There are naked people everywhere. As we fill the industrial yellow bucket by plunging it into a deep vat of icy cold water, we both try to keep our heads down so as not to fully engage him in conversation. He is probably in his fifties or sixties, too old to be sexy but far too young to be cute again. But his cuteness as an old man is negated a thousand-fold by the fact that he is standing in his birthday suit in the great outdoors, and carrying on as if nothing is out of the ordinary. My friend and I fill our buckets and hurry back to the privacy of our room.
We are at Bagby Hot Springs, a beautiful natural hot spring near Estacada, Oregon. Despite the nudity, it is truly breathtaking (Okay perhaps the nudity also takes your breath away…). Bagby is a beautiful mix of nature and ingenuity, with a heavy helping of relaxation. It’s a great place to burn off a few calories, then earn them back with whatever treats you’ve brought along to toast the occasion, and then sweat a few of those calories off again as you linger in the wooden tubs filled with bubbling hot natural spring water.
The Bagby experience begins at the trailhead. Before the reward of relaxing in the water, you must first hike in 1.5 miles from the trailhead parking lot. The trail is easy-going, but a slow incline, which is nice because when you troop back still dripping from the tub, the walk will pass by in a quick 15 minutes, in fact, both times I have gone I am still warm from the tub by the time I climb into the warmth of our parked car. The hike is also very reasonable if you choose to visit Bagby in the winter time under a light covering of snow, which I highly recommend.
After 1.5 miles of walking you approach a clearing in the trees and suddenly you feel like you’ve stepped back a century into a simple village in the woods. There are a few covered shelters, a log-cabin style building which I unfortunately have never seen open, an outhouse, and of course the pools.
The lower pools, perched atop an expansive wooden deck, have five private rooms each with a private tub for two. The tub is actually a large tree trunk hollowed out and pressure-treated to create a beautiful leak proof bath tub. From the wall a wooden pipe protrudes and when you remove the wood plunger hot water fresh from the spring streams out. After a few trips to the fresh cold water supply outside with your handy bucket you will have a natural bath poured exactly to your liking.
But be warned, by private rooms, I mean “privacy” by the simplest definition of the word. You are in a room separated from the room next door by logs (some of which have knots, aka holes) and your door is not very tall nor does it go quite to the floor. But don’t let this deter you, as you will soon learn, at Bagby Hot Springs, there is a certain air of “free love” and “no worries” that seems all too appropriate with the fact that nudity is fully permissible. That brings us to the public pools.
Outside the five private rooms on a lower deck, there are several public pools. These pools are round tubs similar to a typical hot tub. At the public pools you have a great opportunity to view the system of natural wood (mainly hollowed out branches) that are used to port the water in from the hot spring into each of the pools. In fact, observing these pipes at length might be a great distraction because—don’t forget “nudity is permissible” but wandering eyes are never nice.
If these two options don’t float your boat, there is one more pool. 50 meters further up the trail is yet another public tub. This one, like the others, is similar to a hot tub, but much larger. It also has a tendency to go unnoticed so it’s a great place to sneak up to when the lower pools have a line or if you have a large group that would like a little privacy.
So, with a little steam and a lot of heat, some cool wooden tubs, and your yearly dose of public nudity, Bagby Hot Springs has everything you need for a relaxing and truly special afternoon.