Our hot springs experience started at Belknap Hot Springs, a secluded resort tucked in off of Rte 126. The folks at Belknap charge $10.50 for day use of the springs, guests soak for free. It’s a nice big pool, super clear and nicely heated water (102 degrees). The main pool is located right on the McKenzie and the hot spring bubbles up from the other side of the river. According to Belknap’s Web site, the water comes out of the ground at 200 degrees, full of minerals (mostly sodium, chloride and sulfate). The pool is five feet at its deepest point and not overly crowded, even on weekend mornings or evenings. But, it gets a little boring after a while.
On the other hand, nearby Terwilliger Hot Springs is anything but boring. KP and I drove down there to check it out, just about an hour before dark on Saturday. The parking lot was packed, but the fee collector ($5) had closed up shop for the day, so we got to check it out for free.
There was ample warning that this was a clothing-optional kind of place and KP and I were debating whether to go nude or not. But after hiking back a quarter mile and seeing what we were getting into, we opted to put on the bathing suits.
It was probably the oddest grouping of people I’d ever seen. I’d say it was half young couples and the other half was older hippie guys. Plus, throw in a couple meth-head looking dudes in dirty clothes that looked like they never showered, and the Wolfman.
The Wolfman could have been anywhere between 30 and 60 years old, with a mane of hair and a beard down to his nipples. He spent about half of the time in the hot spring, the other half he spent perched on the cliff above, kind of sitting like a wolf.
To be honest, I found it to be a little too much. Naked attractive women, guys who looked like they would steal everything I own, and a Wolfman. It wasn’t exactly relaxing.
Plus, the water itself made me wonder why we ever left Belknap. I’m all for “natural” experiences and hot springs connoisseurs will make fun of me -- but this was madness. The water couldn’t have been more than 80 degrees. And its consistency was like egg drop soup, with belly button lint floating in it. You can’t tell me something wasn’t living in that muck.
Healing mineral bath anyone? More like hepatitis. But, free is free, so we sat in it for a while, eating oranges with the hippie dudes, trying to figure out how we knew this naked girl sitting next to us.
Well, there you have the two extremes of Oregon Cascades hot springs: Pricey and pretty vs. cheap and gritty.
I do have a few more words on the lodging situation at Belknap Springs. Rooms range at around $100 per night, and if you were smart you’d get a cabin instead. The cabins are more private than the lodge rooms and are half the price. Lodge room beds are pretty lame, the room temperatures are impossible to control and the walls are paper thin. The only thing with the rustic cabins is that you need to bring your own bedding, pillows and towels.