I'm sitting on a wooden slab at the back of a small, dark cave filled waist-high with steaming hot spring water. A candle flickers on a rock ledge nearby. I breathe in the cave's ancient mineral smell and dangle my feet off the plank into the water. My eyes have been closed for some time.
Twenty feet ahead, the cave mouth is a diamond-shaped portal to the aggressively green, rain-slicked forest outside. Water spills out of the cave into several small, rocky pools below. It's another world out there, all bright air, tall trees, and the solid noise of a nearby waterfall. Inside this warm, wet womb, time succumbs to the silence and darkness. Sensory deprived, my body, too, is almost gone. My breathing slows and my thinking slows and I relinquish the idea of writing a story about any of this—but I can't completely empty my mind. Wisps of songs play over and over:
In the cold candlelight, I wait here to be rescued...
I must be lost I must be lost I must be lost this time...
Wordless melodies, too, even more haunting. Inside my head, inside this cave, the Cave Singers echo.
Which is not surprising, because the Cave Singers are right outside the cave. They're stretched out and soaking in one of the lower pools, not singing but talking softly in the gentle rain. We've come to Goldmyer Hot Springs—an Eden on the southern end of the Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest—for an interview.
It's a good idea, us coming here. A little weird, sure, but not surprising, since we'd all been drinking when we agreed this was the best way to get to know each other. There's a palpable sense of outsideness to the Cave Singers' dirge folk blues, the sound of nighttime and starlight and distance. I figured meeting inside a bar or cafe wouldn't be right. The band—singer Pete Quirk, bassist/guitarist Derek Fudesco, and percussionist Marty Lund—agreed.
So the four of us drove an hour to North Bend and walked four miles on an old logging road to Goldmyer. The trip has been quiet, the band comfortable enough with each other that there isn't much chatter. On the walk in, they seemed deeply drawn into the woods and the creek and the trail. Now they're deeply drawn into the body-warm water of the springs.
We adjourn to a wide, flat boulder next to the waterfall 15 yards from the spring. We crack beers and light cigarettes, impervious to the falling rain; the air is chilly but our blood is still warm. Derek asks me to take a picture of the trio in a group hug, which must be a tradition, since it's the same gesture that adorns the cover photo of Invitation Songs, their debut album.
From the direction of the hot springs, a girl strolls to our rock. She's very naked, and laughs self-consciously when she asks—presumably about her nakedness and our clothedness—"How often does this happen?" She says our cigarette smoke has wafted over to the hot pools. As a smoker herself, she thinks we should know. She smiles and we apologize profusely.
"Damn," Pete says. "Can't help bringing the city with us, even out here."
We finish our beers and return to the springs. I settle into one of the pools below the cave, lying back on the rocks to gaze up through the receding lattice of branches and pine needles and mist and sky. Up above, a spider's web is beaded with drops of rain. Rain falls into my eyes. Time passes. From inside the cave rolls a deep, resonant moan—the Cave Singers are singing in the cave. Not songs—just sounds, harmonies reverberating with eerie, earthy acoustics provided by low-hanging stone walls. It's too perfect, and it ends too soon.
Pete's right—the Cave Singers bring the city to the wild. More importantly, they will bring the wild—all the feelings this place evokes—back to the city.
After a while, we wrench ourselves from the water, bodies loose as jelly. We get dressed and start the long walk back to the car.