Bear Den on first sight . . . draining faster than it can refill

I received a text message from one of the regulars at Scenic letting me know that the hot springs had been vandalized. I really wanted to do the Johnson Ridge hike as I had planned but when I got up there there was already another vehicle. Well, not much of a problem usually. Johnson Ridge has become much more popular with the closure of the Evergreen Lookout road. But at six am in the morning with the sun barely peeking up over the Cascade crest, I didn’t expect to see anyone hitting the trail before me.

The pickup truck gave me pause. Brakes cold . . . they had been here for awhile, probably overnighting at Joan Lake. The seat inside gave me the reason for my disquiet . . . the padded soft case of a high-powered rifle . . . sans rifle. Uh Uh . . . there was no way I was going to go hiking tawny deer-hued on a narrow ridge trail with some hunter up there. As if to echo my concerns, the narrow valleys suddenly echoed two loud reports from just where I was planning to go. To many accidents have been happening in the wilds over recent years. I wasn’t going to be mistaken for a deer by someone hunting on this popular trail.

A disappointment, really. But I really do dislike being anywhere near people carrying weapons on the trails. I’d rather avoid and find somewhere safer. So I supposed I might as well check out the conditions at Scenic Hot Springs. North-facing, the hike up to Scenic really doesn’t catch much sun at this time of year until early afternoon. By nine o’clock the air was warm enough for a slow and comfortable stroll up. No cars at the gate below . . . I had the place to myself and no hurry to get there. I spent a lot of time checking out the types of mushrooms growing large off the trail . . . and revisiting a theory on the old iron piping partway down the trail . . . trying to trace it further afield to support or debunk historical claims of piping the waters two and a half miles to the long-gone Scenic Hot Springs Hotel. I drew no new conclusions but enjoyed the quiet time wandering about the slopes. Eventually I made it up to the top bench and the fire ring above the springs.

Despite burning bans, fires continue to be built

Night time visitors are hard to control at Scenic. Surrounded on all four sides by National Forest Lands and no full-time caretaker, kicking out unauthorized partiers becomes hit and miss. The problem with nighttime soaking is not one of being petty. The problems are real, ranging from the dangers and risks of hiking a steep wilderness trail at night to the seclusion that allows irresponsible drinking and partying at the springs when no one is around to discourage them.

And then they build fires. At first, little ones . . . and then idiots resort to pulling the remaining decking apart for firewood. Recently they have been raiding stacked treated lumber and burning that. Let alone the health hazards of breathing in the smoke from burning treated lumber, it’s outright theft and, as the image above shows, much too easy to get out of hand with the low-handing branches of the evergreens nearby. The remains of this fire were still warm from the night before.

So . . . the evidence of unauthorized visitors is rampant and getting to be a bigger problem. At this rate the owner is close to limiting his generous access conditions even further. We may find trespass charges in the near term if this vandalism doesn’t stop.

The feed to the Bear Den tub intentionally disconnected

The feed to the pools disconnected? Why? As tight as the above connection was, that joint was pulled apart on purpose, leaving an already half-empty pool ice cold without the continuous recharge of hot water. The runoff, uncontrolled, further eroded an already scarred slope.

Pretty colors but a mess of wax from unwanted nighttime soakers

Bear Den tub was half-empty, ice cold and filled with floating chads of melted wax from some party the night before. Must have been a doozy . . . scented candles in such pretty colors all lined up. Melted wax all over the place. I have to give some credit, though. At least the place wasn’t littered with broken wine and beer bottles as the last time I responded to major vandalism.

The liner has been slit the entire length of the bench

At first sight it looks like the liner just wore out. But a closer look reveals the clean, straight line of a cut . . . a sharp knife drawn the length of the bench allowing water to drain out through the underlying wood structures. The tub could only fill halfway before draining out the bottom where the foundation is normally dry. On the downslope side of the tub there is new detritus from foundation erosion.

Subsequent users have attempted to slow the major leak with rocks to overlap and hold the cut edges together. Obviously it was not very effective.

The straight, clean cut of a knife can be seen here

Whomever did this wasn’t content to slit the eight foot length. He or she cut into the sides of the tub to let even more water out.

Well, I’m not prepared for repairs. That will have to wait for a future work party because liner replacement is an all day affair. Tarps (there are two) cost fifty dollars apiece. The best I can do right now is to siphon and clean out all the water in that tub and attempt a better temporary seal until I can arrange replacement.

At least the Lobster tub was untouched (and running hot). I got both feeds up and running to refill Bear Den . . . crossing my fingers over the long refill that the leak was slower than the recharge rate and the pool would hold water. I also started cleaning and recharging the Lobster pool. By mid afternoon it looked like things might hold . . . at least for awhile. I started to head on back down, wanting to enjoy the sun while I could.