Secret Hot Springs and Unsettling Forest Hippies

I wouldn't ever have imagined the surprises this river route had in store for us. We some big excursions today, the first being Toketee Falls. This landscape was shaped by volcanic eruptions, and when the lava cooled it formed vertical columns in the rocks that the water passes through. We debated for a good 15 minuted whether Travis should scramble down to the edge of the falls to take a cannonball picture, but in the end he decided it was too steep to attempt.


We continued on up another few miles to check out these hot springs that are clearly marked on all maps, but not described in any detail in any official pamphlets, nor is there a sign pointing their direction off the road. We rode down a gravel road for a few miles, then stopped when we saw about 20 cars just pulled off to the side of the road. 

After riding through deserted forest for half an hour, we came face to face first thing with a group of two dozen hippie kids, dirty enough to almost be crusty but hybrid dressed as steampunks. Is there a name for this subculture yet? I turned 30 this year so I'm out of the loop. In any case, all these kids were hooting and hollering and their dogs were scruffling and fighting and they were making me uncomfortable, though I couldn't put my finger on WHY other than I'm becoming more and more of a square in my old age.

We left them behind (quickly) and started up to the springs. The path is straight up the hillside, and it ends at a plateaued ledge that drops off over the river. And on that plateau are seven beautifully steamy pools.


Did you ever wonder what makes bike touring legs feel better? Sitting in 110 degree water in naturally forming pools overlooking a free flowing river, surrounded by towering trees. 


There were only two naked old dudes with their junk out, and everyone seemed to look pretty normal. There was even a trio of single moms on vacation with their eight kids hanging out having a soak and a picnic. None of the steampunk hippies had ventured the climb. Some hippies of days of yore had built a little shelter over one of the pools, painted the Grateful Dead head on it and hung some Tibetan prayer flags. Someone else tied a "safety rope" so folks can rappel down the slippery path alongside the pool plateau slope to the rivers edge, where there is one more hot pool under the ledge of a cave. That one was probably the best because you could switch back and forth between the hot pool water and the icy river water. 


These hot springs are on Forest Service land, but the Forest Service has obviously given up on trying to manage the place. The spring site itself was precarious enough, with poorly maintained paths and no infrastructure like tables or stairs or platforms. Other hot springs we've visited have strict rules about alcohol since its dangerous to thin your blood and boil it at the same time, but there were people drinking and also leaving glass shards in the path. 

Additionally, when we made our way back to the main road it became clear that the steampunk hippies are living in the woods, either in their broke ass vans or slovenly campsites. There was garbage everywhere, right next to piles of cardboard begging signs. And that's why I was so squicked out before: the roaming gang of homeless youth dropped totally out of society is classically frightening. How did these people fall through the cracks? What do they live for? How did they get so dirty?? WHO KNOWS!

We live for riding our bikes right now. Crater Lake tomorrow.