A few weeks ago, Justin (my boyfriend) and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary. Time flies, man! I remember when he asked me out for frozen yogurt while we were studying for our Intro to Environmental Policy class sophomore year of college. Since then, we’ve graduated college, moved to Washington, got a couple fur-kiddos, and live in barn house, trying to be adults or something. We wanted to celebrate our half-a-decade of togetherness by checking out some hot springs a few hours south from where we live in Olympia, Washington.
Bagby Hot Springs is located east of Portland, Oregon, in the Mt. Hood National Forest, about an hour drive from Portland. The hot springs were built by the Forest Service in the early 1920s and have been cooperatively maintained by the Forest Service and volunteers. From the trailhead, it is about a mile and a half to the hot springs. There are several tubs carved from cedar trees and large tubs for groups.
We decided to stay in Portland (well, technically Clackamas…) the night before. I was getting over a nasty cold that week, so a nice hot soak sounded pretty good. After we checked into our hotel, we decided to get some Ethopian food at Abyssinian Kitchen. I’ve had Ethopian food in Los Angeles a couple times, but Justin had never had it before. I ordered their ginger honey lemonade for a drink, which was SO GOOD! It was super ginger-y, so if you don’t like ginger that much you’d probably hate it. But I love ginger and I like to think that their lemonade cured my cold. We ordered the Siga & Gomen (short ribs and collared greens) and Kilwa Beggie (spicy lamb). It comes with Injera bread, which is made of teff and wheat flour. They made ours to be 100% teff because of my issues with the gluten.
The next morning we left early to beat the hot springs crowds. It was a beautiful drive, winding through the national forest and seeing all the fall colors.
There is a $5 fee to use the hot springs, but they ran out of fee envelopes and didn’t have a secure place to shove our entrance fee in, so we went in without paying (sorry Forest Service, next time!). The trail to the springs follows the Clackamas River. It was serene and peaceful.
After a half an hour or so, we made it to the hot springs. We selected a private tub in a carved out cedar. Fair warning, the water is HOT! Thankfully, they have fresh, cool spring water you can add to your tub to cool it down.
The scenery surrounding the hot springs was beautiful, large pines and cedars circling the camp. Very Pacific Northwest.
We soaked for about forty five minutes. It felt wonderful to soak in hot water and we turned into human raisins by the end.
However, we were disappointed by all the graffiti. I think that Bagby is a great example of the tragedy of the commons: a good thing that has been used by too many people over the years.
There probably isn’t enough funding to replace the graffiti’d walls and spruce up the place. This place also wouldn’t be your jam if you like your relaxation retreats to be germ-free. No one is cleaning the tubs out after use – you have to scrub them yourselves with the provided scrub brushes that are located in each room. The water isn’t treated (obviously) so there is a chance you could catch something gross. We didn’t get sick or catch anything weird, but use at your own risk!
Overall, we had a great time! I’m not sure if we will go back but it was a fun adventure for us. On our way back to Olympia we stopped at this AMAZING food truck in NW Portland. I don’t remember what is was called but I had the best Oaxacan food ever: Enchiladas soaked in a black mole sauce, sprinkled with cotija, and a generous amount of avocado!