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

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Scenic Hot Spring Conditions

Addendum:  Since this post conditions have changed drastically in the Cascades.  The predicted La Nina snow has arrived and we have had winter storm alerts for the Cascades for most of the past week and into this coming week (Feb-Mar).  

New snow of 12-15 inches, compacted to the ground.  Snowshoes are not necessary, even off trail.  There are some areas of melt and freezing producing ice sheets so crampons, spikes or really good boot tread is a good idea.

Temperatures:  The colder weather has locked up melt.  Therefore, the springs have recovered somewhat.  Bear Den, the pool to the left when looking down, is running a good 105F in the pool.

Lobster Pot, the pool to the right, is being fed only from the lower source and is running just above body temperature due to damage to the spring sources. The upper feed has created a new exit and is running down the slope.  We hope to have this corrected within a few days.  The upper feed is running a more normal temperature of 115F, which would make the Lobster soak very nice, indeed.

We do request that no one attempt to correct the problem on their own. These feeds are very sensitive.  The last time someone tried to help out (i.e., read 'improve' the hot springs) they inadvertently uncovered a cold spring that forever dropped the upper feed from it's historic 122F to 118F.  Please do not mess with the feeds.  Leave this up to Matt and myself as we know what's going on underground.

The site was really clean.  Thanks everyone for helping to keep Scenic clean and pristine.  Both pools could use a good scrubbing and siphoning.  If you feel up to it, it would be much appreciated. 

I did have to turn around a party of four and a party of two up there without permission.  As I was leaving at nightfall, I noticed a rather large party in the far distance hiking the clearcut uphill on the west side of Scenic Creek from the Surprise Creek area.  I watched them for a long time from a distance as they attempted to bushwack in darkness on steep slopes and ravines.  I suspect they were attempting the hot springs from an envisioned back route.  I doubt very much they made it as Scenic Creek and the Lower Scenic Falls is in the way and that creek is more properly classified a fast flowing river with it's flow (more water than Deception Creek).  Too far away to warn off so I didn't stand around waiting.  That route is dangerous and impassable.  Please don't go wandering around in unknown areas at night.

Lower Scenic property entering the clearcut-snowshoes not required
The trail headed up.  Be sure of your footing . . . the steeper sections are slippery

The upper spring source has found a new path, eroding over the steps.
Repairs are planned in the next few days.

Bear Den, toasty soak, Lobster, body temperature and that pool
can definitely use a cleaning.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Expected Scenic Conditions

There have been a lot of questions posed about the conditions of Scenic Hot Springs.  I'd like to offer some clarification of what we expect the conditions to be, considering the unseasonable weather we have been having.

Scenic in Feb 2006 during the last La Nina 

What is happening is that the Northwest is in an unstable La Nina cycle.  As reports:
It appears to be La Nina's turn to stir things up this winter, as her meteorological brother El Nino has finished up a three-year run. 
Climate scientists agree that the phenomenon known as La Nina - "the little girl" - has settled back in after being last seen in 2007-08. As with its more-publicized partner El Nino - "the Christ child", La Nina affects everything from snowfall across the United States to hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean to monsoons in India. The water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific have dropped steadily since last April, according to the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service, meaning La Nina is indeed on her way.
So if past is prologue, skiers and snowboarders in the Northwest and Northern Rockies should get ready for some epic powder days. During the last episode, Mt. Baker received a record 1,100 inches of snowfall, while Mt. Hood got more than 800 inches. 
"Stay north," scientist Jeff Weber of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., told OnTheSnow. " La Nina is like a fire hose of moisture right on Banff and Washington state."

So . . . we are seeing a series of storms being brought in which will dump a lot of precipitation in the mountains.  The kicker here is . . . will the snow level be low enough to have the expected major impact on Scenic Hot Springs.  The indications are that it will:

During a La Nina, the Jet Stream is pushed north by
pressure gradients parked off the coast
 So . . . expect some major dumps of snow in the Cascades.

Scenic Hot Springs is situated at 3,520ft.  Indeed, the snow levels just this coming week are predicted to come down from 2,500ft to 500ft by the end of the week.  Stevens Pass, nearby and at the same elevation, has received nine inches of new snow in the last two days.  We had a warm period last month that melted away a lot of the snow but temperatures are coming down as the jet stream centers in on us.  Snow.

The other question revolves around what is the response of the hot springs going to be to this mish-mash of moving snow levels and precipitation?  Difficult to say . . . especially without daily trip reports from visitors (hint, hint).

The temperature of the actual hot springs is historically reliable.  Unfortunately, these springs run and emerge shallow and are very susceptible to mixing with snowmelt and rainfall.  (Lobster, with the hottest and largest flow is most affected; Bear Den tends to remain stable; even ignoring the effects of snowmelt).  The question is more accurately put as to whether the current conditions will lock up ground water (by freezing it), or make the situation worse.

Matt has tried to explain this to visitors.  In essence, if the snow level remains above 4,000ft for any period of time (as it was for the last month), ground water from the snow melt below 4,000ft will mix with and adversely affect the flow and temperatures of the springs . . . and will continue to do so until the ground has become unsaturated or . . . temperatures (or snow level) come down enough to lock up that cold water . . . usually a good week of cold weather.  This coming week we are looking at snow levels to go way down to 500 ft but will it be enough to slow the mixing?  We hope so but only on-the-scene trip reports can give us accurate information.  Giving enough cold weather the springs will come back up to temperature quickly.

For the casual person wanting to visit, be prepared to be disappointed.  The springs are very sensitive to the amount of snowmelt in the surrounding ground.  I do expect a lot of powder snow in the near term . . . and that suggests snowshoes.  For sure, those hiking up the highway from the BNSF staging area are going to need snowshoes to deal with the snowberms the plows keep building up alongside the highway.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Winter Storm Damage at Scenic Hot Springs

Four feet of the road edge gone after slide from Honeymoon Creek from above
This winter turned out to be warmer than expected and we have received significant early rainfall that coupled with the snow on the ground as fully saturated the mountainside.  After the last major rainstorm at the beginning of this month, the hillside at Honeymoon Creek slid down across the BPA access road, taking out a major part of the road and hillside below.  Though the road is still passable the damage is significant and we fully expect more loss at the unstable edges.  The debris scoured the hillside below right into the tree line on the other side of the BPA clearcut easement.

The trail above was not affected as the area that slid is well below the actual trail.

Flash flooding from the heavy rains also did some unusual methods of damage when heavy runoff got underneath the snow pack on the road surface, channeled underneath and then burst out to the surface carried much of the underlaying road surface with it.  Other areas of the BPA road also show higher than usual erosion from early winter runoff . . . the BPA culvert where Meadows Creek crosses the road is almost completely blocked.  Any major rain that we get runs the risk of blowing out this culvert and taking an important part of the road with it.

The springs, themselves, fared well and were enjoyed by many people who asked for (and received) permission.  Though we still have problems with trespassers (Matt took out a 50 pound trash bag of broken glass and beer bottles), by and large this winter went well (no more illegal fires that I know of).

We have and early snow melt this year (obvious with mainly rain and not snow).  The springs sources have GONE COLD!!!!!  This happens every year and the sources will stay cold until the melt is gone, allowing the natural hot spring water to come back up to temperature.  Depending of whether we get another freeze or not, expect the springs to remain cold (and unsoakable) for several weeks at least.  Presently, the Lobster Pot feeds are running at 50 F while Bear Den is running an unusual 95 F.

A photo album of the damage is here (

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The construction of the Bagby bathhouses in 1983-86

From Mike Rysavy: A treat on the history of Bagby Hot Springs.

As some may know, Bagby has recently been threatened with being turned over to a private concessionaire as well as threats to enforce the No Nudity rules of the Forest Service.  These two issues are still under consideration with both AANR and TNS involved.  For the meantime, reports are that the Forest Service has no intention of citing bathers for mere, simple nudity at the hot springs . . . that these rules were meant for developed sites like the campgrounds.

Meanwhile, enjoy these photo albums that Mike has graciously put together and shared.

Open publication - Free publishing - More oregon

A similar treatment of the construction of Scenic Hot Springs can be found here.