Squid Speaks

Springs Eternal…Squid rarely turns up the heater in the lair, partly because Squid's cephalopod body is designed to withstand very low water temperatures, and partly because it's Squid's little way of keeping the bills low, and thereby doubling for Squid as a form of minor protest against Pacific Gas & Electric. Vote with your dollars, as they say.

So the recent chilly weather had Squid daydreaming about the old days, when Squid would do a thing Squid does only very rarely—that is, exert Squidself—to hike from Big Sur Station along the Pine Ridge Trail about 10 miles to Sykes Hot Springs. The only reason Squid would be motivated to put that many miles on Squid's tentacles is because there were soaking tubs at the destination, lovely warm pools along the river. 

That trail has been closed since the Soberanes Fire of 2016 then extreme rain in 2017 damaged the region, taking out trees (not to mention stretches of trail) in mudslides. Squid has been happy to see Big Sur trails slowly reopening so people (and occasional cephalopods) can access the wild places that define the Monterey County coast, even if many of those places are altered; take Andrew Molera State Park, for instance, where much of the park is open but some trails remain closed, or Garrapata State Park, where there's abundant evidence of the Soberanes Fire's origin point, but substantial stretches of trail have reopened. 

So Squid was pleased to hear the news that the U.S. Forest Service expects the Pine Ridge Trail to reopen as early as this summer. But Squid was a little puzzled and a little sad to read that the tubs that made the hot springs accessible aren't coming back. 

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Part of the logic there is that many Big Sur trails are overused, and by taking away the thing that makes Sykes a desirable destination, the trail will get less use.

But to Squid, that's also the problem with the plan, which is really just a way of throwing in the towel. Take away the thing that makes people want to participate in a form of recreation, so there will be less recreation—is that really the best we can do? 

The absence of soaking tubs will sure keep Squid away; without the ability to rest Squid's sore limbs, there's no way Squid could make the hike back out. Maybe Squid will have to settle for a hot toddy on the couch with a blanket (remember, no heater) and watching nature documentaries on TV. If we end up trading recreation for TV couch time, Squid thinks that's probably not a success for champions of outdoor recreation. 

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(3) comments

Erika Borquist

Keep in mind that the people who have to clean up other campers that were at sykes are all volunteers and they kindly volunteer their hard-working time keeping this wilderness clean. Sykes was receiving hundreds of campers weekly who used the river as their own toilet (so no clean drinking water) and trash was everywhere. We should respect the US Forests decision to not re-open the hot tubs, I'm sure they put a lot of thought into it and decided that its best not to over-use their volunteer rangers time to clean one site clean rather than focusing their time on cleaning up and maintaining other sites and trails. Also, no one is being prevented from going to other trails and sites, everytime I go to Pine Valley almost every site is taken. The lack of hot tubs in my opinion will only encourage hikers and campers to try out some of the other amazing trails and sites with no one site getting overused. Plus, if the only reason to go to one of the most amazing hiking spots in the United States is to use a hot tub I suggest the Well Within in Santa Cruz. The pristine beauty and the well-being and safety of the flora and fauna of the Las Padres forest should always be the highest priority, not human comfortableness.

Erika Borquist

I'm going to have to disagree with you. Those hottubs did a ton of damage to the area. I for one am glad those man made structures are not going back into the pristine wilderness. Hundreds of people were trampling the skykes campground weekly, the water was too unsafe to drink from the river due to campers using it as their own personal bathroom, and trash was EVERYWHERE. I wish we could just appreciate the wilderness as it is rather than trying to make it comfortable for humans. After all it's not our space it belongs to the Flora and fauna.

Daniel Retta

I too am quite disappointed by the removal of a beloved local treasure. Perhaps the solution to the problem of overpopulation at Sykes shouldn't be a destructive one, but perhaps instead a creative one? That I suppose is too much to ask of government.

While they claim the pools won't return, I've heard that before when they were removed last time. They came back better than ever. Perhaps a more permanent solution is in order, such as encouraging a dispersal of the population so as to reduce the overuse of Sykes. Are there no other hot springs that we could build pools around? Why not enrich the region and increase the parking fees to cover the costs of maintenance?

There must be a better, more imaginative solution than to merely destroy that which everyone loves to keep them away.

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