May 4, 2012
Delicate Maidenhair ferns begin to pop up from among the cracks in the rocky hill side as they unfurl their leaves like umbrellas to catch the warm mist rising from the hot springs. Deer ferns send up purplish-brown fronds that are ready to cast their spores along the mossy carpet surrounding Grandpa, the 900-year-old Douglas fir tree. The Western trillium whorls its triangular-shaped leaves announcing its presences as one of the first bloomers of the season. Its white petals cast brightness throughout the dim woodland floor, signaling to the robins that it is time to wake up. The aroma of Skunk cabbage fills the cool damp air. Chickadees change their tune to “sweet summer” while prancing about the meadow looking for a tasty morsel. But the true beckoners of spring up here in the Middle fork valley are the Rufous hummingbirds. Their iridescent feathers of green and gold glisten in the rays of sunlight as they engage in duals over the sugary-water feeder. Their lightsaber sounding battles and dog fights distract our visitors while we check them in.
The signs of spring are showing up, but in our snug little cabin as we listen to the rain splattering against the cedar-planked roof, I wrap myself up in a fleece blanket to reflect on a wonderful morning soak with some new friends. Just two weeks ago, Mother Nature blessed us with a beautiful Earth Day with a high temperature of 61 degrees F. The warmest since we’ve been here. But today, the temperature is hovering in the low 40s. In the Cascade Mountains of Washington it may be spring one day and winter the next.
It has been one month to the day since my best friend Lissa and I moved into a quaint little cabin, nestled among old-growth forest and began our roles as stewards of Goldmyer Hot springs. Upon our arrival, April 4th, there was snow covering the forest floor up to 2 ½ feet deep in places, but it has all but melted away except in the darkest of spots under the conifer canopy. Lissa and I are anxiously waiting for warmer weather (or at least less wet) to arrive so we can explore the surrounding area and make it into the high country of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Unfortunately, one of us must always stay on the property unless we have relief caretakers. Like a wolverine, my adventures for the summer will be mostly solitary.
When we are not checking in visitors, patrolling the property, cleaning the pools or other random tasks, Lissa and I spend our time playing Kismet (our favorite dice game at the moment), reading, writing, blogging, soaking in the springs, hugging Grandpa, and talking to Uncle Charles, our inherited Beta fish. Weekends are our busiest days and are usually full. NWWP limits the number of people on the property to 20 per day. This keeps the impact on the land low as well as the springs from getting too crowded. Occasionally we get some not so nice people who just want to come up here to party and break the rules. We’ve only had two incidences like that for the first month which isn’t so bad. Hopefully they are far and few between. However, 99% of our visitors are friendly and respectful to the land and us. On several occasions visitors have even brought us treats! The treats range from eggs, bacon, cupcakes, and grapefruit to cookies, milkduds and wine (too bad neither Lissa nor I drink wine).
Spring is in the air here at Goldmyer even if it doesn’t feel like it. Returning visitors keep telling us that it is only going to get more gorgeous as the weather warms up. Burntboot Creek is roaring down the little canyon at high water. Naked visitors soak up the mineral-laden waters that seep up from deep within the Earth’s beating heart. Chipmunks scurry around the cabana looking to chew through someone’s backpack to get at their lunch while robins sneak in to warm their toes at the edge of the pool. Goldmyer is truly a magical place. This month has flown by and yet it feels like time has slowed. I have become part of this place, expanding my roots down into the rich, clay soil and spreading my limbs up high, reaching for the energy of the sun. Every day there is something exciting happening out in Nature and I’m pretty happy to be experiencing it all. This morning a new friend that I had gotten to know in the last 15 or so hours took my hands and in a low voice said “lucky you to be living in such a beautiful place.” I am pretty damn lucky I think to myself while I recline further into the warm pools of water, rain droplets dripping from the overhanging cedar tree onto my face.