Hot Springs Adventure, December 11 – 12

Executive Summary: We were four beautiful people, plus an old hairy guy with a Jeep. I drove for 11 hours on Friday, and 5 hours on Saturday. We didn’t get to Keyhole due to excessive snow and other excuses but we did spend hours at Skookumchuk, which satisfied the Hot Springs needs for most of us. It was good.

The Story: Introduction I’m not very competent at hot springing. I haven’t even taken the HST1 (Hot Springs Safety Training) course or the more advanced, but terribly expensive HST2, which is pretty much required for anybody venturing into the back country these days. But I wasn’t worried because we had Kevin Pierce along with us. Kevin, you remember, led the “Pig Brains” hot springs trip earlier this year.

Kevin brought the usual stuff, and a light glacier rope.  He had claimed that you could get people to take off their clothes just by plying them with alcohol, but we were not able to prove that, due to lack of negative controls.

Getting the trip organized at this time of the year was a bit of a challenge. This was not because of the large number of competing trips, as the only other thing on the Trip Schedule for this weekend was a transceiver practice at Wreck Beach. Maybe because of the closeness to exams, maybe because everybody needed to go shopping that weekend for the Holidays, and maybe I’m just a failure at organizing trips.

This wasn’t even my trip, it was Esther Li’s. She was asking questions about the road, snow, and so on, so she obviously wanted to go. I was able to warp the trip plan to go up Friday and come down Saturday, instead of the usual Weekend Warrior thing of Saturday and Sunday. Meager Hot Springs has been pretty well inaccessible to the people of Pemberton since the big slide in 2010, so they  have no hot springs to go to besides Keyhole, Skookumchuk or Sloquet. I figured that because the pools at Keyhole are small, they would be crowded on the weekend. Besides, there was a small window of decent weather predicted for Friday.

The access to Keyhole is a bit on-again, off-again because there is a consortium of Quebec companies building a huge “run-of-the-river” power plant up there, with lots of road traffic. Somebody up there was disposing of old dynamite in a fire and got himself killed, so the Coroner closed the road for a while.   But as of five days before our scheduled departure, the Authorities were saying “road open but use caution”.

What Actually Happened: I The Keyhole Debacle: Things didn’t work out exactly as planned, but we wouldn’t have to go on these Adventures if things always worked out as planned. We left Vancouver around 8 am, hit Macdonalds in Pemberton at 11 am for an early lunch, parked the Subaru at Macdonalds because we had winter tires and chains for the Jeep. We expected two hours driving to the hot springs parking lot, and an hours hike into the hot springs and we should be there well before dark. We started finding snow on the road about half way between Pemberton and the hot springs and had to slow down to stay on the road. Then a parade of construction vehicles came towards us, a plow/grader, two pilot cars, a second plow, then the hugest machine I have ever seen on wheels, we don’t know what it was, plus two pilot cars. We had to turn around and drive a couple km back towards Pemberton to find a place wide enough for this parade to get past us. Then there was a brief stop at the checkpoint where a happy lady took down our names, car license, plans. Next we had to wait for twenty minutes while a helicopter came by and dropped explosives on a potential avalanche. The avalanche did nothing. Next we took a wrong turn and got bawled out for venturing into a construction site, where the boss there told us to be careful as he had just destroyed his truck on the road a few days previously, and he was still a bit sore about that. Finally we got to a clearly marked, plowed, parking lot with a “this way to the trail” sign. We met a snowshoer coming towards us so we were getting pretty excited about having a marked, trampled path to follow, until he told us he had been walking for 1 1/2 hours, had gotten lost, and hadn’t actually found the hot springs. We packed up, drank some beer to steady our nerves, and headed along a lightly trampled route which unfortunately had a couple of feet of snow on it, logs to crawl under, slide alder, etc, all the usual stuff. Shortly the excellent trail markers were replaced with skimpy ribbons of various colours, and tentative snowshoe tracks that wandered through swamps, etc. After an hour of this the ribbons took off up an interesting cliff to the right. The guidebook said that we should stay near the river on the left, but that was all boulders with 2 ft of snow on them, no tracks, no skimpy ribbons. It would be slow going, and it would get dark. We were approaching the place where the lava flow from the Meager massif had blocked the Lillooet River about 4500 years ago, and the country was getting geologically “interesting”. We decided that we might not want to put in the effort to find the hot springs with all the snow on the ground. We figured we had another hour to do at least, and we knew that the snowshoe tracks didn’t actually go to the hot springs, and following the route in the dark was guaranteed to be harder than following it in daylight . We returned to the Jeep just as it got dark.

II The Alternate Solution: Here great sadness ensued. At first we talked of camping beside the Jeep on the snow, but then two cement trucks drove by noisily and we realised that these construction types would probably be driving by all night. Driving for three more hours, back to Pemberton Macdonalds and then two hours to Skookumchuck Hot Springs didn’t seem like a bargain either, as I had already been driving for six hours. But that’s what we did. As we neared Skook the road became amazingly pot-holed, and my ability to miss potholes deteriorated, but fortunately we didn’t rip the wheels off the Jeep. Arriving at the hot springs (9pm) pretty well erased the sadness. We quickly put up our tents (four tents for five people; apparently we didn’t trust each other). We were so keen to get into the hot water that we skipped the usual meal preparation; besides, we had already been to Macdonalds twice and had built up antibodies to food. A very sociable (and beautiful) lady (Yona?) dropped by and introduced herself and said it would be her birthday tomorrow and she would be 27, again. After dealing with the rest of the beer, testing most of the hot spring tubs and getting so warm that we were able to walk around the campsite naked, we eventually went to bed.  I should mention, the hot springs were very nice.  The best pictures, of course, were the ones we didn’t take.

III Saturday: Nothing happened Saturday. I did some more hot spring sitting, then got out and made coffee, and drank it back in the hot spring. Drove home in a terrific downpour of rain, and as we went through Whistler Village, of snow. Esther took her Subaru to Whistler to snowboard, and presumably had a good time. I couldn’t imagine this not happening. The other two people on our trip, not mentioned so far, were Jake Jones, and Kirsten Corrao. They seemed happy with the Adventure. You can’t look up Kirsten in the VOC Members List; she’s not there. She might join, though.

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