As we wound our way northward out of Stanley (our effects having not arrived) and along the mighty Salmon, Lori’s back began to ache for the first time on the trip. Solution: a mineral hot spring. Hot springs have been sought for centuries for their supposed healing power to increase blood flow, circulation, mineral absorption and probably erectile dysfunction. There are hundreds, or maybe thousands, of springs dotting the west due to the very weird and unstable geology they have out here. While I’m a bit skeptical of the true scientific veracity of how hot water with various mineral deposits in it offers more healing properties than say... regular hot water – what do I know? Nothing. I know nothing, except that I like to get naked, so it's win-win.
After some quick internet research we settled on Goldbug Hot Springs near Salmon, ID. By this time, Lori was in considerable discomfort. The downside of this particular spring was that it required a fairly arduous 2-mile hike up a steep canyon to get to. Lori was a trooper as always, but as we hit the 1.5-mile mark, it was clear that each step was taking its toll. I thought I might have to airlift her down without ever reaching the springs. Finally, we began to see waterfalls and then, behold: Shangri-La. Truly, it looked like something you would see in Hawaii, 5 beautiful pools connected by streams and waterfalls, all mysteriously heated by an unseen river of steaming (volcanic?) water. Each pool, depending on the ratio of surface river water to hot spring water it had, was a different temperature. They ranged from a bit too hot for Tom (and thus perfect for Lori) down to a pleasant –sit in it all day long– warmth. Best of all, they all had commanding views of the mountains and valley. We stripped and soaked for hours. The weather was cool and the clouds danced around the mountain peaks while we sipped our beers, sampled a little medical cannabis, and chatted with the small handful of other folks we met there.
Whether new age medicine or placebo effect, Lori was a new woman. She hiked down like a teenager.
I figured if one pool was good for Lori's tender back, two would be better. The next night we crested the Continental Divide and dropped down into the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. We pulled into a forest service campground, and as luck would have it, Lost Trail Hot Springs was right next door.
But this was to be a little different experience.
Many of the hot springs are on private land and some, such as this one, have been turned into commercial enterprises. They build swimming pools basically. But still wanting a little mineral insurance on Lori’s near miraculous recovery, I went along. We paid our $16 entry fee and went in. The “resort” was a bit long in the tooth. Its glory days had probably been during the Hoover Administration. It was rustic sliding down the hill toward seedy, with a touch of decay.
Strike two was the stubborn insistence on wearing bathing suits. Strike three was no alcohol. How am I supposed to relax? Strike four was that it was absolutely full of kids. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE kids. I’ve got two of them myself. I even smile reassuringly at the moms on airplanes who are wrangling screaming infants. But when you’re attempting to take the mineral cure, and there is lots of yelling, screeching, and splashing, plus water cannons being deployed hostilely, well, it can be distracting. I’ve been in car accidents that were more relaxing. It also did not comfort me to also consider that as a mineral spa, they probably don’t add chlorine. The water was warm, and maybe not just from the earth’s heat?
There were some families that looked like maybe they had never ventured out of the mountains before. At one point, one little product of in-breeding locked eyes with me and began to direct some test splashes my way to see if I would react. I didn’t and returned his gaze with one of my own that said “do not fuck with me you little caveman mouth-breather.” Crisis averted, but I decided that was my cue to grab a shower (which was cold water, ironically enough) and go grab a beer out of the back of the truck.
Lori emerged sometime later, radiant and fully healed.