Hot Spring Therapy

As most of you know, I am currently in the midst of a battle with a particularly nasty bout of tendinitis. This puts me in a pretty tortuous position, living at what is pretty much considered the center of all-things outdoor recreation, and essentially, all things which I cannot partake in. But there is one activity quite common in the area that I have found quite suited to my current condition: the hot spring. Apparently, they are everywhere around here – a fact I did not know earlier this month when A and I made the 2 hour drive to Glennwood Springs, CO to stay in a fancy hotel and visit their famous hot springs.

Okay, so the reason for the trip wasn’t solely the hot springs. I had some recalls on my Jetta and the closest VW dealership was Glenwood Springs. We figured we would make a trip out of it. I had driven past the springs many times on trips from Moab to the high country. Seeing the steam rising from the road made me curious. I always wanted to come check it out.

So A and I loaded up and off we went. We arrived at Glenwood in the afternoon, and made a bee-line for the springs – which were walking distance from our hotel. We reached the entrance only to find out the facility was closed for routine maintenance. Assured they would be open first thing in the morning, we headed back to the room for dinner and an early bedtime. On the walk home I saw the empty pools from a distance and was a bit disappointed to find that they were, well, pools. Glenwood Springs is known for being the largest man-made hot springs in the country. From a bridge above they looked like two rectangular swimming pools you’d find at any YMCA, except empty due to maintenance. They bring the water in from real hot springs near by, so all the natural minerals (and of course that soothing temperature) are there. But there isn’t a lot natural about the pools themselves.

We were up early for a 9am appointment to drop off the car at the dealership. The people at VW were wonderful and had a free shuttle waiting to take us wherever we wanted in town. Disappointment aside, we asked them to take us to the springs anyway. We didn’t have anything better to do after all.

The pools are basically set up as an athletic center, with a full gym in addition to the springs. Nothing stood out to me about the entrance or locker rooms. Like I mentioned earlier, I could have been in a YMCA as easily as a famous hot spring. But once outside, the magic began.

First was the building, the facade of which I hadn’t really paid attention to or appreciated from the inside. But once at the pools the setting took me back to a more romantic time when the man-made was much more fascinating to the public than the god-made (though I guess that’s still more-or-less the case), and the building of these pools was considered a great achievement of architecture and engineering. Playing from the speakers was 40s-era jazz music and through the mist the other bathers were practically in period attire. Okay, maybe not, but the mist definitely added a surreal touch. It was so thick that once in the water you could barely see a few feet ahead. Although the pools were actually quite crowded, the mist not only blocked our vision but also our hearing. Imagine our surprise when, swimming through the larger of the two pools, A and I came across an entire water aerobics class, at least twenty people strong and complete with their own poppy soundtrack, only a few feet away from us. The entire setting was so ghostly, in the best possible way, that I couldn’t help but think it belonged as the setting for a glamorous period mystery novel. Think this: a beautiful young woman watches her lover swim away in the mist… never to be seen again… Or maybe screams break out through the fog as an innocent bather encounters a dead body in the water. Or maybe both! Tell me you wouldn’t read that.

In any case, A and I spent hours playing in that warm water, and it was delicious. I was skeptical about the difference the ‘natural minerals’ in the water would make, and I still don’t know that there was anything tangible about it (other than a slightly egg-y smell), but it felt good and clean and healthy. On top of everything, the pools that had looked so disenchanting empty and from afar, were actually lined with a beautiful black rock that made up a bit for the choreography of it all. Suffice it to say that by the time our shuttle arrived to pick us up, I was sad to leave.

A stock photo of the Glenwood Hot Springs at night. Not nearly as steamy and cool as my experience, but you get the picture…

Luckily for me, there are more hot springs to visit in my area, and earlier this week, a friend invited A and I to go for a nighttime soak.

We left the house around sunset, and arrived at the Princeton hot springs well after dark. Although the Princeton springs also contain man-made pools (which are lovely), the real draw for us was the chance to soak in the natural springs. I was surprised to emerge from the locker room and into the night to see a very shallow stream curving through the compound. And even more surprised when the boys hopped off the walkway to skip from rock to rock in search of a source of warmth. I guess I imagined the natural springs would consist of deep-water pools, not so different from a man-made jacuzzi, that we could just hop into. But this was a beautiful, but very normal (and as per normal, cold) stream, knee deep at the most and ankle deep more often.

As it turns out, the hot springs spill into the stream from one side. Imagine my surprise when I stepped into the mud to feel a blistering heat, then took a jump to the side to land in frigidly cold water. Once again, I found myself skeptical to say the least. But the boys were far ahead, leaping from rock to rock and dipping their toes excitedly in the water before I spotted them moving rocks around to create their own little pool. They looked too happy not to follow.

We were the only ones there, though I’m not sure why. It was a cold night, but it was clear. And what’s the point of a hot spring when the temperature is comfortable anyway? We were able to find the perfect little spot without a single battle. It was still shallow, I had to lay down flat with my head on a rock in order to completely submerge my body. But the springs were so hot they warmed the air directly around them enough that before long I was sitting up half out of the water and perfectly comfortable. We had perfect control of the temperature in our little pool. Too hot? Move some rocks to the left to allow cool stream water in. Too cold? Move some rocks to the right and steaming hot water comes pouring. Above us was a crystal clear sky, stars shining brightly. It didn’t bother me that the stream was so shallow anymore. Once again we stayed for hours before finally – renewed, refreshed, and slightly refried we made our way home. It was the best kind of therapy.

2 thoughts on “Hot Spring Therapy

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