Serpentine Hot Springs
This summer during our trip touring the Seward Peninsula we followed the coast to Whales then turned East to Serpentine Hot Springs. Serpentine is approximately 85 miles North of Nome and is only accessible by airplane or snow machine in the winter. It was late June and HOT when we visited, not exactly a great time of year to visit a hot spring. Needless to say we had no idea when another opportunity to visit would come so we decided to stop by.
Flying from the coast we had grown accustom to beaches and gentle rolling hills, but as we neared the hot springs it looked as if God had drawn an imaginary line and suddenly giant rocks began to stretch out of the ground.
Bam! The land of Serpentine Hotspring!
We landed on the dirt strip, quickly parked the plane, and set up our tarp for shade from the sweltering sun.
A short boardwalk from the runway led to the bath house and cabin.
Directly in front of the bath house is the hot spring, overflowing with piping hot water and the strong smell of sulfur.
Next to the hot spring runs the creek.
Inside the bathhouse, we found a pool full of 140-degree water that over time had cultivated a coat of algae and an uninviting hot musty funk. We tried to turn on the cold water (which meant pulling a rag out of the cold water pipe) but nothing happened.
After a little inspection, we found the cold water pipe completely disconnected outside the building. On further investigation, we found that the water in the creek, that was supposed to supply the cold water, was so low that even if the plumbing had been intact no water would have reached the bathhouse. If we had been entertaining the idea of soaking in the tub for we quickly forgot about it and set out to explore the rest of the facilities.
Turns out my brother-in-law had run into a similar problem with the cold water last winter when he visited but had resorted to carrying buckets of cold water to the bathhouse. Now that’s determination!
Despite the fact that we came in the completely wrong season there was still plenty of fun, gooey, bubbling, green algae to be had.
As well as fresh tracks of other summertime hot spring goers.
We thought we might be able to stay in the cabin that had a small kitchen and a few beds, but as soon as we walked in we were greeted with what had to be 100+ degrees of muggy heat and windows with no screens to keep out the swarming mosquitos. We opted for the tent, but it wasn’t much better. Between sweating in the tent and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes outside, there really wasn’t a comfortable place to be found.
I remember laying in bed thinking “when is this day going to end” not long after we happened to glance at Woodsen’s watch and realize that today, of all days, was summer solstice, the longest day of the year. To make matters worse we were just below the arctic circle which meant that according to the ever trusty iPhone weather app, the sun would barely dip below the horizon. Well, we stayed up late into the morning and we can attest to the fact that at Serpentine during solstice the sun never goes away. And neither do the bugs.
While our experience was a bit on the miserable side, it was obviously mostly related to the time of year and I’m sure we would have a completely different experience in winter. Nevertheless, it was beautiful and I’m still glad we stopped by for a visit.