A cool, May rain splatters against my naked body causing goose bumps as I dart from the shelter of the cabana to the cave. Twilight is drawing near; the sun has set behind the ridges of the middle fork valley. Monday has come and the weekend rush is over. Our two weeks of warm sunny weather has turned into a downpour. Once again, Burntboot Creek is a torrent as it speeds down the canyon from its frozen birthplace to converge with the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. It will be a slow week no doubt; with all this rain visitors are less likely to make the soggy five mile trek to the hot springs (although cooler temperatures make for better soaking and more productive blogging). While Monday may be the start of a slow week, it is one of the dirtiest and most dreaded days for us caretakers. For on Mondays we get down, dirty and naked to scrub the cave!
One of the many duties as caretakers involves cleaning and maintaining the hot springs. Surprisingly, this task has become our least favorite, demanding our attention more and more as the number of visitors grow and spring turns into summer. There are three hot pools varying in size, with the largest and main pool being the cave. The water flows outside of the cave and into two smaller, shallower pools which receive some direct sunlight. The afternoon sun provides the photosynthesis needed for the green algae to grow rapidly, enveloping the pale gray rocks causing them to be slick.
As we assess the two smaller pools, the stones are dark and slimy under our feet. It’s only been a couple of days since we scrubbed the lower pools and already the rocks are slippery. Although they need to be scrubbed much more frequently, these two pools are small and cleaning them goes quickly. But the cave is a beast all on its own.
Algae growth is slower in the cave since little to no sunlight penetrates the water. But a white slime the consistency and appearance of watered down semen has begun to grow on the back wall. After seeping down the gritty stones, the white slime has begun floating on the surface of the pool. Suspended in the mineral-laden water, it sparks visitors’ imaginations on what others might be doing in the secret blackness of Goldmyer Hot Springs.
The cave (actually an old mine shaft) goes back about 30 feet into the hillside and is 3-4 feet wide and just over 6 feet high from floor to ceiling. It takes Lissa and me about two hours to scrub the walls and floor of the cave with hand brushes. No soaps or solvents are used, just good ol’ elbow grease. We do most of the scrubbing while there is still water in the pool to rinse away the grit and slime. Since the temperature of the pool is about 110o F, we work up quite a sweat within a matter of minutes. We constantly have to take water breaks outside of the cave as we get overheated very quickly. Even when the pool of the cave is drained it is like working in a sauna. We are rather dirty when all is said and done. To clean ourselves off we either take a dip in the cold pool or wait until another day to use our solar shower outside.
It is almost dark by the time we finish cleaning the cave. Lissa and I are spent. Tomorrow morning we will get up and clean the lower pools. While cleaning the cave is not the most glamorous part of the job, it is sure nice to have clean hot springs!