Did you know the Internet calls snakes "nope ropes?" I love that. I wish I had thought of it.
Springtime is a busy season for nope ropes. They're just waking up, and it's still cold at night, so what they chiefly want is to sun themselves on rocks. Often they haven't eaten in a whole season, which makes them extra venomous too. This is not good news if you're a human.
I went to Utah to meet a condor, but I wasn't going to sit around staring at him for five days. In a search for other fun activities near Salt Lake City -- outdoor only, no temple tours -- I discovered a hike to a hot spring.
Hot spring! That's been a bucket list item for me lo, these many decades!
There were several glitches, however:
1. Mr. J has never gone hiking, even in the benign Pine Barrens of New Jersey. He's a water person. Give him a rowboat and an oar, and he's all set. But hiking? Hasn't done it.
2. Nope ropes. Abundant nope ropes of the rattling variety have been documented on the trail I wanted to take. There's a particularly compelling YouTube of a cluster of rattling nope ropes right next to the hot spring. And it's the season when these creatures come out needing a little bath to keep them in tip-top shape.
3. Speaking of shape, I'm out of it. And the trail was ranked "moderate." I had no idea what that meant in Utah. In Pennsylvania it generally means steep and rocky.
But never mind the concerns! It's not like the hot spring was going to hike down to see me! Mr. J bought a pair of hiking shoes, and bright and early on a sunny morning, we set out for Diamond Fork (Fifth Water) Hot Springs.
The first thing I discovered is that Mr. J sets a nice pace for hiking. I'm used to watching my daughters disappear into the far distance, but I kept up nicely with him. The trail was pleasantly Poconos-like, meaning steep and rocky but not what Utah can throw at a hiker. The scenery was outstanding, and the creeks were muddy torrents of snow-melt.
It was a long slog, but we made it to Diamond Fork. And there it was, a real hot spring, bubbling up from creek-side, scalding and smelling of the sulfurous bowels of the earth!
The hot water flows into a series of man-made "tubs" where you can sit and soak. It's like the Three Bears: one tub is too hot, one tub is too cold, and one tub is just right. Actually, the high water in the creek meant that the tubs weren't their signature deep blue color (the creek was overflowing into them), but they also didn't reek quite as much as they would most days.
Right above the tubs there was a Poconos-grade waterfall too! Added to my collection!
There's something about waterfalls. They always bring out the bliss.
Now, here's a sad fact for you striplings: A time comes when it's harder to hike downhill than it is to hike uphill. Gravity might be helpful to the heart, but it's a bitch for the knees. Nevertheless, Mr. J and I (after a good long soak) limped back down the trail to our car. Round trip it was five miles. My knees felt every damn rock, but Mr. J -- a complete novice -- handled it with nary a complaint.
As for the nope ropes, we didn't see any. There were many other hikers on the trail and in the tubs, and one guy said he saw two, but not the rattling variety. Nor were there any insects except butterflies! Even as I write this there are mosquitoes humming around New Jersey.
The scenery, like the hot springs, was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. I haven't gotten around much. I had my own piece of mountain for the longest time, and I spent much of my life there. These Utah mountains, though ... they made my mountain look like a lil' old knoll.
If not for Andy N. Condor, I never would have known about Diamond Fork (Fifth Water) Hot Springs. Never let it be said that buzzards won't do you a good turn.