What’s the perfect way to end a long day of hiking? It just might be soaking in hot springs coming out of an abandoned mineshaft, far, far from everything, but with just enough civilization around to make it amazing.
Goldmyer Hot Springs is about a dozen miles north of Snoqualmie Pass. It’s not on the official PCT, but is on an alternate that’s quite popular — both for access to the hot springs and because it cuts five or six miles off the hike. While you can drive to it, it’s down difficult, bumpy dirt roads, and you still have to hike in the last half-mile or so. And it’s not exactly a tourist trap: the whole area is owned by a wilderness-preservation society, which keeps access limited (maximum: twenty people per day) to keep the area wild and natural. The only way to stay there is to camp, and you get a picnic table and device for hanging your food. Compared to the rest of the PCT, it feels relatively civilized; compared to, well, normal civilization (and even most hot springs), it’s pretty darn rustic. There’s a caretakers’ cabin with solar cells and a giant radio antenna in case emergency communication is needed…but, really, you’re still far, far out in the woods.
We arrived here pretty late — we didn’t get away from our hotel and our beloved zero until almost noon — and, by the time we set up camp, it was dark. (The progression of the seasons has become very evident in the last few weeks, as we find ourselves eating, setting up camp, or even hiking after dark at times — something that never used to happen.) This meant we found our way up to the hot springs themselves in the dark, following a path that turned out to be about ten times as long as I thought it’d be. (This also meant I was walking it in my less-than-fully-sturdy camp shoes, rather than my usual hiking shoes.)
But we got up there eventually, undressed, and found the hot springs themselves to be amazing. The hot water really does originate in an abandoned mine, cascading down through many levels of pools below. The higher up you go, the hotter it is. My experience in usual human-made hot tubs is that they never go quite as hot as you want them to — I believe California mandates a maximum of 104° — but this…this gets exactly as hot as you want. Up at the mineshaft itself, you can stay in the water for maybe five minutes before you have to get out and slip down to the next-lower pool. It feels so good, and, after a long day of hiking, I have a hard time thinking of a better way to relax.
I know that tomorrow morning, we’ll leave, and tomorrow night, we’ll just be back to regular camping. I know it might be wet, and it probably will be cold. But, right this moment, I feel so good — fed, relaxed from all that hot water, and blissful from having this place to stop at.