Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tsek Hotspring, Early Improvements

    It was in the early sixties during an Easter fishing trip out of the family's logging camp at Port Douglas that I first visited the hot spring that would become such a big part of my later life. My Dad parked the truck on the little used forest access road that was just above the hot spring, and we skidded down a well used trail to the area below.
   The source water percolated up out of the gravels in a tiny pool with a pipe running to the wooden shelters. I remember the top section on the feed pipe, it was an open trough that you put rocks into to control the flow of water to the tubs. There didn't seem to be any means of getting cold water to the tubs, and the small hot spring pool meant the water was quite hot so careful regulation of the in-coming flow was essential. By the careful placement of rocks in the trough unwanted hot water would simply spill out. I've always remembered that simple, but effective bush engineering. Dad indicated that the local natives down river at Skookumchuck used the hot spring quite often. He told me of an old timer he knew that for years walked the 4 mile round trip almost every day.
     This was taken in 1958, but pretty much what I recall the first time I was brought to the hot spring as a youngster. I clearly remember the sound of the water, and the heady, steamy aroma of the cedar tubs inside the shacks.

   Over the years there were several variations of tubs and shelters initiated by users. This later structure was on site in the 70's, at the site of the present outside lean-to tub. I visited several times in the early 1980's, and recall a tub of plywood lined with plastic, a little ways to the right of the present lean-to structure. It appears to have been  buried by gravel wash from the road above, I've come across bits of it working around there. Quite a bit of the area where the present tubs are located is gravel that washed off the road above during bad rainstorms. I dug down 2 feet once putting the donation box in and hit a metallic object. I thought it was a gold rush artifact, but after carefully getting it out with my hands it turned out to be a flattened out old Hires root-beer can.      
   Another time I was planting a tree just across the bridge, in an undisturbed area, and found a beautiful jade hide scraper that had been lost probably hundreds of years ago. That artifact was given to the local people, and is stored behind glass with other important early archaeological finds

This is what things looked like when I arrived in early 1994.
The source as it was. 

Cold water was used to dilute the hot. It was drawn from a ditch up on the other side of the road, relying on a siphon effect. It seemed it was all or nothing, and often would drain the lukewarm water from the slimy ditch above in one great slurping rush. It was natural run off, so in the summer it was not uncommon to have very little 'cool' water to work with. The place had character though.

 The original a-frame was not lacking in character either, it used the same tub as is there now, the a-frame was constructed of odd bits and chunks of timber and driftwood bits packed in by campers. mostly, including an old bullet hole ridden road sign or two incorporated into the design.
Inside there were years of graffiti on most every dry surface.
   This was taken in late 1994, you can see we have just enlarged the hot spring pool, and built a boulder retaining wall behind to divert water and debris from above from getting into the source.

In June of 1994 boulders were brought in and a 'pond' built to better utilize the hot spring flow. 

   The next year, to better address the cold water issues I rolled out a one inch water line all the way from the tub area to a spot halfway up the waterfalls behind. I forget how far is was, but several thousand feet of it, and for the first time there was clean, cold water under pressure that you could regulate at the tubs, and fed several water taps located around the campsite. The water-line ran along the surface, in cold weather it would freeze, and in summer bears would sometimes come upon it laying there and bite into it. I would walk the line to see what happened to the water pressure and there would be a big sprinkler going with water coming out the teeth marks. Finally, in 2000 a water-line from the cabin here was buried in the ground several thousand feet to the hot spring and a more reliable source was initiated.

In 1996 I got the idea to replace the decrepit looking old a-frame structure. It was torn down and in the way vegetation was cleared out, concrete blocks were set and a platform built, the log work was done up at this end, then packed in on two-man loads and re-assembled at the hot spring.

Later in '96 I started on the lean-to structure. The tub was pulled up and a timber foundation put in. Algae build-up was always an issue with the outside tub, and the idea of the shelter there was to keep the tub exposed but block out the sun. I had it all figured out with the track of the sun to block out 60 percent. I think it helped. This is the star gazing tub.

In the spring of 1997 I put in the 'jaquzzi' tub.

The much photographed 5 foot high welcome bench was done in 1998.
 A pattern was traced out on the slab, then a router was used to take out everything but the logo.
This was the original version, before I painted the letters.

I added some tables in 1998, milled from cedar salvaged out of Whiskey Lake.

In 2003 I hauled in a section of log to the campsite and stood it up on end with the aid of my tractor. My friend Stefan (simplyartist.com) came and camped out for a few days, and created 'Bear".

And he's stood watch over the place ever since.

New phone booths in the campsite were added periodically over the years.

  What a difference 50 years makes.                                                                                                      


  1. I love the lean-to the best. One day I plan to live in the country and build an exact replica of it back in the bush using maybe propane for heat. Closest I can get to a hot spring in Ontario.

  2. Thanks for the comments Chris, thats a good idea, just make sure you move the bench ahead just a little so you don't bang the back of your head on the center log rafter. Or is it just me that does that?

  3. But it raises the question,
    What was the wonderful accident of the Peace Rock?