Friday, May 18, 2007

An American Quilt, Part 6- The Springs

For those of you who might not be familiar with what a hot springs pool is, let me elucidate:

A spring is basically water that flows from the ground. Well a hot spring is just a spring that is produced by the emergence of geothermally-heated groundwater from the earth's crust. And a hot springs pool is just a collection of said water. Thank you, wikipedia.

What's the big deal? First of all, they are warm. It's kind of neat to sit outside in hot water when it's snowing. Secondly, they are thought to have healing powers. Because they are warm, they can hold a variety of dissolved minerals and elements, from lithium (mmm... mind bending) to sulfur (mmm... smelly). There's quite a bit of evidence to suggest that soaking in this mineral water can help with a variety of ailments, from stress (my ailment) to arthritis.

Even a monkey knows that!

To be fair, they can also hold a variety of bad things, such as the naegleria fowleri amoeba, which lives in warm waters and soils worldwide and can be a cause of meningitis. Several deaths have been attributed to this amoeba, which enters the brain through the nasal passages. Thanks again, wikipedia.

While the above is an extreme example, hot springs do kind of contain their own ecosystems. Time almost seems to stand still around them. Not only do the seasons not matter- I once watched a snake sunbathe in the dead of winter- but neither, it seems, does evolution. Ants the size of nickels march around the edges of the pools and dragonflies as big as grapefruits flit from palm frond to palm frond (and palms don't grow in Colorado). I digress.

I've had some great experiences with hot springs. Several times, I've visited the Orvis hot springs in Ridgeway, Colorado (a good ten hour drive). This is a "clothing-optional" facility (read: "nudy") where the water is perfectly warm and does not smell sulfurous and is chock-full of calming, soothing lithium. Massages are given in yurts and health is the word of the day.

And then there is Mount Princeton.

I was told that there were two options for hot springs soaking. The first option was the man-made pool, which I could see was crowded with children. The second option was to actually sit in the creek that ran alongside the resort. This was the option that appealed to me. There was something romantic about the idea of sitting in a warm river at the foot of the mountain. Plus, there was enough light for me to continue reading "Naked." Plus, I was still kind of drunk and was romanticizing just about everything.

I think "hillbilly" describes the situation more than "romantic." It suddenly dawned on me that I was essentially sitting in a warm, dirty puddle. This epiphany came about the same time that I realized that this place was apparently a hot spot (pun intended) for spring breakers (boy, this is just full of double entendres). I found this somewhat ironic, since it was also spring break at the university where I worked and the last thing I wanted to do was actually follow the students to a place where they felt they could be even louder than they are on campus.

Sex-crazed college students chased each other through the water (splashing, of course, my book). A group of guys was having a contest to see how far they could throw large boulders into the creek (splashing, of course, my book).

I decided to head to the man-made pool.

Let me take a moment to say here that I love kids. I adore them. But when a twelve year old does a belly flop five inches from my face and then emerges from the water to say "holy shit, ma! Did you see that belly flop I did?" To which "ma" replies, "yes, honey." I begin to find them less endearing.

The kids were on crack! They were kicking strangers, running around the pool, cannonballing everyone in the water, and ma did nothing while pa just rolled his eyes. I'm guessing that "yes, honey" might be a common response for ma.

"Ma! I have head lice."
"Yes, honey."

"Ma! Can I light the baby's diaper bag on fire?"
"Yes, honey."

Sitting in warm water in a pool full of kids makes one cringe a little. My idealism began sobering up. I decided to head back to the room and attempt to sleep. On my way back, I stopped by the front desk to ask if there is any chlorine in the water, wondering if it mattered one way or another. I stood by the desk and waited to ask my question. I waited. And I waited. You see, the towel boy was busy making out with his girlfriend.

I could empathize with my fellow travelers, sure. Yes, we like to party in America. We like to eat steak and drink beer and sit in restaurants with fake and/or dead versions of things stapled to the wall. We like to drive SUVs, RVs, wear stupid hats, have things our way and...

You know, I live here too! It was time for me to join in. I decided to exercise my right as an American to demand a refund...