Taking the Waters

Taking the Waters


The other day, it was so cold that I convinced my husband and sons to go with me to a nearby hot spring. We have a lot of them here in the Mountain West of the United States. This is only the second time I’ve gone, but each time I’ve found it very therapeutic. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, which means I need to get out in the sun more often during the winter months, and soaking in the hot water makes it possible to sunbathe even in twenty degree weather. On my last visit, I also had some sore muscles in my legs. After an hour and a half of soaking, the pain disappeared and didn’t bother me again.

A lot of people like to find secluded hot springs out in nature, which sounds heavenly until you consider that someone else may already be in your chosen hot spring, and these people may be naked. To avoid that kind of awkwardness, we like a public hot spring near us called Crystal Hot Springs.

There’s always an interesting crowd at the hot springs–people of all ages and walks of life come together. As my husband says, it’s a great place for people watching. It’s also a great place for eavesdropping. (That’s what we do as authors, right?) While I was listening in on a group nearby, the conversation turned to Bath, England because it had one of the first public hot springs. Granted, I already knew about Bath, but when I got home I had to look up the history again. The baths there date back to 836 B.C. when King Blalud built a Moorish Bath. Later, the Romans improved on his design. They built an entire complex of baths between 60 and 360 A.D.. These included a hot bath, warm bath, and cold bath.Over the centuries, the English have repaired and remodeled them.

By the time of Jane Austen, Bath was a hopping town, which included the restored Roman baths as well as a neoclassical pump room, where visitors drank the mineral-rich water. Women wore long, colored gowns to bathe. Men wore short trunks. Men and women could bathe together, but there were also times available for just men, women, or children. The water at Bath contains high concentrations of calcium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, and sulphate. The hot springs where I bathe still tout the benefit of these minerals, especially for those with skin disorders.

Currently, the Roman Baths are not considered safe for bathing because of the risk of infectious diseases and possible radioactivity. However, visitors to Bath can bathe in the new Thermae Bath Spa, which pumps in its water from a new set of bore holes and pipes.

If, like me, you live in another country, you can enjoy a similar experience closer to home. Hot springs exist on every continent. I even found a couple in my home state of Virginia. Here is a great list for your reference.  You might be surprised that you have hot springs closer than you think.

 

9 Responses to Taking the Waters

  1. I really enjoyed the piece. Thank you, Rebecca. You are lucky in the States to have so many hot springs. Coincidentally, I was in Bath a few months ago (first time in years) and had a hoot with the actors who dress up as Romans to interact with the public (http://www.gabriellemullarkey.co.uk/bath-time/). I also took the opp to revisit the Jane Austen museum for the first time in years and gazed upon the new(ish) waxwork purporting to be the most accurate likeness yet. What do others think? There was also an excellent exhibition this summer at the Bodleian museum in Oxford, which included her writing desk (truly a thing of beauty). One day, I dream of jumping into a hot spring surrounded by snow…
    Gabrielle x

  2. Mineral spas and natural hot springs are wonderful. I’ve been to several in CA. Great fun! I can totally understand how the English of 200+ years ago, pre hot piped in water, would have gone crazy over them.

  3. It’s been years since I’ve tried out some hot springs. I’ll have to check into the one you mentioned – I’ve only been to the Lava Hot Springs in Idaho, and I was young enough that I didn’t appreciate the benefits of the minerals in the water. Awesome post, Rebecca.

  4. I have been to Hot Springs, Arkansas and French Lick, Indiana, while my husband had the experience of those mountain hot springs when he was stationed at Mountain Home, Idaho during the 60’s. He said it was amazing that there was snow on the ground while he was in the warm/hot water. Thanks for sharing those delightful pictures.

    • Thanks for commenting, J.W. I have seen pictures of people soaking in the hot springs while it’s snowing. I’m not sure whether I would enjoy that or not. The cold air didn’t bother me as long as I was in the warm water.

  5. Boy those hot springs would sure feel good right now! I remember going to one on Vancouver Island that flowed into the ocean! It was busy there in June but it was so enjoyable…that was back in 2001.

  6. I’ve never been to a hot spring but was glad to see two listed in Virginia. Someday, I will need to check one of them out because I’ve always wanted to try one. I often have foot/leg pain so I would love to see if it helps. Thanks for sharing your experience with one.

    • Thanks for commenting. It’s definitely worth a try. I always get a thrill from trying new things. You Easterners deserve a trip to the hot springs after all that cold weather.

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