Sunday, 12 October 2014

Publications: Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest

Soaking attributes
Is there something as such? I mean soakology. A good description might be the science surrounding the act of soaking with reference to hot springs.
We would have to define hot (above 30 / body temperature/ hotter?) and what is soaking (probably the most difficult)? And how can it be a science?

Well the former does leave us shaking our heads. Do note that in Japan this is very different, however the science of taking a hot spring has still some way to come by in the western scientific literature. In the past I've noted about 2-3 books on soakology. But in all fairness listing a couple of hot springs after each other with their characteristics is hardly scientific. What's more this seems to be dying trend: listing on the internet is rendering all this obsolete.

So it does come as a surprise that a publisher has been found for what is essentially a list of ultimate natural hot springs which are located in the Pacific Northwest of North America (Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Colombia) and have somehow failed to be "developed" due in part to problems of access and/or being on state land. Question mark. 
What's even more surprising is that the authors (Evie Litton and Sally Jackson) have turned this essential and entertaining item for hot spring hunting into what could be contrived a scientific listing of where and what, but also how. How soaking is done. I like it.

Though I call myself a soaker, I've yet to find out what distinguishes myself from those non-soakers. Collins notes on a soaker:
'a person or thing that soaks sb or sth else'.
With soak possibly referring to
'to take in (a liquid) by absorption'. 
Though there are some definitions of soak referring to getting drunk or heating up. Maybe a soaker is simply someone drunk on absorbing heated liquid!

In the blurb of the Hiking Hot Springs etc.,  the publisher notes that all hot springs covered in the guide are free of charge and on public land. So that are two characteristics of what a soaker seeks: free of charge with public access. But that would be specific to North America; in Japan other rules would have to apply and free, public accessible hot springs are few and far between in Europe. Asia wide there would be more differences, while New Zealand differs yet again and then there's still Latin America and Africa which all have other characteristics. Add traditions, history?
Dames Litton & Jackson though note in the preface that the guide is dedicated to all those who
'... struggle patiently and often ingeniously to create and maintain soaking pools for everyone to enjoy and who value hot springs in a natural setting enough to pack out the trash left by others, ...'. 
So here they add more possible attributes of a soaker, this is getting complicated ...

What's more wherever I go in nature (beach, river, waterfall) I make an effort to carry more trash out than in. Does this mean I'm an ultra soaker? Or should this be characterised as common sense? And if so why is it not common? So a soaker focuses solely on hot springs. Hmmm.

The science of soakable skinnydipping
What the previously mentioned blurb of the guide fails to inform it's (potential) readers, is that the authors have gone to great lengths to describe the (un)dress code of the relevant hot springs. Aside from the fact that the publisher might have purposely missed this, it gives us certainly another possible attribute of the soaker: he/she prefers the undressed code. And here comes the science.

The authors have looked into what the swimwear code of each hot spring is. Of the 162 featured hot springs I've collated what the various advisory standards of dress are brought forward. There are 33 possibilities ranging from 
'swim wear is a must' 
or even 
'no nudes' 
'swimsuit / birthday suit mix' 
to the ever clear
'mixed bag' 
'swimwear: first come is first serve'
ending with 
'swimwear is the least of your worries'.
The top 3 advisories were: 
  1. swimwear optional (17 out of 162),  
  2. keep swimwear handy (?) (15) and  
  3. jointly third with 10: swimwear required/essential, swimwear superfluous and the strangely advised swimwear is advised/vital/essential when standing up!?
In total, 38 advisories implied that whatever the correct amount of dress society requires you, that's what's needed. Meaning a hefty majority of soaks allows you to lower (literally?) your guard.

Interesting in the above, is that Canadian soaks and soaks in Idaho require more clothing. On the other hand, Idaho is the only featured state with the curious habit of 
'skinnydipping after dark' (5 counted) 
as well as the widely advised stand up / dress up rule mentioned above.

So now where are we? Soaker: a person who enjoys and values (possibly through  maintaining the vicinity, but with reference to traditions and history) hot naturally occurring liquid which mostly is publicly accessibly / free of charge with a preference for natural bathing habits

Still not me I think, but close enough.

But as said the guide is an enjoyable read, even though I'm not from that part of the globe. Who knows that could still happen. 
It's also a book of inspiration, there's still so many places we soakers can (still) enjoy. Hopefully the trashers amongst us, won't get their hands on this ....

Just flip the guide open. Let's read together. Page 217: Anderson hot spring, Idaho:
'A hot pool screened by trees in a creek canyon, near a dirt road. Keep swimwear handy'. 
It then comes with general characteristics and how to find the springs. A photo by Ms. Litton of a male soaker in his natural habitat and then a text box on how Sally lost a sandal but found another hot spring nearby.
I compared this to the Idahohotsprings page on Little Anderson: coincidence or not: the two descriptions don't line up. Anymore. Another question mark.

Others note some progress / lack of as compared to earlier editions (this is the fifth) especially when updating prior info: that goes to show that an internet listing does have it's own advantages. Maybe a website to keep the list up to date?

Litton, E. & S. Jackson (2014) Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest - A Guide to the Areas Best Backcountry Hot Springs. Falcon Guides, Globe Pequot Press, Guildford, Connecticut, U.S.A.

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