Secret Hot Springs, Washington
The sky was grey when we pulled into the empty, snowy lot. At the far end, we spotted our friend's white truck, barely visible in the snow.
We bundled up in winter gear, double checked our packs and dug out micro spikes. For two miles, we followed a buried trail through the falling snow. It was cold, and it was wet. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of stripping down to my swimsuit in such freezing temps. But, it is what we had come to do.
This is my first winter living here in the Pacific Northwest. I moved here from Egypt & California, and before that I lived in Italy, Bahrain, Hawaii and a few other places in between. Ever since I've turned 19, there has one been one common theme in the places I've called home. Warmth. Endless summer.
I grew up in central Wisconsin. Winters there were bitter cold; there were no mountains or alpenglow. The days were short, and lived inside. I remember lying in bed, covers pulled to my chin in those winter months. The sound of my alarm in what seemed like the dark of night. The impossible task of rolling out of bed and planting my feet on the cold, wooden floors. Running outside every morning to warm up the car before driving to school. The icy roads. The grey, trampled snow. The way our little cocker spaniel would look up at me as I reached for the porch door in the morning, just before the rush of cold. That look that seemed to say, 'Why'? Of all places, why here?' That's what I imagined, anyway.
I had no love for winter. It was something to be endured; a grey inevitability.
From the trail, we spotted three dark spheres down below. Three dark pearls of warmth amid a winter wonderland, each framed by fresh snow. We stripped down to our swimsuits and piled our clothes together near the trail. Shivering, we walked barefoot down to the springs. Snow clung like frosting to the evergreens. I cautiously dipped just one toe, prepared to sprint back to my pile of warm, abandoned clothes. But, the water was perfect. So, we stayed.
We stayed all afternoon. We stayed as the snow fell and the light changed and the sun disappeared from view. We stayed even as tiny crystals formed on our damp hiking clothes, and our hair began to freeze. We stayed long enough to forget about the outside world. Until one by one, we braved the cold to change beneath the evergreens.
After all this time, I'm finally starting to fall for winter..
These Hot Springs are located near Steven's Pass in Washington state, and require a permit for use. I would share the location, but I'm learning that locals like to keep these places local. Shoot me a personal email if you're interested in where to apply for a permit xo