Sunday, January 27, 2008

One last hike to Bagby Hot Springs

It's going to be a long time until I can go to one of my favorite hiking destinations: Bagby Hot Springs. So on Friday evening, with my back-pack loaded and my car full of gas, I headed out for a snow-filled adventure.

On the way, I stopped at Jasper’s CafĂ© in Molalla for a Prime Rib dinner. It was fabulous, to say the least. Then, I drove through Estacada and on to the trailhead. It was a little more difficult getting to the trailhead than I thought it would be. The last 10 miles, snow on the road was anywhere from 6" to over 12" deep, and since this is a very popular destination, even in the winter, the snow had been packed down by other vehicles to a single lane track. It appeared that my Toyota had a lower clearance than most other vehicles attempting to make this trip, so my rear axle was dragging on the ridge of snow between the two tire ruts. I stopped and put my chains on the front, and off I went without too much trouble.

The driving was slow, and it was a good thing that no one was coming out at the same time as I was going in because there was no place to pull over. I made it to the trailhead at about 1:00 am, and started to hike to the Hot Springs with my flashlight. The trail is about 2 miles with a slight climb in elevation. Even with the snow and ice, it was very easy to follow the trail.

Bagby Hot Springs has two separate soaking areas. The main building has 5 semi-private rooms with a hollowed out cedar log for soaking, and a very interesting system that channels the 136 degree steaming water from the source at the spring right to the tub. In addition, there is an open deck adjacent to the 5 semi-private rooms with a large round tub and 3 more cedar log tubs. A large group was out on the patio, and a couple was in one of the semi-private rooms, so I decided to check out the second area, about 200 yards away. This area has a small deck behind a privacy wall, and a nice round tub that can easily accommodate 4 people. Three people were already there and the temperature was just right for soaking.

After a couple of hours, enjoying the conversations, the candle and moon-lit night sky, and the soothing warmth of the hot tub, I decided it was about time to hike back to my car and begin the journey back to my apartment. I wanted to get an early start on Saturday to finish up my packing. It had started to cloud up, so the moon didn't light up the trail as it had on the hike in. No problem, though. My flashlight did the trick just fine. When I got back to my car, though, I had a bit of bad luck. The cold air seemed to take its toll on my battery and my Toyota would not start. It wouldn't even turn over!

I had all my camping gear, so I rolled out my sleeping pad and curled up inside my down bag, in the back of my Toyota Station Wagon, of course!

About 2 hours later, I was awoken by the noise of the large group that was soaking on the deck. I jumped out and ran over to them before they left the parking lot to see if they had an jumper cables. No luck! Oh well, there'd be someone coming in on Saturday, and certainly one of them would have jumper cables to help me start my car. So I went back to my warm sleeping bag and went back to sleep.

I woke up early, about 7:00 a.m. or so. I couldn’t' tell for sure because the car clock stopped working, and my cell phone clock was not in range of a tower. I ate some of the extra food I had packed, and decided to hike the 2 miles back to the hot springs for another soak. It was a great hike, and I had the whole place to myself. I also cleaned up a little after the large group that was on the deck. What a mess! Then I hiked back to my car, hoping that someone would come in soon with jumper cables.

As I got back to the parking lot at the trailhead, I saw some people trying to push their vehicle out of the snow. As they were heading into the parking lot, they drifted into the snow bank and couldn't get back out. They were lucky to have a shovel, and with all of us pushing and the wheels spinning, they finally got out! And to my surprise, they also had a jumper-pack with its own battery! Yahoo! It worked like a charm to get my car started!

The drive out was a little slow. For 10 miles in the deep snow, there's only one lane and very few chances to pull over to let someone pass. Sure enough, there were 5 cars that were headed up to the Hot Springs as I was trying to drive out. The first car in the line was Jeep with a winch on the front. He decided to use the winch to pull off the road, hoping that I could also pull into his tracks to allow the other cars to pass. It didn't work, though, as my car would not get out of the tracks of the road and into the new side tracks made by the Jeep. So, the other cars drove back about 1 mile to a spot where another truck was able to make a passing area. With a little work and about 30 minutes later, all of the other cars were able to get around, and we were all on separate ways.

About another mile or so down the road, still in the deep snow, there was another Jeep that was off the road. He was trying to put on his chains, but it wasn't easy as he was in the snow drift. He had a towing strap, so we hooked on to the front of my Toyota and after about 3 attempts we were able to get him back on the road. First, he put his tire chains on. Then he drove about 2 miles to get to a spot where he could pull over far enough to let me get by.

All in all, I had a great time on my hike, and I'll really miss going to the hot springs. I'm sure it will be one of my first adventures when I get back to Oregon in October. But now, I have to get back to the task of packing all the things and getting ready for my flight to Orlando on Thursday. I start my big trip in 4 days! I have so much to do! Will I get it all done?

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