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

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Scenic Development Update

Guess I've been remiss is keeping people updated on Scenic so I'll try my best to give you what I have to date.

Mike's idea for Scenic has been well described earlier so I'll briefly touch on it.

At the time Mike bought the property, one soaking pool remained in place from the sheriffs department destruction of 2003. That is the Monster Tub up at the original upper springs location. When Mike purchased the property he also inherited the original Code Enforcement Action requiring the owners to remove the illegal construction and materials on the mountainside. That includes this tub and probably thousands of pounds of construction material squirrelled away in the trees nearby.

That tub is still there and in use, being maintained by a couple of unofficial volunteers who change out the tarp occasionally and clean the pool. The soak is still a marvelous one with this large tub being segregated into two to accept different temperatures from the four springs sources up there. One is scalding hot from the Lobster Springs, the other really comfortable from Bear Den springs. The water is as clear and silky as it ever was.

Mike Sato has held off tearing this tub down as he likes to soak as well and enjoys others at the springs. He has said more than once that the tub will not come down until he has replacements in use. The county isn't pushing the issue right now . . . concentrating, instead, on his proposals.

The original plan was to develop natural rock pools in the lower NW corner of the property . . . a reasonably gentle sloping area below the BPA corridor that would accommodate a secured parking area as well. That was to be Phase I. Phase ii would have been putting in rock pools at a higher location for the more adventurous soaker . . . these pools to be clothing optional.

This plan was quashed last week when the county (with FS reps) objected to the meandering nature of the streams in the lower area and said 'no pools down here'.

Since then, we have been looking at the original upper springs area again, with input from a geotech engineer who believes that it may be possible to reinforce the slope enough to put in pools either at the original location . . . or approximately 150 ft to the west along the access trail where slopes are more gentle.

In all considerations, the plans have to address toilet facilities, changing rooms, shower facilities and some sort of options for clothed versus clothing optional. These are not much up for negotiation . . . the county insists on them. Mike is committed to providing for clothing-optional and that is always part of his plans. However, textile-impair-eds' have to be addressed also. So there will be several soaking areas.

The designs of the pools are local, natural rock. Mike will strive to keep them appearing natural and as if they belong there. However, he must address the sanitation aspect, and that is an area we are running into brickwalls.

The applicable state regulation (sorry, don't have the number on me right now) is the Water Recreation Act; and the regulation does not give much room for wiggle. We have been to two formal Health Department meetings (the most recent this afternoon) and been rebuffed for our proposals to keep it natural. The act of moving boulders around to create a soaking pool makes the pool artificial by their definition, and thus it comes under the swimming pool rules . . . which means chlorination and safety barriers. There is no recognition or exemption for flow-through natural hot springs (as there are in Alaska and Montana). They are artificial pools subject to the chlorination requirements.

The quality of the water is not even an issue . . . though we addressed protecting the spring sources and such. The issue becomes one of the soakers sharing the pool and shedding harmful germs from their own bodies that might infect other soakers.

We tried to address this with restrictions on who can soak and the flow-through nature of the pools where the water is completely changed every couple of hours. However, this scenario does not exist in the minds of the Health Department. It is a swimming pool and requires RESIDUAL DISINFECTION in the waters, themselves, to kill off harmful organisms before they infect a nearby soaker.

At the last meeting I pointed out that Cryptosporium (Crypto to the backpackers) is not rendered noninfectious by normal pool levels of chlorine in a reasonable amount of time. In a swimming pool or spa, where the water is constantly recirculated, chlorine will inactivate crypto in 8 to 10 hours . . . but meanwhile anyone in the pool is at risk.

By contrast, in a flow-through pool, such as Mike envisions, that same resistant pathogen is flushed long ago down the side of the mountain. It just doesn't stay in the pool that long. You are actually at more risk in a swimming pool than in a natural hot spring pool . . . because the recirculating water keeps the crypto around.

Additionally, hot spring soakers traditionally do not dive or dunk their heads under water . . . nor swallow the water . . . the transmission route for every one of the identified harmful organism Health is concerned about.

Our position is that a properly designed flow-through pool can be made safe within the intent of the regulation and that chlorine or bromine treatment in ineffectual as it does not have enough time to inactivate the bad bugs. However, we are still butting heads. The lawyer says a variance is possible but unlikely . . . so I work on a HACCP plan just in case they accept our arguments.

Meanwhile, an acclaimed pool designer has come on board and is of the opinion that he can sway requirements with the use of an ozone generator. We are looking into that but ozone require electricity . . . and that means generators . . . certainly not someone I want to hear in the tranquility of a soak.

Your opinion does count. The survey responses were presented to Health and ruminated over. I do apologize for the poor design of the survey but it was a rush job. But it helped to define to the county just what expectations were . . . and just how vocal some respondents could get.

Our biggest problem is working around the sanitation issues and personally I could use all the help I could get. This is not my area of expertise, though I am learning. Nor do I have much patience when I have to deal with a Mutt and Jeff routine at these meetings.

Mike has good ideas and can make Scenic really beautiful . . . and seemingly as rustic as it ever was. That he is going to charge is acceptable to many if it keeps the place open and clean . . . and provides safe parking. I don't begrudge him that.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Interesting Tidbit on Scenic's Geology

Was talking to a former habituate of Scenic the other day about his first visit up to the springs since the closure of 2001. He mentioned the day of the earthquake in 2001 (the Nisqually earthquake) and hoping that the trembler had not rearranged the plumbing up at Scenic like it had in 1949.

"What do you mean, like in 1949?" I asked him and he replied that the 1949 Seattle earthquake pretty well shook up the town of Skykomish and closed off the fissures of the original hot springs in the area and introducing new fissures that represent where the springs are today.

Well, thinking about this kind of make a lot of sense when reading the history of the original Scenic Hot Springs Hotel and my belief that the original hot springs where located further to the west closer to the Deception Creek valley (but before the ridge line that delineates that valley).

The biographies tell in pretty descriptive language of the 'steaming hot sulfurous waters bursting from beneath a gigantic granite boulder'. Nowhere in the present day Scenic area does such an event show itself . . . and especially not where the biographies and railway/hotel pipeline blueprints suggest! So what happened to those original springs? Why aren't they still there?

Hiking the wood-stave pipeline shown on the railway blueprints certainly shows the remnants of the pipeline going west . . . not east toward the present springs. One creek coming down the mountain in particular shows a water temperature just a scant degree above ambient when it should be much colder. Yet there is nothing even remotely suggestive of a hot springs still fulminating further up the steep slope than I have been able to climb so far.

What if the 1949 earthquake really did shut down the original hot springs only to have the hot springs re-emerge on a ridge across the Surprise Creek valley several miles to the east? It would answer a lot of historical questions.

However, there is the question of the perceived (and accepted) history of the land grant to Mr. Prosser as recompense for the new railway realignment right over the site of the Scenic Hot Springs Hotel. It has been commonly accepted that the 40 acres of land was granted to Mr. Prosser because of the springs thereon that had been formerly associated with the now-razed hotel . . . and that would make sense. So why those 40 acres if the springs were not there at that time? Or were they?

There is also the problem with the long-term geological history of the area. The Long Creek Fault Line (comparable to the San Andreas fault line in California . . . the western side is moving northward; or was up to 50 million years ago; the fault is locked now by the subduction that formed the Cascades) runs right between the two locations of interest . . . straight south through the Surprise Creek Valley. The geology on the east is totally disconnected from the geology on the west and it is difficult to imagine the plumbing rearrangement that would shut off a hot springs on one side and redirect the hot water flows to emerge on the other side of this ancient fault line.

So, the mystery continues. Where were the original Scenic Hot Springs?


Friday, June 03, 2005

What's the skinny on visiting Scenic Hot Springs?

Well, the springs are still there . . . and so is the original Monster Tub, now subdivided down the center into two soaking polls. The question I hear most often is 'I'd like to go back to the springs but can I?'

The answer is a conditional 'yes'. The property is posted . . . why? Because the owner must limit his liability. But you need to read between the lines here. I've known Mike for some time and I know that his greatest joy is seeing people enjoy the hot springs. But Mike is the owner and that legally constrains him. There are still legal and practical issues that prevent him from publicly stating an open invitation to the springs. So a visit really is on the 'sly'. As long as you are respectful of the property and the nearby Forest Service property, there is unlikely anyone who will chalenge your visit to the springs. A few regulars (like myself who are helping Mike) may remind you of the No Trespassing signs with a wink of the eye, but all in all, a visit to Scenic Hot Spring should not be a paranoid, cast an eye over your shoulder type visit.

The Sheriff's Department and FS Rangers have gone onto the property at least once since the beginning of this year but that was to investigate a potential fire. The Deputy merely noted the few people busy hiking their way up the BPA road but didn't forbid or warn anyone. Part of this is because the FS road and the BPA Access Road are for most parts on Forest Service Land and it is legal to be there. The deputy doesn't have the time or resources to go all the way to the top and catch people physically on the spring's private property.

The other reason is that there is a sort of unwritten understanding that as long as there are no more major problems up at Scenic, the KC Sheriff's department really doesn't want to butt in. They know a transformation is taking place and that the wilder elements are gone. So whether the deputy gets involved and has to make all that effort to get up to the springs is highly contiguent on there being no problems up there. A wait and see attitude.

Which brings us to the conditions. The FS road is gated and will remain so until development of a parking lot is done. DO NOT slip a motorbike around the gate. They are not allowed. There is limited parking just before that gate . . . perhaps six or seven cars. Don't even think about parking in front of the gate and blocking it . . . you will be towed if the owner or myself are blocked in.

Don't even think of parking along Highway 2 (either on the shoulders or in the chain-up areas). Likewise, you will be towed and in the process, bring undue attention on Scenic. There is limited parking down near the RR tracks (the SnoPark and Surprise Lake Trailheads) from where you can hike up. Note, you need either a SnoPark pass or a NW Forest pass to park in these areas.

Be aware that acts of vandalism are way down on the parked cars. Perhaps that is because of the lesser use of the area and perhaps because the vandals have gone on to easier pickings. In any case, secure your vehicle and DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING VALUABLE sitting in plain view.

The hike is a mile or so up the FS road past the gate to the open BPA corridor. there is a bypass trail but hard to find unless you know specifically what to look for (hint: look for the footprints).

Once in the BPA corridor under the power lines, hike the gravel road on off to the left and up. Again, there is another bypass and footprints give it away . . . if you are looping back down, you have already passed the bypass. Continue hiking up the BPA road through the loops and switchbacks and up along the towers. Just short of the end there is a widened trail/road to the right going up into the trees. This is the trailhead and trail up to the springs, themselves. This trail has been widened for about a third of the way up. You should be crossing several log water barriers that we emplaced last year to control erosion. The first stream you step over is the Honeymoon Stream and if you look up the slope about 80 ft to your left, you will see the Honeymoon Pool fed by a spring averaging 80-90degF. The trail becomes wet and muddy, the resulting runoff from the Meadows creek area where again to the left is a clear area with lots of hot spring seepages. Soon after this, the trail narrows and the difficult part of the hike begins.

You cross another creek. This one is the runoff from the main hot springs far above. Right up ahead, the trail continues to the left and upslope while an old logging road Y's to the right. Stay on the narrow trail, always heading uphill.

There was a lot of erosion because of the early meltoff and this section is rough on the footing . . . so step carefully. It is also steep in parts. Eventually you reach the one and only switchback . . . it obvious, to the left and uphill, but not as steep now. You are close.

Follow through this canopied bench area. In another hundred feet or so you will find yourself looking down on the springs and pools. make your way down the granite boulders (there are steps cut into the hardpan). You are there.

Please respect the place and show the springs reverence. Read my article on Hot Springs Etiquette here

No DOGS! or any pets!



No boomboxes or loud partying. No rough-housing. No sexually-aggressive actions.

Keep the alcohol really low key . . . keep the damn glass bottles away from the tubs. Keep the drugs off this property, period. Several of us who work with Mike have the legal authority to throw you off the property and the Sheriff's Deputy will be there to meet you halfway back down if necessary (cell phone's do work up at the springs).

Keep the place clean . . . take out your trash with you . . . in fact, take out more.

There are a lot of 'no's' but one big 'yes'. Enjoy the springs.