Rising steam obscures the gently sloping rocks, which are draped in multicoloured algae in shades of bright orange, white, green, grey and black. Sharp-edged calcium formations and the faint smell of sulphur characterize the hot springs. Please stay off the area of the rock slope: tufa mounds and algae pools are rare habitat for several plant species and are a very sensitive ecosystem.
BC Parks is trying to restore previous damage to the land around the hot springs and parks staff asks visitors to limit their use and follow the signage. To reduce present degradation and minimize future damage, the trail to the bathing pool is now more defined. It heads uphill and around to the right of the tufa mounds.
The forest along the trail is primarily Englemann spruce and subalpine fir. Several large avalanche paths drape the slopes, offering the occasional view at the surrounding landscape. Grizzly bears and other large mammals frequently use the lower elevations near the trail.
The trail to the hot springs crosses many wet, wide and very muddy sections, and the route is much harder than I would expect given the distance and elevation gain. Small creeks spread out across the heavily trodden, deep, black soil. Heavy horse and hiker use has further deepened the saturated muck into gumbo thick slop.
Bathing in the hot springs
Coming right out of the ground, the water is scalding hot and too hot to bathe in. Icy Dewar Creek water must be added to the small bathing pool. Signs are posted to a designated trail directing hikers how to reach the slimy sulphur-smelling pool. Hikers are asked to please stay on the trails.
Camping is not permitted near the hot springs, but Bugle Basin is a suitable campsite 500 m north, farther along the trail. From the hot springs the trail contours around the top of the tufa mounds and is defined. There are no services and few facilities in this remote park and BC Parks request that campers leave no impact and use established fire rings.
The hiker camp is in the middle of huge slide path. It has an outhouse. BC Parks intends to install food lockers in 2009, due to the increased human use and the number of grizzly bears that reside in the area.
The horse camp is across Dewar Creek (west) in the trees at the edge of the slide path. It, too, has an outhouse. When you reach the slide path at Bugle Basin, follow the trail across Dewar Creek and head up the left side of the basin for 500 m on a trail. This heads into a hidden meadow to the established horse camp. BC Parks requests that horse campers not camp on the east side of Dewar Creek.
We stripped off our clothes, sodden from a day hike in rain and snow, and slid into the calming pools to soak the trail memories away. Snowflakes melted on our bare shoulders, the sound of the rushing creek nearby softened our weary minds and a warm serenity crept up our tired limbs. We soaked until the water wrinkled our fingers and not a trace of cold lingered in our bodies.
The hardest part of the day hike was not the hike in, but getting out of the comforting hot water. We squished into our cold wet clothes and faced the long muddy hike out.