August 2, 2014

Getting My Feet Wet

Two weeks ago, I was here.
Fishhook Creek, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho
I thought I would rush back here and treat you to all 567 of my photos and the 968 taken by Himself. But I can't seem to find my bearings--in my blog, in my creating, in my studying.  There seems to be a whole lot of fog between my brain and my hands. Fog over my heart from events in the Middle East, fog over my soul in seeing my parents' aging so progressed in just two weeks, fog over my eyes because where the hell did the summer go?

But good ole Grace waved from the comments bleachers and that's my cue. So I will do what one does in the fog: go forward slowly.

Ok, then.There's so much I want to share about the exquisite gem of Idaho, which no one I know thinks about much if they're not thinking about potatoes. Let me just get my feet wet, so to speak, by telling you about the especially thrilling feature of central Idaho: its bounty of natural hot springs. I'm not talking about those weird little resorts that dot mountain towns everywhere, the ones with swimming pools, showers, saunas, and hot and cold running radon.

I'm talking about natural hot springs like these.
Russian John's Springs, near Ketchum

And these...
Weir Hot Springs, Highway 12 near Kooskia
And this one, which not only had a bath...
Last Chance Springs, Highway 55 near McCall
But a shower, too.
Do you see all the other people around? Neither did we. Not a soul. And yet, none of the hot springs we visited were more than a mile hike in from the road (Himself's rules.) I could even see the cars rolling by on the interstate highway from this one and yet, no one else was there.
And now, let me pause for a love letter to Doug  Roloff. He wrote the book that I found at the very beginning of our trip and that proved to be my bible.
He provided everything he promises on the cover...and more.
Isn't it so wonderful that someone would do all this? Before the fog, I promised myself I would write him a thank you note. Fog or no fog, he needs to know how happy he made me. In fact, because of this book, our trip took on a dual theme: Explore Ghosttowns AND Explore Natural Hot Springs No More Than a Mile of Hiking Away. With the exception of one spring that was about 106 degrees F on a day that was 100 degrees F, and another that was a first cousin to the boiling sulfur thermal events in Yellowstone, I went in every one. And I have already highlighted the ones that entail a solid day of hiking, in case Himself gets hit on the head, undergoes a personality change, and wants to spend the day hiking. Or for future adventures with E.

My favorite experience was Slate Creek Hot Springs, near Stanley. Here's how we got there:

1. Take the first road off the highway after the bridge...oh, wait, we're going in the OTHER direction from Hot Springs Guy's directions. So that would be BEFORE the bridge. do I know when we're BEFORE the bridge? I don't know, that's what it SAYS. Goddammit. Just go over bridge and turn around and then go back and turn off the road. Now I'm behind the RV I finally passed after a half hour....wait, was THAT the road? I didn't see it, I'm reading the directions.Goddammit. Why aren't you turning around? Does it LOOK like there's anywhere to turn around? I'm not looking, I'm reading the directions.

2. Once you turn off the road, follow Slate Creek for 7 miles on a gravel road. Well, we've gone 1 mile and this isn't gravel. Its not even a road.  We're going 4 miles per hour, we'll be there next Tuesday. That's what the book says, what do you want from me? I'll go another mile and then I'm turning around. Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Goddammit, there's no place to turn around. This can't be right. There's the creek, it has to be right. Oh. What? That's not the creek...that's the Salmon River. We passed the creek. Turn around. There's no place to turn around.

3.  Once you get on the nice gravel road, drive 7 miles till you pass a dilapidated gate on the right and then in another 100 yards, a parking area. Did you see a gate? I wasn't looking at the road, I am reading the directions. Goddammit. 

4. Park and walk along the trail 1/10 mile...

5. The path continues along some mining tailings. Be careful to stay on the 4 inches of loose rock and gravel so that you don't slip off the side of the mountain,scrape every inch of your skin on the sharp rocks, and fall into the freezing creek that is actually about 50 feet down.

 6. Continue until you see a "soaking box" slightly above the creek. Oh, and be careful to avoid the open shaft of the abandoned mine on the trail.

7. Be certain to bring Public Works Engineer with you, preferably one trained at MIT, to figure out how to get water to remain in soaking box and then, what to do with each pipe. In lieu of that, challenge husband, who loves a good challenge that doesn't involve hearing about my feelings. He finds a drain, a drain cover, and determines that the pipes actually represent a sophisticated system for capturing impossibly hot water from the spring and cooling it with freezing cold water from the creek.

And then...

Who would believe that our house came with a spa off the pool that is approximately 7 feet from the kitchen door and turns off and on with a switch?And that we never go in it.

Ok, more tomorrow....