Nestled in the foothills between Baker Lake and Mount Baker there exists a certain paradise.
The Mount Baker Hot Springs has been around for ages. It's well known by locals, but not often discussed.
It's a northwest soaking paradise - provided you're with good company.
As you can imagine, hot springs naturally attract a diverse population. Stories circulate as they do - ripe with examples of meth-heads and drunks interrupting a quiet evening soak by couples. Romantic picnics being interrupted by families of 28 suddenly arriving on the scene, complete with infants and dirty diapers.
The potential for conflict can be high, possibly fueled by the strong smell of sulfer, the lack of cell phone coverage and the distance from the laws and regulations enforced near pavement.
Baker Hot Springs can be paradise, but it can also be quite the opposite.
After living in the area for more than twenty years, it wasn't until Dec. 7, 2011 that the right combination of time, weather and transportation came into alignment to undertake this adventure.
Online research quickly revealed the route to the hot springs. Years ago, most visitors made use of FS Rd 1144 (Morovitz Creek) but that road has since been released back to Mother Nature. The new route follows the Marten Lake road (Rd 1130), stay to the right. Park at the end of the road. Follow the short trail. The gravel road is about 4 miles long and in pretty good condition. Snow is currently piling up in some areas of the road, but still passable for now. The trail itself is about 1/3 to 1/4 of a mile long (short).
It's reported that the hot springs are generally between 100 to 102 degrees fahrenheit. Nice because it's not too hot, but bad because it's also a temperature that is conducive to the development of the E. Coli bacteria.
***I'm not a scientist or biologist or have any kind of medical background... I'm just regurgitating what I read elsewhere. Soak at your own risk.***
My visit happened to be on a cool weekday, temperatures in the upper 30's to low 40's, patches of snow around. There was no one else around the Hot Springs that day. Only my hand enjoyed a soak. The rest of me was more interested in taking pictures and exploring the area.
Other than the periodic campfire rings and the couple of flat spots for tents, the area was remarkable natural looking. This was pretty unexpected given the high level of use and potential abuse. Granted, there were a few skeletons of candles, one lost t-shirt and a soaking cigarette carton... but I was expecting something much worse.
Up high on a tree there exists a sign in memory of Erich Aspel. A few inquiries here and there, plus a google search, didn't reveal any useful information about Erich's history or his story or why this sign was placed at this location. If you know something about it, please feel free to leave a comment to fill us in.
The Skagit Alpine Club used to provide the volunteer efforts to maintain the hot springs area and reports indicate there used to be one or two wood structures up there. Possibly a changing room and a honey bucket (just guessing). Ultimately, there was just 'too much trouble' up there and eventually the structures were completely removed with hopes that it would reduce the problems (and desirably result in fewer visitors).
The hot springs emit a strong sulfer aroma. It's not pleasant, but you do tend to get used to it after a while so it's not too much bother (although I highly suggest a shower ASAP after returning home).
It's also suggested that you bring a shovel to aid in shoveling the silt out of the pool. That's all I know about that topic (again, just relaying info from others).
From the hot springs, there was a short trail up the hillside (about 30 feet long) to a little clearing. Looking up the hill further will provide you with a view of a drainage creek and a black culvert. The culvert passes under the road you drove in on. In periods of no parking or when snow makes it too risky to drive all the way down to the parking lot, this could be a potential (albiet steep) shortcut. This would make a kind of loop and is seen on the route image further along in this post.
As I followed a very faint boot path + drainage creek, I happened upon a lost flashlight (wet, but works) and a decorated mushroom. The 'shroom may be a clue to the flashlight's owner. Yes?
As the shortcut approaches the road, it steepens. Here are views to the road (almost there) and back toward the hot springs (barely visible)
Here is a short video/slideshow with some nice music:
Enjoy your visit, pack out your trash, leave the hot springs better than you found them and have a good time!