Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Distraction - Hot Springs

We went on a vacation to Colorado, complete with soaks in hot springs in 5 locations! It was a wonderful time, with energetic mountain hikes followed by soaks in the hot springs. What a perfect combination!

It's fun to compare hot springs. When I put the photos onto the computer, I realized that we didn't take photos of the pools! There were reasons for this! (1) It was cold outside, so when we went to the pools, we were in a hurry to get into the water rather than stand around with a camera. (2) The pools are wet and steamy, an environment not suitable for a camera. (3) We went to the pools in bathing suits and left our bags with towels and shoes by the side of the pool. So there weren't too many conditions suitable to cameras. However, if I had it to do over again, which I will certainly try to do, I would take the camera to the pools at another time fully clothed and take some pictures. You can go to the pools' websites to look at pictures of them.

Hot Sulphur Springs, in ... Hot Sulphur Springs

We went to these springs at night after a nighttime drive over Berthoud Pass (11,307 feet high) in a snowstorm. The snow didn't seem to be sticking to the road, but the temperatures were dropping as we drove. The hairpin turns labeled "15 mph" were indeed hairy in the dark and snow! So we relaxed that stress away in the springs. There were a bunch of small pools of various temperatures. We couldn't see the layout too well, as it was dark and not brightly lighted. The temperatures seemed to be accurately marked and there were pools of several very comfortable temperatures: we soaked very hot for a while, then a little cooler for a while. Hot Sulphur Springs were the only springs on our trip that had a sulphur odor. The odor wasn't disturbing during the soaking, although we could smell it. What was a bit annoying was that the smell stayed on my bathing suit throughout the trip, even after going into different hot springs every day and rinsing the suit every day.

Mount Princeton Hot Springs, in Buena Vista

We stayed at the inn/motel, which was one of the nicest on our trip. The room was large and clean and seemed somewhat new. I particularly liked the very large granite counter outside the toilet/tub area, where we could spread out our toiletries and coffee/water things. The pools are a work in progress and will probably be among the best when they are done. As of now, they are somewhat lacking. There is a large rectangular soaking pool that is hot enough but has no seats. There is a cool pool for swimming and families. They have a steam room outside, too, which is very warm and a nice touch that we didn't see anywhere else. And there are some springs along the river. The river springs are along the side of the river, but in the river. They are little areas where the river has hot springs. They're marked with stones. So you sit in a little stone-surrounded circular pool about 5' in diameter and about a foot deep. With the cold air and the sandy/muddy bottom of the river, we didn't find these pools appealing. None were very hot and none were very deep or even deep enough to stay warm. People seemed to be enjoying them, though. Another problem with these pools was that the pathway to access them without climbing over rocks was a long path that required walking in the cold air in a wet bathing suit for an amount of time that raised the bar high for the excellence of the river pools. As I said, more pools are being built, which should add just what Mt. Princeton Hot Springs needs.

Cottonwood Hot Springs, in Buena Vista

Cottonwood is one of the oldest and most famous of the springs spas. The motel is old. Reviews of the motel are mixed but mostly somewhat negative. We decided to stay there one night to see whether we would go back again. We...might go back again. The room was ok, not great. It wasn't really dirty, but it seemed old. The walls of the motel were thin. Because we were there off season, there was no one in the rooms next to us. I thought it was nice that the management set us up that way. So we had a nice quiet relaxing stay. There are cabins available, which we will certainly choose if we go during a busy time.

Cottonwood has an interesting history. The part I liked is about the rabbits. The current owners seem to be a pair of sisters who have been there since the 1980s. When they first moved there, they attempted to breed rabbits for food. Not only were they psychologically unable to kill the rabbits, but the rabbits went forth and began mixing with wild rabbits, resulting in some legal trouble. Introducing a new species into the wild is not considered a friendly idea. So they built a cage (rabbit jail) which is still there but apparently was ineffective. Supposedly there are a lot of rabbits around. We didn't see any, but the rooms have stuffed toy rabbits, which I thought were a cute idea but which can be construed as dust-gatherers.

The pools are right outside the motel. There is a very cold one not used much outside of summer, a luke-warm one that is nice for kids and for relaxing and cooling off after the hotter pools. There are 2 hot pools, one a little hotter than the other. We found the pools to be quite comfortable. They are nice and clean and in a lovely setting. There is enough room for having a quiet soak or visiting with other bathers.

Cottonwood has an array of spa services, such as massage. They don't have bathrobes in the rooms, though!

Wiesbaden Hot Springs, in Ouray

Wiesbaden is a spa, with a spa atmosphere, though it is in the heart of Ouray, if a mountain town can be said to have a heart. Ouray is in a valley among tall rocky mountains (see photo at the top of this post), so most everything is in the city. There are mostly farms or more mountains on the way into and out of Ouray. Although we didn't stay at Wiesbaden, the rooms are probably nice. And, they seem to have bathrobes. Or maybe just the spa has the robes. Anyway, I saw robes, which makes it an upscale spa in my mind.

There are 2 pools: one outside that is hot but not too hot, and very comfortable. It's rectangular and seems like a small swimming pool, with a seat around the perimeter. Inside is the vapor cave. It's a real cave. First you go through a door into the cave, which has all rock walls and has water flowing down one side. The ceiling is very high so it doesn't feel small at all. Then, you go through another door into the pool area. It's very dark in there. My glasses fogged up immediately, so I couldn't see anything. The pool takes up most of this room. It's very hot and steamy. One guest felt a little closed in, but we didn't. On the day we were there, someone had stopped the cold water hose or something, and the pool was very very hot. We couldn't stay in the pool more than a very few minutes at a time. We didn't realize that it was hotter than usual until later when we overheard someone talking about it. It was too hot, actually. I guess it's usually about 110 degrees. Should be very nice for those who like it hot.

Ouray Hot Springs Pool in, of course, Ouray

For our last soak, we decided we should go to the huge Ouray municipal pool, where my husband remembers soaking as a child. We didn't expect much from this very large and very public pool, but then we also figured it would have to be good to continue attracting people for so many years. The dressing room was very large, with lots of hooks and lots of private dressing areas with curtains. It was heated, which was especially nice for changing back into dry clothes after the soak. The pool had 3 large areas...not just large but huge. Each was at least the size of 2 Olympic-sized pools. The first was warm and had many children in it. The hotter pool was very comfortable. Not too hot but hot enough to heat you quickly on a cold day. In the hot pool, we found some inflow grates, where we could feel the hottest water coming in. It was nice to put our tired achy legs near this influx of hot water for a while, but the whole pool was hot enough to enjoy in any spot. The third pool was cold. I did not enjoy dipping into it, as I just don't enjoy dipping into cold water no matter how hot I am; but many people did.

We were pleasantly surprised by the Ouray public pools. There was a lifeguard on duty, fully dressed including a coat, and carrying a hook and a ring life-preserver on a rope. These guard are good to have around but probably rarely need to get wet. The ambiance was pleasant, with some tourist visitors but obviously a lot of local people enjoying a Friday-night soak.

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