Monday, November 28, 2016

#OptOutside Cougar Hot Springs Debacle

Cougar Reservoir

Another holiday season upon us, another chance to escape the madness by opting outside on Black Friday... Or so I thought. This year our family decided to laze the day away in Cougar Hot Springs. A popular destination nestled high in the cascades off the bank of Cougar Reservoir. The views during the two hour drive up from Bend were amazing, and by the time we pulled off the highway we were all antsy to be out of the car and exploring. But it wasn't meant to be. At the hot springs at least.

Cougar Hot Springs parking lot
 The parking lot was overflowing with vehicles. They were packed so tight that several cars were in the road. The people that arrived early, and were parked in actual parking spots, were completely blocked in by the latecomers who just parked behind them. It was a total disaster. I found a spot near the parking lot on the shoulder of the road, but a forest service employee threatened me with a ticket if I stayed there. I drove up the road looking for alternative parking but found nothing. I circled back and waited patiently for someone to leave. Impatiently, my kids begged me to double-park next to someone, but I refused. After a half hour of waiting, there were now three vehicles just sitting on the side of the road waiting for people to leave the parking lot. Meanwhile the forest service employee perused the parking lot writing tickets. Finally, a man came sauntering up the trail toward the parking lot. He saw that his car was blocked in and threw a fit. He began yelling at the forest service employee. At this point we were all restless and irritable in the car, so I decided to abandon the hot springs despite the fact that we drove two hours to get there. It was totally demoralizing, especially for my kids.

Delta Camp nature trail
Determined to make the best of such a disappointing turn of events, we pulled into a closed campground we passed just to get out of the car and explore. Delta Campground was an awesome campsite surrounded by old growth rainforest and towering western red cedars. Here is the kind of forest that just looks ancient. The trees like sentinels. Something out of Lord of the Rings. We explored the campsite and short nature trail nearby. The dog went nuts. The kids ran and laughed and soaked their clothes in the dense foliage. It was fun, and the frustration of earlier in the day was forgotten.

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