By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/18/2019
Occurred: 5/23/2010
Topics/Keywords: #BakerHotSpring #Washington #HotSprings Page Views: 3376
I locate an illusive hot spring in northern Washington state.

My last full day in Washington state was spent tracking down a hot spring hidden in the Cascades.

Anyone who knows me won't be surprised I didn't get an early start. My friend Ann, with whom I had stayed, and her daughter Devan and Devan's boyfriend, Brandon, and I had a nice breakfast at the Birch Bay Cafe. Then the four of us returned to the FunLand Farm to say goodbye to James and John (and the chickens, turkeys, goats, and so on). It was already noon by the time I finally drove away from these dear friends, old and new.

I knew where I was going. In fact, I'd been within a mile of it the day before.

Mount Baker is the friendly, neighborhood volcano, second most active in the Cascades Volcanic Arc after Mount St. Helens. The last sizable eruption was in 1891.

Mount Baker, friendly neighborhood volcano.

Geologic activity is almost always a sign of hot springs in the area, and Baker Hot Springs are a manifestation of that rule.

I had found directions to the hot spring in various places on the web, but the directions, written at various times in the past seven years, were in conflict. They described different Forest Roads, some stated the road had been blocked, others suggested the spring had been closed due to high levels of E. Coli in the water.

Finally I used Google Earth to actually find the coordinates, knowing my Garmin GPS would lead me as close to it as roads could go.

Latitude: 4845'49.44"N
Longitude: 12140'15.51"W

I could try to report which Forest Roads got me there, but it wouldn't be much help as most of them aren't marked, anyway.

When I got to the parking area for the trail head, it was deserted. I had kind of counted on there being other people so I could figure how to get to the springs from there. There were two trails, and I didn't know which one to take. One was a dirt path leading up into the woods; the other was a continuation of the road, blocked by three huge concrete barriers. I had read about a road being blocked, so that's the way I tried first.

Hiking trail in the North Cascades.

As I walked along on the downhill-tending gravel road, I could see why it had been blocked: Every few dozen yards, there were grooves gouged out of the road where seeps had apparently gushed on some occasion or other.

For some reason it seldom rains on me, but the skies began to sprinkle and, since I had walked quite a ways without seeing any sign of the springs, I decided to give it up and return to the car. That, of course, was an uphill walk. I was surrounded by old-growth forest and could easily imagine that Sasquatch was peering at me from behind a tree.

Find Sasquatch.

Far more likely, of course, what that a cougar was considering having me for lunch. After all, I was in the middle of the woods, no one else around for miles, no one actually knowing I was here, and there are certainly cougars in the area.

And yet, as much fun as it might have been, I couldn't work myself up to be scared. It was just too pretty and peaceful.

But I did turn and make frequent checks behind me.

When I got back to the parking area, it was definitely getting late but now there was another vehicle that had arrived while I was gone. I hadn't passed anyone, so clearly the other trail was the one I wanted. I decided that, late or not, I would at least make a token inspection.

This trail was far narrower than the abandoned forest road had been. On the other hand, this one had fresh footprints. I make make out the prints of two people wearing sneakers, a man and a woman, by the size of them. The trail wound between two tree-encrusted hillsides.

Old-growth forest on the trail to Baker Hot Springs.

Most of the reports I'd read had stated that the trail from the parking area to the spring was short, only about a third of a mile. And, sure enough, it wasn't long before I came upon the spring, with the young couple whose footprints I'd followed, already in the water.

We greeted each other, and I asked, "Are we doing this nude?" Most remote hot spring bathers do so naked. Both the man and the woman enthusiastically agreed, and I replied, "Good, 'cause I didn't bring my bathing suit." As late as it was, there was no way I was going to have found a new hot spring and not go in.

The water was perfect. The couple introduced themselves as Chris and Kristen. Chris' claim to fame was that he had been on the Olympic Wrestling Team in the early 1990s, and had wrestled in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and other middle Eastern countries. But he was from here, and had been visiting Baker Hot Springs for 30 years—always nude, he added. On the other hand, this was Kristen's first visit. But she seemed pretty relaxed.

Conversation over, I sank into the water until only my eyes and nose stuck into the air. The rain started again, tickling my face but unable to affect the rest of me, enveloped by the perfect temperature of the only slightly-sulfurous water.

I could easily have soaked all night; but I had a motel in Seattle waiting for me and a morning flight from there back home. So with regret I got out.

I didn't want to take a picture of Chris or Kristen (it's considered rude) but I wanted a shot of the pool. Chris had taken one the day before, he told me, and promised to email it to me. So he did, and here's what Baker Hot Springs looks like when no one is in it.

The drive back to the highway, and from there to the highway, went smoothly. In Seattle I checked into my hotel (I had bid on a room the night before via Priceline and got one for $25, before taxes, less than five miles from the airport) and then met a friend, Scott, for dinner at a Chinese restaurant he recommended.

James and John, back in the Birch Bay area, had printed for me a digital painting I did of Salt River Canyon. In fact, they made me three copies of it, each done slightly differently. I had to get these home safely; and for that I needed a cardboard mailing tube. I had planned to stop at a Staples; and when it became too late to do that, a Kinko's; but it turned out Scott had a mailing tube in the trunk of his car! So he gave me that, and I packed the pictures along with the rest of my stuff in my room, before going to bed.

Tomorrow: The flight home, which should be boring, and a day at work, neither of which is likely to be blogging material.

But I already want to come back. Not only to visit my friends, but I totally want to camp at Baker Hot Springs and soak all night.