The hotel had a gloriously late check out time of 12 noon, so we spent a lazy morning blogging and Skype-ing home before setting off just before 12. Upon clearing the fridge, we discovered the ice cream that we had failed to eat the night before, so for lunch we shared the pint; oatmeal cookie flavour… yum! Finding our chosen hot springs on the GPS proved a bit of a challenge, but one of the guide books had good directions, so we typed in the nearest main road and hoped for the best. The drive took about two hours, on roads that wound through some gorgeous scenery.

Some of the cooler, sludgier pools with the river below

The day was not as sunny as we would have liked, but at least it wasn’t raining. After following the rather bumpy road to the car park at the bottom of the trail, we were pleased to discover that the washed out bridge that our guide book told us about had been rebuilt, since the North Umpqua River looked a little large to cross over using a fallen tree as they had suggested. Unfortunately, this newly built bridge also meant that it was no longer free, but we didn’t feel like we could complain at only a $5 parking fee. There were also large signs warning  people that there is lots of nudity at the springs, and if anyone was offended by this then they should go home. The hike up to the springs was short, but very steep and true to form I had left my inhaler in the car. Upon arriving, it was clear that the nudity warning signs were not kidding, and we were disappointed to see how busy the springs were, with a couple of the pools completely full of people. The view was stunning though, the springs are in the middle of a forest, on the side of a steep hill overlooking the North Umpqua River. One of the pools was covered with a wooden structure to provide a bit of shelter, but the others were all open to the elements. The hottest pool was at the top, with run off channels going down to the next one, a system that continued down the hillside to the coldest pool. The only empty pool turned out to be the hottest one, but not yet comfortable enough to climb into pools with naked strangers, we decided to start with this one. We both independently decided that not going topless would draw more attention to ourselves and plunged into the hottest pool. It was deliciously warm, and we could see the bubbles from where the hot water rose out of the rocks.

The edge of one of the pools, with the river below.

Being a natural spring, there was lots of muck and algae in the water, which was not the most attractive look when we stood up and were covered in it. After not very long it became clear that the hottest pool was a little too hot for me, so I sat on the edge with my feet in the water for a while before we moved on to the next hottest pool. This one had someone in it, and it is extremely surreal sitting in a hot spring and having a conversation with a completely naked man that you have just met. This pool was only slightly cooler than the last, and with a large group of people taking over the two intermediately warm pools, we headed down the hill a little way to find the cooler springs. These were smaller and slightly less nice than the ones up the hill, especially with the amount of black silt that was stirred up when we got in. There was also a bit of a waterfall effect with the water displaced by people getting into the other springs higher up the hill. We stayed in this pool for the while, enjoying the view and the fact that we had it to ourselves, but in the end it was too cold and we headed up the hill as we spotted the large group vacating one of the intermediate pools. A couple of other girls were in there, but there was plenty of room for us as well. This one was the perfect temperature, and we stayed here for the longest. We got chatting to the girls and they both admitted that they were also not usually happy to get naked in front of strangers but that it just seemed to be the done thing here, at which point a guy who had joined us said “Welcome to Oregon!”. As some people left and other people arrived, it became clear that the clientele of the springs was changing as evening approached, and feeling less comfortable (and surprised at the length of time we had been there) we headed back to the car.

The river from the bridge.

Back at the car, we changed into dry clothes and got on the road towards Portland, where we thought we were heading. Luckily I texted Tommy, a guy we met in Key West who we were staying with, and found out that his football tickets had fallen through, so we would be meeting him at his house in Salem. This worked out well for us, since it meant less driving, although Google maps had misled us slightly about the length of our journey. After a brief trip to the supermarket to get credit for my phone, and a battle trying to apply it (you can’t call the mobile top up number from a mobile – how stupid is that?!), I called Tommy for directions to his house. Since it is a newly built house it wasn’t on the GPS, but his directions were good and we got there not long after nine. Tommy had some friends over for a BBQ and everyone was really friendly and welcoming, within minutes of walking in the door we each had drinks in hand and were having a great time. We were introduced to the “Shot-Ski” a ski, with four shot glasses attached to it, where 4 people take shots at the same time. When this was proposed I thought that would be a good point to mention that I had not eaten since lunch time, not wanting to disgrace myself thoroughly by being a complete lightweight, and Tommy’s friend Robyn fixed me something to eat (we had arrived too late for the BBQ, but there was some food left). The shot ski was fun, but shots of vodka are never good, so had to be followed with a chaser. I could tell that Lizzie was planning to make a shot-ski of her own when we get back home. Lizzie was then taught how to shotgun a can of beer, which involves piercing the can and drinking it like that, not being much of a beer drinker I did not participate, but watched with amusement. The evening went on until pretty late, but was really good fun, playing dancing games and chatting with Tommy and his friends. My exhaustion eventually caught up with me and I fell asleep in a chair, only to wake up with most people gone and Lizzie bringing our stuff in from the car, I hope I didn’t snore…