feasting and glamping | goldmyer hot springs backpacking
July 27, 2021
22 miles . 1200 ft gain . 2100 ft high
I wasn’t going to write a debrief/thoughts/post about this trip, but here we are. Glamping at Goldmyer Hot Springs. Naturally, I don’t take things easy and somehow always find a way to make trips harder than they need to be. My friend secured a reservation with Goldmyer (it’s getting pretty popular these days) a while back and I was happy to schedule a chill weekend amidst the busyness my summer had become from photographing the Mt Baker course to long trips in the Pasayten Wilderness. Scroll to the end for the recipes: Curry, Berry Crisp, French Toast, Breakfast Hash. And to the very end for condensed notes.
Some of us chose to walk the full 10-11 miles from the Garfield Ledges Trailhead to Goldmyer, but some of us decided to bike part of it before joining the rest for a more leisurely 5 mile hike. Personally, I was quite firm that I’d bike because walking 10 miles seemed very tiring for my feet, considering my last trip I learned that less time spent on my feet is better. Plus, I was planning to carry some extra weight. Despite past experience and friends telling me that riding with a heavy load is difficult, I did it anyway. And it was sure difficult. We started with a big uphill proceeded with a gentle, yet bumpy downhill. We’d screech around the hairpin turns, grasping the brakes for dear life. As much as I wanted to welcome the downhill, I knew we’d have it uphill on the way out, and this sort of rock-gravel biking had all my muscles tense.
Eventually, the road leveled out and it was more of a cruising ride to the trailhead, save a few extra rocky sections. We’d get off when the rock looked like shark fins attacking our precious wheels, and also when our legs couldn’t take the elevation gain. On any paved road, it would have been easy, but on a loose gravel road, you had to work harder for every slip you wheels made.
The forest road was too treacherous for me to even think about pictures, so there are none here. And somehow even when we started walking, I still didn’t feel compelled to take pictures of the gorgeous waterfall or the alluring crystal-clear river. It was a pretty pleasant walk, and I could barely notice the elevation gain we had, especially with our engaging conversations. And so, 10 miles and 1000 feet later, we arrived at the Middle Fork bridge that crosses to the Goldmyer property.
The caretaker’s cabin is super cute, and apparently caretakers stay there for a month at a time, sometimes even longer in the winter. We rung the bell when we arrived and were greeted warmly for our orientation. It’s not super obvious where the campsites end, but any time you see a sign that says to check in, you’ve probably reached the boundary of Goldmyer. There’s several campsites available, with a handy map at the caretaker’s cabin. This year, they changed it so only one party can be allowed on site per session, so we had it all to ourselves! We probably could have each taken a camp site to ourselves, but we found one of the bigger ones and started to set up our tents and hammocks, relieving the weight from our packs.
The hot spring is about a quarter mile uphill (significantly, not just flat, mind you). So we decided to bring our buckets of food to the picnic table near the hot spring so we wouldn’t have to walk back and forth for dinner and maximize time spent at the hot springs. There’s also an outhouse close to the picnic table, both of which are just a minute away from the hot spring. As you arrive to the springs, there’s a cabana sort of structure where you can change and leave your dry things. And then of course the hot springs itself!
The geothermally heated water comes from a cave that you can explore and it flows from one pool to the next. There’s plenty of seating but the further from the source, the cooler the water. It’s actually quite hot. I’m sure there are hot springs and hot tubs that run hotter, but this was just the perfect temperature. And probably if the air temperature was closer to 45-55 degrees, that would be the ideal situation too. Soon, after enjoying the rest, we all started to get hungry, and I was ready to start making food.
I had made a spreadsheet for people to vote on the group meals, and curry was the choice for dinner. We cooked rice on one stove, although that proved to be difficult – I have yet to figure out how to use backcountry stoves without the bottom getting stuck to the pot or burnt. One key thing is probably to stir it quite frequently. On a separate pot, we cooked the curry. Actually 2 pots because all the veggies wouldn’t fit in the one pot. It was super helpful to have brought the portable gas stove. Honestly it wasn’t too much extra weight, but it was very bulky. I was able to fit in vegetables and other food items within the stove as I packed my backpack. When backpacking, using more sturdy vegetables is good for preventing them getting too squished. And also cutting up ingredients like bell peppers saves a lot of room and a lot of prep work while you’re in the wilderness.
We dished out the rice and curry, with a side of naan bread to clean off our bowls. But before going back for a night time session at the hot spring, we did dessert! I’m happy we were all smart enough to have decided to bring the food buckets up here and dessert before hot spring because who’d have the energy to make more food before bed? Up next: flan and berry crisp. My friend was in charge of the flan, which was mixing powder milk with flan mix and water. But unfortunately it didn’t set till we got back to the tents a few hours later. For the berry crisp, it’s surprisingly easy to make on the stove. Just cook the topping first, set it aside, and then cook up the berries. I like using frozen berries for the extra juices, but fresh works too. We served up the dessert and were quickly on our way to some fairy lit relaxation.
In hammocks (and tents)
With a few headlamps, we found our way back to the tents. It felt much longer than the way up, a continual reminder that night time navigation is always slower. I think this was my second time sleeping overnight in a hammock and it was lovely! Probably slightly better sleep in a tent, but hammocks are another level of comfort that alleviates other discomforts. If you haven’t slept in a hammock before, it’s important to remember a sleeping pad for it too! Even a short pad will work here. The goal is to straighten out the hammock so your butt isn’t sagging, which will be nicer to your back too. The pad is also good for giving your arms some extra space so they don’t squish to your body too much. And lastly, pads are good for added warmth! Even for warm summer nights, it’s nice to have a barrier between the breeze and some extra cushion. The downside of having a single hammock is positioning everything in the middle. If you don’t, you’ll feel like you’ll flip out of the tent. I doubt that a double hammock would have the same issue, but have fun with it!
In morning light
A few of us decided to wake up a bit earlier to catch one more soak in the hot springs before we were kicked out at 8am. Perks of getting an evening reservation is that you can stay overnight and have access to the springs all night. Abiding by the rules, we left the hot springs at 8am and walked back to camp to make breakfast with everyone else. I think I enjoyed the morning light there the best, but each time was a different vibe. Morning was colder, so it was much harder to convince yourself to get out of the pools.
Up next, the crew voted for french toast with breakfast burritos coming in a close second. To ensure everyone had mostly-full stomachs before the hike back to our cars, I decided some veggies couldn’t hurt, so we did a little breakfast burrito inspired hash sans egg. Hands down the best breakfast I’ve had while camping! I personally enjoyed the challah french toast more than the brioche (both from Trader Joe’s), but so good with some sliced almonds and I was crazy enough to bring a sieve to have sifted powdered sugar too. We finished breakfast easily with only a few slices of bread leftover, wiped our hands clean and took apart our tents. The caretakers were gracious enough to let us leave the property at our own leisurely rate, but I think we left not too long after the official check out time.
The hike out was definitely easier than in. A much lighter pack, a slight down hill, it was great! We all regrouped at the Dingford Trailhead again and snacked before separating into our carpool and bike/walk groups. I was truly scared of how much uphill biking we’d have on the way out, but I was pleasantly surprised that most of it was down hill. I guess I had biked more up on the way in than I realized, even with my heavy pack. And biking back, with a lighter pack, my shoulders weren’t heavily weighed and I could more easily maneuver the forest road. I kept thinking how I needed to really pedal through the rocky portions, kind of like how you have to paddle through rapids when white water kayaking so you don’t get stuck in the rough patches. After one longer uphill, we finally got within sight of the parking lot, we had made it at last.
An elevated experience at Goldmyer from a biking adventure to glamorous meals, it was one great weekend! Below is my version of fair simple recipes you can use whether car camping or short backpacking.
Tools we used to cook
A portable gas stove
2-3 backpacking stoves (jetboil/whisperlite style), extras are good to boil water
A frying pan (for french toast)
2-3 large pots for curry and rice; reuse one for berry crisp; reuse one for breakfast hash
Shallow pan for french toast and for staging other foods or as a cutting board
For all, bring a small amount of salt to season. I bought most everything from Trader Joe’s if you need a sizing reference.
Vegetable and Tofu Curry
4 carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 broccoli, chopped including stem
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 bag snap peas (about 1-2 cups)
4 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp turmeric
2 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1-1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 can coconut cream
1 Tbsp butter
4 cups uncooked rice
1 bag of naan
At Home Directions
Pre chop everything listed and put them in separate quart ziplock bags (preferable to hard containers for easy packing). Carrots and onions can be chopped on site as necessary.
In a small container or bag, place the tomato paste and spices in together.
Store the vegetable stock in a smaller leak-proof container or bottle.
At Camp Directions
Cook the rice in 4 cups of water on low heat (remove from heat as it boils over), and continually stir it until all water is absorbed. It’ll take about 15 minutes.
Chop onion and carrots, if you haven’t yet.
Chop tofu into cube sized pieces.
Heat up a pot on the stove with butter. Add in carrots and onions and let them cook until onions are fragrant, 2 minutes.
Add the vegetable stock and the tomato-spice mixture. Let simmer until carrots start to soften, 5-8 minutes.
Add in the coconut cream and broccoli, let it cook for 3-4 min.
Stir in the bell peppers, zucchini, snap peas, tofu until everything is coated in curry and slightly softened. If more pot space is needed, cook the vegetables in a separate pot with some butter and combine when serving. Add salt to taste.
Serve it up with some naan bread! Save some extra bread to wipe down your bowls.
Stove-Top Berry Crisp
1-1/2 cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 cup oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 lbs (2 bags) frozen berries
At Home Directions
Place the flour, oats, and sugar in a quart sized bag.
Place the white sugar and lemon juice in a small container or bag.
Put the frozen berries in a cooler bag with an ice pack until you reach the trailhead. Put the berries in a bag to prevent condensation to your pack and place them last minute before you leave your car.
At Camp Directions
In the flour bag, knead the butter into the flour-oat mixture till crumbs form.
On a medium heat, cook the crumb mixture in a pot until crispy. Keep stirring to prevent burning.
Remove from heat and set aside in a container.
Cook the berries with the sugar-lemon mixture and let it simmer until some of the liquid has evaporated.
Spoon out the berries for each person and top with the crisp.
Almond French Toast
2 loaves of challah and/or brioche (about 2 lbs)
6 whole eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon
1-1/2 Tbsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cup soy milk
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
At Home Directions
Take half a carton of eggs. Use 2 rubber bands to keep the carton shut in both directions. Add some extra paper towel padding as necessary to cushion any exposed egg. Pack this at the top near other soft items.
Bread should also be on the top of the pack or attached to the outside of your pack. Be careful not to squish it too much.
In a small container or bag, place the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract.
Place soy milk in a small bottle. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated for a day or so. Alternatively use powdered milk and follow its instructions for making the same quantity of milk.
At Camp Directions
In a bowl or pot, mix together the eggs, sugar mixture, milk. If you don’t have a container, use your shallow pan and mix half of the ingredients at a time and add the rest as you use it.
On medium-low heat, melt a 1/2 Tbsp of butter in the pan.
Slice bread if it isn’t sliced yet. Dip a slice in the egg mixture. Be sure to completely coat each side. Cook 2-3 slices of bread on the pan at a time. Add sliced almonds on top. Flip when the bottom turns golden brown. Cook about 2 minutes per side.
Repeat for all slices, adding more butter to pan as necessary.
Top each french toast with powdered sugar.
1/2 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 large potatoes, diced
1 pack pre-cooked breakfast sausage
1 Tbsp butter
3 small avocados (optional)
At Home Directions
Pre chop bell pepper and place in a bag. The rest can be chopped on site as necessary.
At Camp Directions
Chop onion and potatoes, if you haven’t yet.
Heat up a pot on the stove with butter. Add in carrots and onions and let them cook until potatoes are soft, 15 minutes.
Add bell peppers and sausage until fragrant. Season with salt.
Serve it up with sliced avocado.
Hot Spring: There are 2 sessions to choose from: 10am-2pm and 4pm-8pm, costing $20/person
Whichever session you choose, if you start from the Dingford Trailhead with a high clearance car, it’s about 5 miles each way. But from the Garfield Ledges Trailhead, it’s 10 miles each way.
If you are able to get the evening slot (4-8pm), you have the option of camping in their property for $10/person extra. But then you have access to the pools until 8am, so any time from 4pm-8am you can go use it.
The hot spring is actually hot! I don’t know the temperature, but it’s definitely at minimum a hot shower temperature and hotter the closer to the source, like close to sauna hot.
To get to the Dingford Creek Trailhead, high clearance vehicles are recommended. Low clearance will definitely not make it due to some rockier sections and dips, but even medium clearances like Subaru Crosstreks made it. But most of the cars were trucks. The potholes aren’t too deep but they are frequent and the loose rock could be problematic to some drivers. In some spots, we were biking almost as fast cars.
The second half of the access, a closed forest road used primarily as trail from Dingford to Goldmyer, is very bike friendly.
They provide buckets for you to hang up your food/other smelly objects.
There are outhouses with toilet paper and automatic light.
Picnic tables exist but not for the campsites themselves, though each campsite has sitting logs
Food logistics: I carried all the group food, which weighed around 25 lbs for 8 people, so it’s doable if you are able to split it up amongst people, but also I’d recommend doing this for shorter hikes where you can carry a bit more weight than you might normally for a longer trip. I opted out of carrying a tent for space for food. My hammock took much less space.
Eggs can be carried in a normal egg carton, making sure that the sides are fully wrapped, add some padding with clothes and place on top of pack. Make sure you don’t fall!
If you have smaller bottles, use those to carry liquids so you don’t have to take a whole quart.
Pre-chop everything if possible, which will make packing easier.
Items like avocado and bread should go on outside pockets or on top of the pack to prevent too much bruising with the pack.