7-Day Forecast for Scenic Hot Springs Area (2,900 ft near beginning of Trail Head)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Snow Plows have blocked access

The snow berm across the entrance of FS850
- image courtesy a friendly WSP trooper

We got a good dumping of snow in the Cascades on Monday . . . up to 14 inches in some places. You can expect snow from Skykomish on up. The pass cam shows US2 unplowed of several inches.

FS850, the access to Scenic Hot Springs, is well within the heavy snow zone and according to one report there is a snow berm in place from the highway plowing operations.

Expect more snow this week . . . and please do not park on FS850 (even if your 4wd can get in). You'll probably get trapped. Also, do not park on the highway, the shoulders, or in chain-up areas. These are tow-zones. The nearest safe parking is in the Surprise Creek Trailhead area within the BN Rail Zones.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Why you should care . . .

A few of the many 38cal(?) cartridges we found
scattered around the base of the Monster Tub

I won't go into why firing guns from the hot spring pools is such an incredibly stupid idea. I've had guns fired in my direction on two occasions up at Scenic. I don't like the idea of an errant bullet whizzing past my head on the trail downslope.

Irresponsible gun usage is one of the reasons we have rules in the wilderness . . . and particularly at Scenic. Mix it in with a partying attitude involving alcohol and weed at nighttime, and the chances of something going terribly wrong go way up.

Scenic is not open to the general public. You either have a permission card because of your involvement in past clean-ups, or you have been given permission for a visit in advance. What that means is if you are caught hiking up to the springs by the owner or his representatives, you may be asked to leave . . . even if you are almost all the way up to the hot springs. Please don't argue with us . . . if you do not have permission you are trespassing! If you do have permission, the owner can revoke it.

So why?

The first reason is because we are in the middle of sensitive negotiations with the county, state and feds over permits to reopen the hot springs to the public . . . and by the unexpected presence of people heading up to the hot springs while bureaucrats and inspectors watch, our permits get jeopardized.

Secondly, irresponsible soaking will not be allowed to take root at Scenic. Even if you have permission, I will challenge you and send you packing if you are not prepared for the weather . . . or if you are drinking too much or otherwise being an a**hole. We've had our share of people hiking in street jeans, teeshirt and sneakers thinking they were immune to an oncoming snow storm.

We do not allow late night soaking or camping because we cannot control the irresponsible activities that traditionally take place after the sun goes down. Occasionally the owner or one of his reps will make the hike up to the springs late at night and ask those there to leave. Please do so without argument. I didn't hike up there three times for the exercise this past Sunday.

It's within your power to help make the re-emergence of Scenic Hot Springs happen. You could volunteer . . . you could ask first . . . instead of assuming . . . you could also soak responsibly. But just don't enter the property en'mass near nightfall carrying cases of beer and expecting me to allow you to continue up to the springs. That is just the sort of activity we need to minimize in the county's eyes. I will ask you to turn around. I expect the other representatives will also.

    • Have Permission First
    • No Night-time Soaking
    • No Guns, No Camping, No Fires
    • Be Responsible with Alcohol - No Glass
    • No Dogs at the Springs Site
    • Be Prepared for Conditions

Snowtime at Scenic

A dusting of snow near the main springs at 3,500ft

Not much yet but it's coming as a new weather system with high winds and a lot of moisture is due in Monday. The freezing level is down around 2,400ft.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why no Sulphur Smell at Scenic . . .

A question I often get from those who have been to Scenic is "How come there is very little rotten egg smell like other hot springs?" Often the pungent smell of Olympic Hot Springs is brought up in comparison. Scenic Hot Springs barely has any smell, whatsoever. Why?

That rotten egg smell is the result of H2S, or hydrogen sulphide. As ground waters percolate downward and heat up, minerals are dissolved out of the rock being traversed. Heat and pressure dissolve heavier minerals as the temperature and pressure increase . . . generally with depth. A common mineral dissolved out by most geothermal systems is sulfur . . . which by itself has no unpleasant smell. Bacteria deep down converts sulfur to the rotten egg gas smell of many hot springs.

The presence of H2S indicates that the water has penetrated to great depths. As the water percolates deeply into the crust, pressure increases, and this allows the anaerobic bacteria (germs that work in the absence of oxygen) to convert sulfur in the form of sulphate to the sulphide of H2S. A quick trip to the surface retains the H2S created. A slow surface route may retain the gas only if the passage excludes oxygen, allowing the anaerobic bacteria to continue their work.

Olympic Hot Springs evolves from fractures in the bedrock around an active fault line over the Olympic subduction zone. Temperatures and pressures are very high and the resulting hot spring waters are highly mineralized with very high concentrations of sulfur . . . and the smell of hydrogen sulphide in the air.

Scenic, by comparison, is a shallow and rather benign geothermal system. The heat source for Scenic Hot Springs is an upwelling of solidified magma (called a pluton) that has been cooling for the last 35 million years. The residual heat from this solidified upwelling is shallow (~600ft) and does not give the pressures and heat for much reduction of sulfur into the rotten egg gas.