I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and took Wednesday off. I figured that mid week would be a good time to avoid the crowds (and sideshow) at Bagby. My goal was to finish hiking the entire stretch of the trail - My daughter and I had hiked the southern 5 miles or so of the trail this summer, going up to Silver King lake, and going a little beyond that to "Howdy Doody Camp" (as referenced in the trail info sheet). I figured it was about 7 miles in to get to that point, so that was my goal.
It was an absolutely beautiful day, although it was rather chilly in the morning. When I got to Bagby at about 9am, there was one car who looked like they were leaving, and another that had a flat in the parking lot. I figured the hot springs would be empty - I was in luck! The beginning of the trail is very well maintained, even being paved most of the way. If you look up the hill, you can see the "old" trail - at some point they relocated the trail nearer the creek - probably because they wanted it to be wider and didn't want to cut into the hillside more I'm guessing. Crossing the Hot Springs fork you got the smell of fish - there were lots of salmon that were dead in the river - I'm guessing they died after spawning. The rest of the trip up to the hot springs was uneventful. I got to explore a bit around the camp there, although there was a couple there - I found out later I think they were camped up the trail a bit. I did get to see the soaking "tubs" (hollowed out logs). Very interesting place.
Past the hot springs, the trail gets narrower, but is still in extremely good shape. The farther you get from Bagby, the less traffic it gets, though. After a couple of miles past Babgy, the trail is still easy to follow, but is VERY brushed in in places. On the way in, I got absolutely soaked from the dew/rain/moisture on the vegetation overgrowing the trail. Mostly huckleberries with some rhodies and a few tree branches.
You cross several creeks, and pass a really nice, pretty waterfall - it is called shower creek, and it looks like they literally used it as a shower at one point - there is a wooden deck under one section of the falls! You continue on, crossing a bunch of small creeks until you get to a GREAT viewpoint, with a nice sitting spot and wonderful view of Whetstone Mountain.
There was one spot that I was a little curious about - most of the trail is mature forest, however one section is rather bare, with lots of rhodies and small trees. It doesn't appear to have been logged, so I'm kind of wondering if there was a lightning strike or something in that area? The trail was easy to follow through it, though.
Once you get farther down the trail, you eventually cross the hot springs fork, but it is an easy crossing thanks to a log. The trail then starts to go uphill and climbs a bit until you get to "Howdy Doody Camp", a nice little camp area just past a couple of creeks. This was my lunch spot and turnaround point.
I spent a little over an hour working on brushing the trail just North of that camp, but that trail needs a LOT more brush work. I decided to clear a LOT of brush in the areas I did, rather than just do a light trimming - once you start cutting out the overgrowth, it is hard to stop! I eventually ran out of time, but I ended up clearing several hundred feet of the worst of the overgrowth.
If you've read this far, congratulations on enduring my rambling post. This is a WONDERFUL trail that goes through some incredible old growth forest and has the Hot Springs fork as company for most of the trip. If you can endure the sideshow at Bagby, it is a great trail to go on and needs some more friends farther down the trail.
I was just up there today, Rob -- you make a good call going mid-week. There were at least a dozen cars in the parking lot today. I'm not a hot spring person, so for me, it's the big trees and river views -- so didn't mind the company.
I also walked in to Pegleg Falls for some photos on the way out. Neat area, really needs some TLC. At some point, the USFS went cyclone-fence crazy, and falling trees and limbs have done a real number on what remains of the fencing. Really nice falls and gorgeous stream, of course. Spooked a bald eagle, and it flew right over the top of me as I was setting up my tripod (just to tease me, of course!).
I also scrambled up to the falls on Blister Creek, just down the road a bit from Pegleg Falls. Another nice falls, though a challenge to get a good view without wet feet. You can see the falls from the road, and a well-developed boot path climbs above the falls. But for a stream-level view, wading (or some daring rock-hops) are in order.
Nice area, and the trailhead facilities at Bagby are looking excellent -- best I've seen them, actually, and a nice change given all of the problems up there in the past.
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