Yampah Vapor Caves: I PUT THE SPRING IN GLENWOOD SPRINGS!
Yampah Spa offers a host of corporeal delights, from massages to seaweed wraps to aroma oxygen sessions. But we didn’t come for those (I don’t even know what that last one is). Like Doc Holliday before us, we came for the vapor caves.
Don’t let this promotional picture fool you. There’s no light down there. It’s dark.
Not dim, not murky. Utterly black.
Much like entering a first-rate haunted house, once you descend into the depths of the caves, you’ll find yourself taking cautious baby steps over the slippery, uneven stone floor, arms fully extended in front of you, grasping blindly like a nonagenarian playing a game of high stakes Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
Eventually, you’ll be able to discern that there are little cave rooms coming off the main corridor, and once you’ve inched your way into one, you will grope around confusedly until your hands perceive (unless your shin did already) some smooth flat rocks that must, you decide, be benches.
Your miraculous ocular organs will now be able to sense vague shapes occupying those benches. This is good, because now you can avoid sitting too closely to a sweaty fellow cave-goer. You will get settled, perhaps in a reclining position, close your eyes, and relax.
It is now that, with your vision so compromised, your hearing will become acutely amplified, and the sonance of a hot springs-fed cave will fill your ears:
drip . . . drip . . . drip . . .
snort, snort, cough, cough, ahem, hack, snort, cough (there’s one in every sauna, steam room, and—it turns out—vapor cave)
After a time, you will become desperate for a break because it’s 116ºF down there and humid as hell. Eyes slightly more adjusted now, you will take steps that are only a tad less cautious since the floor remains ultra slick, and you will think to yourself, “This is an ideal place to pick up a plantar wart.”
On that note: This Is Me—Warts & All . . .
Shuffling gingerly to the stairwell, you will ascend toward natural light and fresh air for a breather, then repeat the whole production several more times until your two-hour time slot is up or you feel you’ve had enough,* finally emerging utterly spent, like a wet noodle, and will accomplish little the rest of the day.
*An experienced and lifelong sauna user, I was sated after three passes through the caves over the course of an hour.
Glenwood Hot Springs Resort: NO, I PUT THE SPRING IN GLENWOOD SPRINGS!
I’ll admit, I didn’t have a lot of hope that we would enjoy this one. Knowing it was just one gigantic swimming pool—purportedly the world’s largest mineral hot spring pool at 405 x 100 feet—I figured it would be on par with Wisconsin Dells for noise, crowds, and general pandemonium.
I was glad to be proven wrong. Though it certainly wasn’t deserted, neither was it heaving, and we were pleasantly surprised by the chill vibe exuded in the pool, even by the young’uns. We spent about an hour here, too, and were happy to stumble upon the Shoshone Chutes, “a whitewater river open air tube ride that plunges you downhill . . . with lush landscaping, cascading tiers, and boulders.”
Our mission? One pass on single tubes, and a second pass on a tandem. We call tandem bikes “divorce-mobiles,” but, happily, our marriage easily withstood the stressors of tandem tubing.
Frankly, I could have stayed longer, but the husband has a lower tolerance than I do for just hanging out in a pool. Whenever he finds himself in a rectangular human-made tank filled with water, he must swim laps . . . but with 90°F pool water, he knew better than to try. (Instead, he tried to impress me on the diving board.)
Iron Mountain Hot Springs: ARE YOU JOKING?! ‘TWAS I WHO PUT THE SPRING IN GLENWOOD SPRINGS!
This, I suspected, would be the crème de la crème of Glenwood’s hot springs offerings. Boasting 16 mineral-rich soaking pools of varying shape and temperature, as well as a freshwater family pool with an elevated jetted spa, Iron Mountain sits right on the Colorado River.
The soaking pools range from 98° to 108°F, so it doesn’t have the wonderful temperature variability that, say, Széchenyi Baths in Budapest has. I know this because at both Széchenyi and Iron Mountain I spent time in every. single. pool. But plans are afoot to move ever so slightly in that direction. It turns out the construction mess we drove through in the parking lot is a planned adults-only expansion that will include a cold plunge pool along with ten new soaking pools, bringing it in line with the number of cold plunge pools available at Sundara Spa in Wisconsin.
It also gives one pool—the “experience pool”—a monthly makeover. Each month its mineral composition reflects that of another hot spring pool around the world. During our visit, we soaked in the same minerals found at an onsen in Kinosaki, Japan. The following month the pool was scheduled to mimic the waters of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon.
There were only two drawbacks to Iron Mountain Hot Spring. The first was lack of shade. A few pools have umbrellas and one or two have pergolas, but for the most part, you’re soaking in both water and sun. They didn’t prohibit sunscreen they way some hot springs (understandably) do, but even so, the earliest bookable time slot (9am to noon) had my skin sizzling. Call me crazy (the husband does), but I would have jumped at a 6am to 9am slot.
The second problem was out of Iron Mountain’s control. I’m sure when the place was first put into commercial operation in 1896, the soaking view was unparalleled. It’s still beautiful, but over time the opposite bank has filled with eyesores: condos, a strip mall, a hotel, Target, Lowe’s, and Petco, among others. It’s difficult to achieve a state of Zen-like relaxation when intrusive shopping lists keep popping into your head.
So who really put the spring in Glenwood Springs? As a teacher, I can state with authority that they are all equally important stops on the Colorado Hot Springs Loop, with no one better than the others. So stop fighting, you three. (Brace yourself, because I’m going to say it.)
You’re all winners!
The journey, in universum: