Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Our Day Hike to Wilhoit Springs

July is one of my favorite months, the weather is beautiful, and I love the relaxed days of summer vacation. We have been having a really fun time so far this summer with various day outings. This past week I was so eager to finally explore an off the beaten path, historical location, that has been on my "places to explore" list for a couple of years now - Wilhoit Springs.

In the center of our small town a few years back I noticed this mural and wondered where Wilhoit Springs was, I love history and local history is especially interesting, so I got to Googling and learned a little bit about this historical site. Wilhoit Springs is the site of natural soda and mineral water springs, it is located about twenty minutes or so outside of Molalla, Oregon. Even though it is only twenty minutes outside of town it really feels like the middle of nowhere, out in the middle of the woods! The drive is stunning with beautiful views the entire time.

Wilhoit Springs was developed as a spa and resort in the late 1800's and was open until the early 1920's, there was a hotel and bathhouse, and people would come to enjoy the waters which were thought to have medicinal properties. The hotel eventually burned down and was replaced by a log building and cabins and a pavilion. For whatever reason it became a less popular destination and when another fire broke out and destroyed the larger log hotel is was never replaced, the resort fell into disrepair and then a wind storm in the 1960's finished the majority of the old buildings off. Ownership has changed hands over the years and now it belongs to Clackamas County and is finally being maintained as a lovely rustic park.

We took the kids along with my son's girlfriend and her sister, everyone was eager to explore when we arrived. 

This water pump sign leads the way to the springs.

The park is surrounded by beautiful trees.

The air is so fresh, the trees were covered in lichen and moss in the most beautiful shades of green.

The walk to the spring is very short along a nicely maintained path. The mineral spring was a hand pump but it was covered and not in use, the soda spring is basically a covered hole in the ground and you can just lift off the top to access the water.

The water was clearly bubbly, and you could see bubbles coming up from below. The rusty color is from the minerals and iron in the water.

We wanted to give the water a try so we brought a pitcher and some cups. We were a little trepidatious to try water from a hole in the ground, but were all interested to see what it was like.

We all tried a sip or two, it was definitely bubbly, just like any sparkling mineral water might be, but it was not very tasty, it was very minerally and salty and overall pretty weird tasting. I am a big fan of mineral water but this would need some filtering before it would be palatable. :)

In addition to tasting the water we poured it over our hands and arms and such, as well as stuck our arm down in the spring to feel the bubbles, the water felt very nice, it was cold and the bubbles felt nice, and it left our skin feeling nice and soft. I can see why people would have wanted to soak in it.

Overall it was really interesting to see sparkling water coming right out of the ground, and a fascinating thing to explore.

After we were done checking out the springs we decided to explore the surroundings a bit, there was a beautiful little stream surrounding the park covered by lots of greenery and overhanging trees.

We found an old bridge that went over the stream and at first didn't look like it led anywhere, the trail had been largely overgrown and was rather muddy.

The boys found a way through, then cut some of the brambles back so we could all make it through. The path led to a beautiful open area surrounded completely by trees with the sun shining through the leaves, it was very pretty. At the same time though it was also a little freaky, cougar reports have been in the news recently quite a bit, and this is definitely cougar territory. It is also Sasquatch territory! ;)

I decided it would be best for us to stick together just in case, and we didn't go too far down the path since we hadn't packed correct gear for a longer hike. So we headed back to the main park area to explore in a slightly safer area.

There were beautiful flowers here and there, we also spotted quite a few little garter snakes winding through the grass.

We spotted this wonderful yellow fungus peeking out of the grass.

Salmonberries were growing throughout the park, I remember eating these on camping trips as a child, the air smelled of fresh warm berries.

We were able to walk down to the stream in one area and check out the pebbles and dunk our toes in the cool water.

There was something beautiful to see around every corner.

The only thing remaining of the old resort aside from the foundation around the spring and pumps was this set of stone steps covered in moss and surrounded by overgrown grass. It is amazing how nature can reclaim a space, and leave only a hint about what was once there.

Everyone enjoyed the outing, we all decided that it would be the perfect place to bring a picnic.

On the drive home we had quite the treat of seeing a little family of deer, we slowed down the van so they could make their way off the road. This little fawn decided to run the other way, and mama deer had to be very brave and walk back into the road to coax the fawn to join the group, you could tell she was nervous to walk in front of our stopped van but the urge to get her baby was more important, it was so sweet to see that. The picture doesn't show it very well, but the fawn was so cute with it's spots, it was very darling.

Exploring Wilhoit Springs was a great summer outing, I would encourage anyone who lives in the area to check it out. You can read more about Wilhoit Springs on Wikipedia's Wilhoit Springs Link, an article from Offbeat Oregon History, and an article from Dunton Farms  whose ancestors owned the property at one point. 

We are looking forward to many more day trips throughout the summer. 


1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful day out! Looks like real fun and a great learning experience for your family too.


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