For a much needed break, this weekend (Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon) I went camping. Actually, it was more like watching every single item I had with me get really wet for a long time and freezing all through the night. But yeah, camping.
I obviously wasn’t prepared for this journey to Pebble Creek Hot Springs, although, I knew from the outset that I wasn’t going to be prepared.
What I should have had: * Boots * Warm sleeping bag * Water-proof (even resistant would have been nice) anything * Some sort of tent
What I had: * Some brown Steve Madden shoes * A $40CA sleeping bag * Lots of soon-to-be-wet clothing * A 6×10 tarp and a 4×6 tarp
What I now have: * Some mud-caked, sand-crusted, sulphur-water soaked, liner-free Steve Madden shoes * A $40CA polyester rag slowly creating a puddle on my floor * Said clothing, a few hours later.
Party? Oh yes. For those of you who are too impatient to sit through the details of the journey, photos can be found here, although, there aren’t many “post-soak,” or actions shots though, by that point I was just hoping to get out with all my limbs. It seemed simple enough, 1.5kilometers (just about a mile) in, a creek crossing, and hot water coming from the earth. It was raining heavily when we got there, but we knew it would be, so we set out, myself following Bogdan, along the path from where we parked. About 40 meters (hey, I’m working with this Canadian stuff, okay?) along this path, it ends and we turn right, into the forest.
Apparently, there isn’t a trail for 80% of the journey. My Steve Madden’s and I are deftly maneuvering over felled tree and mossy stump, down muddy hillsides, and across crumbling landslide sand/rock slopes. The rough part was the overgrown mud-rock-tree forest of some sort of jungle plant. Okay, they were probably baby trees or something, but there was no way to see more than a meter(!) in front of you. Suffice it to say that during heavy rain, walking through this foliage was equivalent to swimming in the amount of moisture it inflicted upon one’s body.
The creek crossing wasn’t really difficult, just treacherous. The “creek” was really more of a slightly non-vertical waterfall, the crossing was more like three tiny logs that had run into some rocks. The logs didn’t really like to hold weight for too long, so this was my right foot’s first full immersion into freezing water.
Not much further on, once we got into a place with an actual trail and flat ground for a little while, we ran across something quite peculiar. There apparently was somebody who set up a place to live out there in the middle of the forest, Swiss Family Robinson style. There was a big table made from chopped wood, a work bench, a fire pit with logs built into benches around them, a place to store food high in the trees, with metal sheets nailed around the tree to prevent critters and bears from being able to climb up. There were even towels, buckets, and soap lying around. And a hammock. Very eerie. I wanted to take a photo, but my camera was in my bag, my hands were too cold to function, and rain was pouring down on my head, so, we trudged on.
Not long from there, down a rather steep hill, we got to the start of the springs. Sulphur residue over everything, and some fairly warm water seeping out of the sand. Fairly warm, however, was not warm enough, so we kept on until we found the pay-off.
Somebody, likely the same builder-man who set up this house in the woods, created stone basins to catch the water running from the hottest springs, complete with tubes and knobs to control the flow of water from the hottest top tub to the coolest low tub. What wonderful, wonderful things these were.
So, we hiked back a bit and set up camp at a semi-flat spot near one of the warmer springs on the way to the tubs. Setting up camp, in this case, consisted of stringing up the 6×10 tarp to block the rain, laying down the 4×6 and an emergency blanket for our “floor,” and digging a trench around the thing to catch the ran pooling off our tarp. Then it was off to the springs.
First it was the one near us, because, well, it was only 10 feet away, but after a short while we decided brave the rain and wind in just our shorts to head to the tubs.
I wish I had brought the camera. The lowest tub is built out into the river, just cement and stone about 2 feet high building a little cut-out from the river. On the top right was the nozzle to let in water from the hottest pool to mix with the river water to warm it up, in addition to the hot water seeping up from the sand in the river bed, making the sand we sat on very warm, too hot to stand in some places.
There we were, in heavy rain, leaning against warm rocks, in warm water, on warm sand, in our own private little hot-tub, separated from the roaring, rain-gorged river by about 4 inches. As Bogdan said, “In life, you can’t get it better than this.”
We watched the world around us fall apart for a while, the trees, the mud, the rocks, all being carried down the river. Eventually the water level of the river rose until it consumed the tub we were sitting in and we were forced to move up to the next highest tub, but, for a time, nature’s wrath was our dinner guest.
The next tub up was warmer, but didn’t have the same feeling of being in the river as the previous. We went back to our tarps, ate dinner, sandwiches because we had no way to make a fire in the rain, and returned to the tubs until it got dark. Then preparations for sleep were made.
In order to fit us both under the tarp, out of the rain, my sleeping bag had to be folded in half, and I had to curl into a tiny ball on my side to fit in it. Not comfortable, although, it didn’t last too long. At some point soon into the night, around 10 or 11, I noticed that my sleeping bag was getting quite wet. The bottom piece of hit had slipped into the path of the rain and been quickly absorbing water. I attempted to move the bag back up a bit, only to find that part of the tarp had moved up into the rain, leaving a steady stream of water into my bag.
The battle was lost. Everything in my backpack was already wet, the fleece in the sleeping bag’s bag I was using as a pillow was wet, the sleeping itself was moments away from being entirely soaked through. I was wet, my clothes were wet, the tarp was wet, it was still raining, it was dark, and it was only approaching midnight, hours yet until light.
So, I put on all my clothes, as they were wet anyway, and pulled my little piece of sleeping bag as tightly to me as possible, because for what little it did to keep me warm, at least it blocked most of the wind. I thank my little ‘Canada’ beanie for what little sleep I may have gotten, as I pulled it down completely over my face and neck, so that even with my eyes open I couldn’t see anything.
There was no way to get comfortable in the little shape that I had assumed, and I changed positions frequently, although every time I did, a bit of heat was lost. Eventually, due to the numbness of most of my extremities, and the lack of vision due to the beanie, I managed to wriggle my way partially out from under the tarp. More rain wasn’t really the issue at this point, I was still getting a steady bit of water incoming, but now I was covered in sand and dirt, which, of course, I had no way to get off because my hands, and anything else I could use, were so wet that they just moved the sand and dirt around.
About an hour before, it started getting light again, I gave up on trying to sleep in the bag, and sat up so that only my legs were continuing to get wet from the sleeping bag, and tried to sleep sitting up, beanie still over my head, for as long as I could, waiting and hoping for morning so that I could wake Bogdan up and start getting out of there.
While this was going on, I had dreams. I can’t really say how much I may have slept throughout the night, because even if my eyes were open I was seeing nothing, and while it felt like I was awake the entire time, I did have dreams. Nightmares, actually, just to make matters a bit worse. The most memorable one consisted of me driving a car with a bunch of friends in it, on a 6+ lane highway in the rain, unable to hit the brake, and steering only with a nob the size of a toothpaste cap that had physics not unlike playing GTA3 on a computer keyboard.
All that said, morning eventually did come, Bogdan went off to the tubs again for a bit while I took a nap in his warm, non-wet sleeping bag, we ate a small breakfast and hiked out.
The drive there and back were both beautiful to the extreme. A few of the shots in that gallery are from the way back. In BC, they have the “Sea to Sky Highway,” which is a road that goes between the, well, sea, and the mountains. Unlike most of the tall mountains in California, these ones are coming straight out of the ocean, so the full 5000+ foot height of them is staring you straight in the face. Behind them, through the fog, are even higher mountains complete with glaciers. It was an amazing sight, but I wasn’t able to capture it very well on camera.
Adventure Status: Victory.