Something about deep winter makes me long to put my head in a hole in the ground.
A bout of escapism, you say? I think that’s just half of it.
The other piece has to do with the pull of the dark, of the dense earth, as a voice inside me says “Ground yourself.”
I’ve learned to expect this cyclically and seasonally, and I amp up my self-care in response. So before the calendar even turned to December, I already had a full Friday blocked to visit the geothermal caves at Indian Hot Springs.
These historic hot springs are adjacent to Soda Creek and occupy an area considered neutral ground where the Ute and Arapaho Indian nations’ territories met. For those who called this land home before White gold-seekers and settlers arrived, the sanctity of these waters was paramount.
To me, there’s still a strong, felt sense of honoring the sacred which has remained even as the treatment of and access to the springs changed, starting with the first pay-to-bathe public offerings in 1863.
This relatively rustic “healing waters spa” (as they bill themselves) is the closest thing I can find to the soaking scene I desire and, at $24 for an unlimited amount of time, it’s a sweet, accessible deal.
I can only speak to the caves, as I forgo the many above ground options Indian Hot Springs boasts: a large mineral swimming pool, outdoor jacuzzis, indoor private baths, self-administered face/body mud masks, and a variety of spa treatments – as well as onsite accommodations.
Instead, I head straight downstairs upon arrival to soak for hours in the subterranean pools of nearly scalding water, interspersing my time with cold water rinses and rests.
The caves are what draw me. Soaking out under the sky is nourishing to be sure, yet being in the underground mineral pools evokes something deeper, taking me more inward with the subtle sounds of water dripping and people’s relaxed breathing…
…the rough-raw texture of the stone walls and ceilings…
…the surprising and delicious heat of the healing water…
…the shocking delight of the cold shower…
…the occasional muted and gentle whispers between women.
The environment, conditions and sensory experience are the perfect algorithm for a pure and natural return to myself, a total downshift in my whole system – mentally, physically, energetically.
Beyond the accessibility and the sensory pleasure, there are also some practical reasons why the caves at Indian Hot Springs really work for me:
- Silent sanctuary. While speaking in whispers is allowed, quiet is queen and most soakers honor this.
- Safety and ease. I am surrounded by female bodies – whether naked or partly clothed – throughout my entire experience. This allows me to relax even more.
- Space to rest. Areas are available for both sitting and lying down to cool down or drift off – including a bench inside the geothermally heated and hydrated hallway prior to the soaking pools that provides what a steam room typically does.
- Self-directed. I get to go 100% at my own pace at every turn, which I love.
- Spacious. I always visit for 4-5 hours on a weekday and find there’s both a steady number of women and always plenty of space.
In short, the caves are the place I go when seeking a sense of solitude and simple, accessible, self-care soaking.
Also, if you’re someone who prefers pristine space, Indian Hot Springs in general may not be your cup of tea; the nature of the facilities is quite earthy which is part of the charm and magic for me. The caves don’t feel at all like spa-style pampering; they are a sort of raw, real and rustic experience that is restorative in its own right.
Each time I arrive and make my way down the stairs, laden with 3-4 bags carrying everything from my journal to snacks/water to a fuzzy blanket to cover myself while lying down. As I descend, I enter the space of ritual – this rhythmic process helps me remember the wonder of my body, that self-care is essential to health, and that being in earth and water feeds a primal part of me.
So whenever I feel that creeping impulse to go stick my head in the ground, I head toward the caves to do it with my entire body instead.
Something I highly recommend.
BY CORIN BLANCHARD, CO-FOUNDER