Monday, July 28, 2014

The Great Wide Open III - Hot Stuff


Some days go as planned, others, not so much. On this day, we decided to take the scenic route from our campsite in the foothills of the Jefferson Wilderness to the high lava lands east of the Cascades. The mission was to scout hikes for an upcoming field trip, most of which I had already seen. The only new hike looked and sounded from the description pretty easy. No big deal we thought. Yeah.

First, we decided to make an extra stop at an old-growth grove, which turned out to be neither a .25 mile loop nor particularly packed with old growth. A couple of miles later we emerge scratching our heads, wondering how such a nice trail got put in such a strange and remote place.

Two hours and one delicious roadside lunch later, we reach our real destination, get out, and start to hike. Uphill. Like really, really uphill. It's one of the few downsides to studying volcanoes, the hikes are almost always brutal climbs. So up we go to the beautiful viewpoint, planning to continue down and around the lake. But we miss the trail marker and an hour of hard hiking later, land right back at the car. 

Take two. We skip the cinder cone the second time instead walking through one of the largest and longest campgrounds either of us have ever seen. Eventually, we reach the juncture we should have been at almost two hours ago. We hike on past, towards the promise of an obsidian flow and hot springs. The sign at the trail head states that the hot springs will be about 1.25 miles past the flow, on a WELL MARKED spur trail (their emphasis, not mine). We find the flow. It is, in fact, obsidian. We hike on. And on. And on. We turn back at the halfway point, obviously having gone miles too far. Less than a mile beyond the flow, there is a side trail, entirely unlabeled, that leads to the hot springs.

Oh joy, oh rapture, hot springs! We are tired, dusty, and about four miles past what we were prepared to hike. We are ready for a soak. But. But the springs, being natural as they are, are blazing-lava hot. And also about five inches deep. Apparently, the winter snows and high lake levels are what locals use to fill the dug out tubs and cool the water. In midsummer, the best you can hope for is some dangerously hot splashing in muddy puddles. Which we do. For about four minutes. And then we start the long hike back.

Finally, after an accidental eight mile day, we load up and out, finding a cool place with a view to drink a somewhat cold beer dug from the bottom of our cooler. 

And so it goes.   

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