Salute to Scenic Hot Springs

Scenic Hot Springs in Washington has always been one of my favorites. Truly a stellar soak. Rick updated Scenic's Blog on Thursday with the sad news... complete closure. It's the same story we hear all too often in regard to public hot springs - the few that ruined it for the many.

Before it's official closure, this hot springs was something else. It was my first brush with a backcountry hot springs community. A place where all walks of life seemingly blended into one, that of the hot springer. Here's the trip report I wrote after visiting Scenic for the first time in August of 2001:

My good friend and I were camping throughout central Washington when we finally decided that this insane, dry, hot, desert camping was getting to be too much... all sun and no shade made us very unhappy. The areas I speak of are around Wenatchee, George, and Moses Lake, Washington.

After a few brutal days of camping we decided that this was enough. We first sought water, and camped in a not so bad BLM wildlife protected area near the sand dunes south of Moses Lake. The camping was still hot and dry, but at least there were a few small trees around - and the amount of cool looking birds that used the nearby wetlands was off the chart. I wished I knew more about bird species. Around 2am we were startled when a huge pack of coyotes ripped through our campsite howling like mad, and then back again an hour later. It was quite exciting! We made it out of our tents and into truck cabs seconds before our tents and camp were rampaged by about 20 running coyotes.

Anyway, after that adventure we headed straight for Leavenworth (the unique German-Bavarian looking town), we needed permits for camping and hiking before heading towards Steven's Pass. I remember seeing some alternative looking folks by the roadside in town, holding signs that simply stated "Scenic". Little did I know that I would later share a soak with the sign-holders.

It seemed like a rainforest to us after all the previous environments we'd experienced along our trip. We past the ski lodge at the summit and continued down I2 a bit further before pulling off onto a dirt road that took us down to some train tracks (just after the turn off to the train tunnel on the other side of the road) and a couple old cabins that mother nature was attempting to retake (they looked scary even during the day).

We then found a nice little road that took us about a mile or two into the forest, and then hiked a couple miles in and found a perfect campsite, one with a small waterfall only a minute away. A lady hiking around the waterfall that we talked to was there visiting because the ashes of her sister were spread at that very place. She and her sister had grown up near here, and she still lived in the area today. We spent time hiking out to Surprise and Glacier Lakes - the hikes were unreal, the scenery breathtaking!

Our first night camping in the area we hiked up to Scenic Hot Springs. It was quite a brisk little hike. Short, but steep at times. And, with it getting dark on us, we nearly missed a couple key turns at intersections we didn't even know we were at. It was all worth it though. The hike was spectacular, and the hot pools amazing. Lots of work went into the construction of the huge soaker pools, each lined with thick plastic and filled with piped in water. Wood decks and walkways skirted each pool which in turn had it's own specific temperature range with the Lobster Pot at the top.

There were at least 30 to 40 people there. A small percentage of the soakers had suits or bottoms on while the majority enjoyed the springs the natural way. Words can't even describe this place. The views were rare to me and were obtainable from a sitting position in any pool.

I remember sitting in a pool with a couple off-duty wildland firefighters, a couple from Finland, a bevy of businessmen and women from Seattle and a handful of hippies from Eugene, and was amazed at how kind and decent everyone was to each other. This theme ensued, and it reminded me of how Native Americans historically treated hot springs; as sacred places where all are equal. Even during times of war, there was always peace at the hot springs.

A special thanks to Rick and friends for taking care of Scenic. Even though it's closed, you can bet that group will continue to move forward with plans to re-open Scenic in the future. Until then, Scenic need be left in peace, it's in good hands.

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