The Misunderstood Art Of Bathing In Snow Fed Streams

Last weekend I headed solo back to Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It’s still a bit early in the season as the high altitude roads are still closed, but I was hopeful to scout out some new waterfalls that I learned about online. And since Theresa was out of town I invited a couple buddies to join me; long time friend Brad Miller and a colleague from work Matt White.

Matt teaches photography (you can see some of his work here; do yourself a favor and take a look) and has forgotten more about the process then I’ve learned in all my years. I was anxious to learn from watching him, and as it turned out I’d be showing him how to bathe in snow fed streams.

Waterfalls and More Waterfalls

I headed out Thursday night to get a jump no the weekend. Friday was spent capturing footage of Layser Cave for an Essex Short I’m putting together. The cave is fascinating from an archaeological viewpoint. I did a short write up which you can read here. The rest of the time was spent exploring new National Forest Development Roads….which that probably deserves a post all on it’s own.

Matt arrived early Saturday morning and we headed out to photograph as many sites as we could. I had marked 4 major falls (Benham, Iron Creek, Pinto Rock, and Elk Falls) that were within 15 miles of camp. However, route 25 was closed just pass the the 99 intersection so that knocked Pinto Rock and Elk Falls off the list. But we made up for that by finding a couple of falls partially hidden from view but accessible with a good bit of bushwhacking.

As I anticipated, watching Matt work his magic was a learning experience.

Stream Bathing

So, I decided to show Matt the art of bathing in snow fed streams. Follow these steps and you too and master this art form. It goes like this:

  1. First find a section of the stream where a small tree leans out over the stream; 10 to 15 degrees of angle works best and the closer to the edge the better.
  2. Place your feet right up on the edge; preferably with your heels hanging slightly over.
  3. Lean back to clear the tree as you shift your weight from the left to right foot. This should dislodge enough of the bank to start your initial plunge. If not you may have to bounce on the bank.
  4. This is probably the crux of the process so pay attention. You may find yourself instinctively reaching out for a branch to stop the bathing process. It understandable and the best of us are susceptible to this instinct. This is why it’s important to select a tree with rotten lower branches. They need to have the structural integrity of say, tissue paper. This will insure a smooth and complete submersion in the stream. And remember you want to land flat on your back in as deep as water as you can find.

Here’s a couple of option you might want to consider but I heartily recommend them. Might as well leave all your clothes and boots as well as your jacket on when you bath; take advantage to do a little laundry. Also, I prefer to have my pockets stuffed with electronics; smart phone, auto key fobs and do will a little maintenance as well!

My final piece of advise to leave you with is not to confuse that feeling of exhilaration with the numbing cold shock you’d feel if this was unplanned. The goal here is exemplary hygiene.

Alas, I’m afraid my lesson for completely lost on Matt. How could I tell? It was the fits of laughter that kept erupting from him throughout the day.

Well, they say the teacher doesn’t appear until the student is ready!


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. More places to add to our list! We’ve been out to that area once before while participating in the Visit Rainier GeoTour. There was (probably still is) a geocache that we located at Layser Cave. We weren’t aware of Tower Rock, we’ll certainly check it out next time we’re out that way. Thanks for the stream bathing tips, but I think I’ll stick to just using a wet, soapy washcloth.


    1. Steve Weileman

      Well ok Brandon, but I think you’re missing a chance to experience the exhilaration of this technique.! 🙂 When you head out to Tower Rock also check out Greenhorn Creek on NF76; it’s just to the west of Tower Rock. Beautiful little creek and waterfall. There are a couple of sites just off the road you could boondock if you’re so inclined. Cheers!

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