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

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Conditions this last Saturday

Update:  There is a new weather system coming through this Wednesday that is expected to dump more snow in the mountains.  Please carefully review weather reports before heading in.  Rick

From Saturday, graciously shared by Joe and his group of 5 allowed visitors . . .

We had a great hike to the springs today. It was snowing heavily on the way up Hwy 2. We had a 4 WD so no problem. Did not put on chains. We got to the BNSF parking lot by about 11 AM today. Due to a 4 foot mound of snow we could not cross over the railroad tracks to park on the south side so we parked near where the road to the BN parking lot meets Hwy 2. We dug out a spot back from the main entrance since someone told us we could be in danger of being ticket or towed.

We hiked through the BNSF parking lot which was covered by about 3 feet of fresh snow. Our snow shoes worked fine and walked up the highway on the snow bank to the right of the road. Very deep fresh powder. Very little sign that anyone had hiked it before. Same thing where the road to the gate meets the Highway. Snow was about 2-3 feet of fresh unbroken powder. The 5 of us took turns breaking the trail. It was calm in the woods but very windy cold on the power line trail with the snow blowing almost horizontal from west to east. It was very tough, slow going. 3/4 way up the power lines were discussing turning back. But then we saw a group of 4 coming up in the distance behind us, it was Joel S. that we knew was reserved for the day too. That inspired us to keep going. Plus we let them pass us so they could break the trail for us:) Honestly, 2-3 feet of fresh, unbroken powder is really tough. A beaten down trail is 5 times easier, which we had when we let them pass.

 We stuck to the trails as you suggested but it was a little tough to follow the trail under the power lines as it was all covered in deep powder and was hard to see, but we made it ok.

The trail up from the power lines was the same deep powder but little wind. At the springs the snow was 2-3 feet deep. Oops, forgot my shovel, would have come in very handy for clearing snow from around the springs.

It took us about 2 1/2 hours to reach the springs, mainly because we had to break the trail through deep snow. Once it was beaten down the going was much easier. We left a what looks like a 3 foot deep, 2 foot wide trench all the way up and down. Will be much easier for people on Sunday.

 I think the parking to the south side of the tracks will be open tomorrow as people were clearing it out when we left. Bottom line, temperature around 30. 2-3 fee of fresh powder but now, a decent beaten down trail. 

Both the Bear's Den and the Lobster Pot seemed to be their normal temperature. All 9 of us enjoyed a great soak! Hwy 2 down was well plowed and in good shape. 

 ... and from Joel, the other group that was allowed access on Saturday . . .

We made it in and out successfully on Saturday.  Snow was very heavy, up to 2-3 ft of fresh powder in places.  Impossible without snowshoes.  In all honesty, there is no chance we would have found the springs if we hadn't followed the trail blazed ahead of us by Joe.  We caught up to Joe and his group near the turn back into the woods, under the power lines.  I would recommend not to go unless you are with someone who has visited the springs before and is confident in finding a trail that doesn't appear to exist.  Joe was that person, so we made it in after 2.5 hrs.  Joe and his group must have been at it for over 3 hrs, most of that through very thick snow drift.  Once we met Joe's gang, we took over the blazing to give them a break, and arrived at the springs together.  All had a great time soaking and chatting!  The way out was easier, but if we'd left an hour later, our path would have been covered over in places.  

From Friday . . .
So the hike (up to the springs) yesterday was brutal.  It took two and a half hours to hike up.  Snowshoes were an absolute must!  Huge snowdrifts.  Looked like nobody had hiked up in a week.

The wall on the highway (the snowberm across the FS road created by plows) was about eight feet high.  Saw nobody.

The tubs were dirty as hell.  Did a quick cleanout and then soaked my aches away for three hours.  When I got back to the highway it was covered by two inches of slush.  It was dry when I drove up.  About three to four inches fell while I was onsite.

This report via text msg from Matt onsite, our other Steward, checking up on conditions.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scenic, Snow, and the Safety of Your Visit

UPDATE:  Highway 2 and Stevens Pass will be closed Tuesday night through Wednesday at MP 58 through MP 65.5 for avalanche control.

With the unfortunate deaths of three skiers on Cowboy Mountain (Stevens Pass) and a snowboarder at Alpental this past Sunday, I feel the need to caution while also reassuring permitted visitors to Scenic Hot Springs.  "Avalanche" is an emotional word and I hate to use it in conjunction with the situation on adjoining slopes like Scenic.  "Snow-slides" carry less a threatening tone, which I'd like to impart.

What occurred on the Tunnel Creek side of Cowboy Mountain was destined to happen at some point.  The recent heavy snowfalls, the yo-yo of warming and cooling trends creating unstable snow surfaces, and the sheer steepness of that slope was a recipe for a major slide.  The West Slopes of the Cascades in this area are known for disastrous avalanches . . . i.e., the 1910 Wellington avalanche that took out several trains and 96 souls. Those slides occurred on the other side of the valley some distance away . . . and they displayed the telltale signs for avalanche conditions.  However, not all slopes are as prone to these sorts of natural disasters.

What is the difference that makes me feel comfortable about Scenic?  Over the years of working with the owner, I have hiked just about every square inch of that slope . . . all the way to the alpine lake at the top, staking property lines and performing topographical surveys. That has made me confident that there are very few places where snow can accumulate over a large enough open area to present a slide hazard.  None of those areas is above the route to the springs. Lower elevation, thick forest cover and a lack of historical or physical evidence of slides on the property, combined, would class the Scenic slopes as not avalanche-prone.

The peak above Scenic (the portion that is capable of holding snow in threat above the hot springs), is only at 4,500 feet . . . whereas the surrounding peaks that have become notorious for avalanches all approach 6,000 feet with contiguous and unbroken slope from the peaks.  The Scenic slope does not go above an alpine treeline onto open, treeless slopes that could accumulate massive amounts of snow to cling tenaciously until a thawing event or some other trigger sets it loose to slide down the mountainside.  That reservoir of unbroken snow-pack is just not there.

Just as importantly, (with the exceptions of the BPA clearcut easement and associated access roads lower down on the property) the Scenic slopes are densely covered by mature old-growth and sixty-year old second-growth evergreens.  These mature and well-rooted trees do not show any evidence of past slides that would be prevalent upon looking at aerial images of the slopes.  In contrast, the barren area of the Wellington slide of 100 years ago is still visible on that mountainside when viewed from miles away at Scenic.  Mature trees simply will not have a chance for much growth in such a slide-prone area.

The site of the Tunnel Creek Avalanche.  Seventh Heaven access
is to the top of the image.

The avalanche chutes from the Wellington disaster.

A lack of avalanche-prone chutes on the Scenic slope.

Scenic is also on the north flank of the mountainside.  The warming from daytime sun that triggers slides in more prone areas, is not present.  The north flank is also on the windward side of the mountain, leaving the larger accumulations of snow on the far, southern side of the mountain (the lee side) out of harms way.

The BPA clear-cut.  The access road is above to the right side
of the towers, well above open snow.

Two-thirds of the route up to Scenic Hot Springs is via a Forest Service road and the maintenance road of the BPA easement that cuts through the lower area of the property.  The Forest Service road is on relatively level terrain surrounded by old-growth evergreens.

A BPA easement runs across the lower portion of the property and the maintenance roads are the route up.  The access roads run above the clearcut of the easement, so whatever snow accumulates on the clearcut represents no threat if the visitor sticks to the access roads.

On the access road above the clearcut.
In my considered opinion, the only danger zones on the way up to the springs during the winter months, would be the open slopes of the BPA clearcut below the road.  Sticking to the road above the clearcut on the way up (stay to the right of the towers, vice versa on the way back down) keeps you in good, stable snow.  Too many visitors attempt to shortcut across the clearcut on top of an open snowfield.  That snow will be deep and probably unstable.  It cannot slide far but you do not want to be caught in it.  Stay on the roads and trails.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thursday onsite updates

Thursday, this is what snow at the springs looked like.

Snowshoes are not required

Snowshoes are not required. But by afternoon
when the snow thaws a bit, expect a few steps 
to posthole here and there.

Snow at the gate

Thursday, this is how much snow was at the gate


As of Thursday afternoon there was little evidence of snowmelt affecting the springs to any significant degree.

Lobster Pot sources were a degree or two off with just a little bit more flow.  Bear Den remains unchanged.

The snow in the area is best characterized as wet and slushy . . . packed where deep.  Snowshoes and/or crampons were not necessary.

There have been significantly higher freezing levels, giving rise to concerns that the resulting snowmelt would soon affect the hot springs.  However, the freezing levels are coming down this weekend, probably delaying cooling spring temperatures.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Recent Images from Scenic

A couple of soakers with permission to visit Scenic Hot Springs, have graciously provided photos of their visit with permission to post to the Scenic Blog.  Here are three from this past weekend:

On the bench above the pools.
Copyright 2012 Gloria Cropper, used with permission

Reflections on Bear Den Pool
Copyright 2012 Gloria Cropper, used with permission

Snowbound Slopes . . . Hot Soak
Copyright 2012 Gloria Cropper, used with permission

Friday, February 03, 2012

Rising Snow Levels

Freezing levels in the Cascades are predicted to go up to 7-8,000 feet this coming weekend.  If these levels are sustained for a time, we can expect increasing snow-melt into the groundwater near the spring sources, thereby diluting and bringing the temperatures of the hottest feed (Lobster) way down.  We would appreciate it if those who have permission to visit Scenic in the near term would measure (or guess) at the temperatures of both pools (and unusual flow rates), and let us know after your visit.

A comment from a permitted visitor that warrants citing here:
Judging from the snow clinging to the trees, no significant melting of the Mon/Tue snowfall occurred on Wednesday at elevation 3,500'.

Late Thursday, it warmed above freezing enough for shaded limbs to begin shedding snow. Hiking out, I noticed that the streamflow was two to three time greater than what was evident on the way up. Lobster Pot source water temp was good, but probably at mid range; volume was higher than what I recall from the past.

Tarping and plumbing in good order. Removed one plastic grocery bag of litter.