Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Steaming Lava Hot Valentine Weekend

I had never heard of the place...but seriously, if you want a hot Valentine's weekend, wouldn't a place called Lava Hot Springs be just the place to go?
(Frankly, I am surprised Lewis and Clark didn't just put down their gear and stay right here back in 1812. I would have waved them on, and never gone another mile exploring if it had been up to me!)

Today Lava Springs is a small town in Idaho, about 150 miles north of SLC.
We stayed at the Aladdin Inn; the building was from the 1920's. Nothing fancy...but we weren't there for luxury rooms.

We were in town for the hot springs!

Aladdin Inn was part of the Mineral Hot Springs Inn, and our rooms were just a block away from the pools.

We actually were being lodged in the "luxury" suite that had three bedrooms on two floors and three queen size beds! The reservations people seemed rather surprised to learn that it was just the two of us staying in the room.

Too bad we didn't know anyone nearby that we could have called to join us!

Now this is what I call steamy! There were three hot pools in the front of the building and two in the back of the building.

The back of the hotel overlooked a medium sized river fed by both snow melt and hot spring waters.

The pools have been in use since the 1920's. No sulfur in the water though, which was a nice change from other mineral spas that we have enjoyed over the years.

All around us couples soaked and chatted with one another, comparing their reasons for coming to the place, where they lived and so on.

One young couple were on a first "getaway" since their second child was born. It brought back memories of a similar getaway to a hot springs in the San Diego desert area when our second child was still very new.

Such a good times... both then and now.

We've stayed at very elegant hotels over the years; this one was more what we call "hippy-dippy"--a very hang loose, come to breakfast in sweats or pajama bottoms, and serve yourself kind of place.

When I looked up from my eggs and waffles I was quite amazed to see a poster from my hometown. Ah...a touch of the seaside village way up here in snow covered Idaho.

Who woulda thunk?

A young couple glanced over at us, and asked if we would like to have our picture taken.

I thought that was really sweet! Didn't even quibble that I hadn't bothered to "pretty up" before breakfast as I knew I'd be in the hot pools as soon as I finished my meal.

Yes it was cold outside....

The steam rising from the pools froze on every possible surface, here creating frost rings inside a plastic chair seat's grid work

Here a decorative light is made even more decorative with the frost...

As did the frozen crystals trimming iron patio chairs.

In the hot spring fed pools the water's minerals had built up over time, just as they do inside of caverns, leaving deposits in fanciful sculptural shapes.

Some deposits were smooth...

While others had formed bumpy coral like structures.
I had to wonder a bit about myself: I have always carefully used a lime fighting cleaning product to remove any traces of minerals that tried to form around household faucets.
Maybe I should have just gone with the flow and let nature create a similar look to be enjoyed in my own home.
That would have been an interesting tact to avoid housework!
Even the edges of the pool had unique mineral formations.

The whole scene was slightly surreal: snow was piled about, yet people wandered through the scene wearing only wet swim suits and damp towels.

I kept thinking of National Geographic pictures of the old Soviet Union, of people enjoying hot springs while staying in pre-WWI ancient spas along the Baltic sea.

The pools ranged from 107 way too hot down to a just right for slow swimming 94 degrees.
We dunked and soaked in all but the too hot pool, then went for a couples massage.
After that we were both pretty much worthless.
Eventually we got out of our swim suits and back in to cold weather gear....
...scraped the frost off the car windshield and took a drive to see the surrounding areas.
The river will be visited again in another season when fishing will be added to the getaway fun.

For now it was what I call "calendar pictures" viewing time.

Scenes that make me call out "Stop the car!" to Bernie while I lower the window and start shooting.

Out one side of the car was blanket fields of white, while on the other side afforded views of rugged lava formations.
Gorgeous streams meandered through the valley.

The water was slowly flowing, yet showed no signs of freeze at all.

I can't wait to see this scene in summer!

Several geese were enjoying a soak as well. I would have loved to have known how warm the river was...

That evening we enjoyed scenes from another place: The Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics. We nibbled chocolate covered strawberries in bed, marveled at the technology that allowed us to see Orca whales swimming inside an arena miles away, see prarie grasses instantly grow at the touch of an air dancer's feet, and hear the fiddle and tap of dancers from places where we had never been.

What amazing times we live in!

We were in Lava Springs from Friday night until Sunday morning. Celebrations of Valentine's stretched over the time, with long soaks, naps, and then hours of Olympic event viewing from our bed.

Lazy people: that would be us!

Heading back to SLC we tried to decide what to do for dinner. Dim Sum sounded good...we had not known it was also Chinese New Years as well as Valentine's Day!

It was a bit too bad that we hadn't wanted to wait three more hours for a Dragon Dance and fire crackers at the restaurant. Our tummies were more demanding than our need for another cultural experience.

If you have never had Dim Sum before, let me explain how it works. A trolley full of hot metal pots is rolled up to your table, and the server opens each lid, explains what is in the pot (in Korean or Chinese, depending on the restaurant) and sometimes you know what you are getting and sometimes you don't.

In this restaurant there was a "cheat sheet" on the table. That was a nice change from Dim Sum restaurants in the SF Bay area, where we were the only non-Asian people in the restaurant and no one was speaking English or explaining anything at all!

If you don't know what the waiter is saying in Korean or Chinese, you can be in for a bit of a surprise.

Yum...Dim Sum!
Asia families were gathered about, with their children dressed for the upcoming celebrations.
We have seen Dragon Dances before and they are quite impressive.
But in our case...we threw our lot in with the Olympic Events.
We'll catch the Dragon Dance next year...when there are not Olympic Games to enjoy.
Sixteen days of televised events ahead.
Glad we took a weekend to practice being lazy.
We are going to need to be in shape for the next two weeks of sitting around and doing nothing but cheering the Olympic teams on.


ellen b. said...

What a great getaway. The photos are beautiful. That's great to get the heat without the smell. Boy a massage sounds heavenly right about now. Enjoy the Olympics!!

Dawn said...

Such adventures you and Bernie share....

We had Chinese food on Valentine's Day/Chinese New Years, too! YUM!

Judy said...

Aha...steamy it was! Lava Springs looks like a great place to visit...a little piece of history. We have checked out some of B.C.'s hotsprings...and Sol Duc on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State...and a hot lake near La Grande, Oregon (too hot to touch!).

Dim Sum...we've never checked that out...yet.

Sounds like a fun weekend...beautiful pic's.

Anonymous said...

Wow, so romantic! So fun! I am glad you guys had a good weekend! ~L

Vicki said...

Sounds like a wonderful weekend getaway! Wonder if Doc will want to add this little town to his list of places to visit when we head your direction?

Lucky you...the one thing we're missing is a good Chinese restaurant in this area. There just isn't one anywhere. Same with Mexican - the town we left behind had great Chinese and Mexican restaurants.

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

I love the meandering river in fields of snow shots - gorgeous!

myletterstoemily said...

good grief! you have me craving steam and
chinese in one blog!

thank you for the lovely pics!

Lovella ♥ said...

Jill, it looks like just a fantastic time .. again. I was wondering if the pool was sulphered. .and then you answered that too. The photography around the pool and then out on your drive was really beautiful. Well done.

Marg said...

Some of those quaint little towns, give the best experiences...cities are fun, but this is truly a one of a kind experience...
I like those kind of Hot Springs...
The scenery is so magnificent. I felt I was in winter wonder land.
I have not had enough winter.

Islandsparrow said...

What a fun weekend!! Hot tub and a massage - chocolate covered strawberries and relaxing in front of the TV - a perfect getaway!