, the new owner of the property, is still jumping through the hoops of bureauacracy in order to get the permits to take the springs public and I have been accompanying him on almost a weekly basis in surveying the terrain of the property . . . charting the location of all the springs (we've discovered a dozen new sources of hot water so far) and figuring out how best to meet the needs of King County and the State with the least impact on the beauty and rustic-ness of the area.

It is winter and hiking the property is an exercise in misery. Wet and cold . . . but rewarding for me, personally. But then again, my major interest is in the geothermal science and processes of the area and this is a perfect, pristine laboratory for me. On top of that, I love to hike and rough it.

The one pool is still up there - divided down the center to make two pools fed from Lobster and the other springs. Temperature fluctuates. With all this rain and snowmelt, Lobster is running pretty cool which dampens any enthusiasm for taking a soak. The last time I measured Lobster it was running at a tepid 90 degs F. This has given rise to talk of having to provide for reheating or boosting the water during wintertime and now Mike has to consider pumps and propare heaters at the spring locations if he wishes to keep them open during the winter months. Mike assures me that is his desire.

Speaking of winter (and rain and such), this unseasonable weather has taken a toll on Scenic with lots of erosion and damage to the Forest Service road and the BPA Access road. To the credit of all those who labored to get those five water bars in place last fall, the actual trail up to the springs has faired well and is in excellent shape with little erosion. There are a few locations further up that beg the use of ice-cleats but all-in-all the trail is fine.

The BPA Access road is a different matter. A few weeks ago a significant slide buried the culvert that took Honeymoon Creek under the road, causing runoff to do a lot of damage to the road surface. BPA crews were in there later to repair the damage but the road surface remains in poor shape.

Emergency drainage measures were made in a lot of locations along the FS road to control all the water but these measures make access untenable except for high-clearance 4-wheel drives. I used to be able to make it up to the first BPA tower in my Civic (even in the snow). I won't attempt that now until we can get in there with a load of drainage rock to make the FS road drivable.

Access was impossible last Thursday until we hacked down the snow berm blocking FS850 at Hwy 2. The plows will probably pile it up again when (and if) we get anymore snow. The short drive up to the gate is trecherous . . . slippery as hell with thick snow half melted with a slick semi-melted layer of water and ice. If you're going to try it, 4wheel with the right tires (or chains). Mike ended up in a ditch just the other day and had to be pulled out.

We are looking for solutions to several problems. If you have ideas or expertise, speak up. Toilet systems: composting or septic . . . if septic, where can we put the septic field; structures (caretakers cabin, changing rooms, etc): designs, who to build them, where to site them; parking: this has become a real challenge . . . I spent most of my trips in the proposed lower parking area siting plans for parking and figuring out cut and fill requirements that don't trigger massive stabilization issues. It is a long and involved labor of love. It gets pretty bad when you can recognize where you are by the shape of tree branches.

George has been right up there with us in the rain and snow, sliding on our butts down slopes and sloshing through mud. And I do thank those individuals (specifically Sushi Bob and Rocky) who are looking out for the upper pool by cleaning it and keeping up the integrity of the liner. Visitors continue to trudge their way up to the springs in even the worst weather and that seems to make Mike pause in the middle of a measurement on the lower slopes, stare at the distant shapes on the upper road and crack a smile. He really wants people to enjoy the springs.

Springtime is coming. And a lot more work. The springs remain open to those who respect the place. Let's work together to help out in any way that will bring these springs florishing again.

Rick
banged_up_shins@yahoo.com

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