Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Strawberry Hot Springs

Colorado is known for its mineral and hot springs. Steamboat Springs has several springs of both kinds which are enjoyed by tourists and residents alike. Today we drove 2 miles up a steep unpaved road to reach Strawberry Park Hot Springs, high in the mountains. Not really sure what I was expecting to see or smell, but it wasn't this pleasant natural swimming pool.
The hot hot spring pours out of the mountain side, steaming as it hits a basin leading down to the pools. The water percolates through porous rock, then along a fault which retains heat from ancient volcanoes.  The pools themselves are lined with local rock, and separate the hot-hot from the hot from the warm from the cool pools. There is a temperature for everyone, and we saw many families with young children and babies enjoying the water as they would in an urban swimming pool. You had to watch for little pipes releasing water into the pool - that was the hot stuff.

As I carefully walked down the stone steps for my first dip, it got hotter the more I descended, and I hesitated a bit, not knowing how bad it would get. A woman said to keep going, it was hotter by the steps than in the deeper water. When fully immersed, it felt like a nice warm bathtub, except for the floating clumps of algae that thrive there! Cool water from the mountain creek tempered the hot to make it bearable, and you could find your comfort zone just by moving around on the sandy bottom. They drain and clean the pools periodically, which is good or people would break their necks on the slippery stone steps. Eventually we entered a pool that seemed cold by comparison, which then flowed into the mountain creek.
Someone does a great job of landscaping, and the flowers were beautiful. There are also a variety of cabins for people who want to stay on the property. The springs are open all year round, and there are warnings to use chains and 4-wheel drive in the winter.
A cut little chipmunk hopped on the table to ask for a share of our lunch, but we told him no and he ran off. As we left, vans full of children arrived for an outing, and we thought it was a good time to go. We'll need to put sunburn lotion on tonight, I think.

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