The world feels stale and cold to me, a common problem in January, exacerbated by daytime temperatures below freezing. I’d like to be somewhere warm, but we just went to South Padre Island less than 2 months ago. In this mood, I turn to our brief trip to Valley View Hot Springs, in the San Luis Valley near Salida, Colorado.
Valley View used to require membership to visit its clothing-optional pools. Now it’s open to the public, and we were lucky enough to know someone who scored a free week there. So bravely in December we set out, stopping by Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
The name may give the false hope that fossils will be lying around for all to see. In reality, most of the fossils remain in the ground, where they are protected, and the rest can be viewed in the visitors center. Todd and I took a short hike to see the petrified stumps of redwood trees that grew in Colorado millions of years ago. We arrived late in the afternoon and had a nice hike, nothing special. But then things turned bad for me. I got into a mood and couldn’t shake it until we reached Sunset House at 7 pm, which has views that are magnificent even in the cloud of winter. Gotta love those glacier-scrubbed valleys. Tired from more than 8 hours on the road, we didn’t wait long to slide into the closest pool, appropriately named the Hot Tub. It was originally a kiddie pool.Most of the pools at Valley View are cooler, about body temperature, which is fine during the day, especially if you just hiked up a steep trail. We stayed in the Top Pool for an hour one morning and didn’t even get that cold when we got out to get dressed. Here’s the road leading to that trail. The pool is up the side of that hill to the right, enclosed in trees, and visited by juncos and chickadees.Friday afternoon, after we returned from Salida, I trekked up to the Party Pool to take pictures of the stream and its bright green plants. It was getting dark. Looks mysterious, doesn’t it? But I wasn’t there to soak. I lay down on the ground and tried to get one of those cool shots of water bokeh (blur). Here’s the best I could manage. Clearly, I need more practice. Perhaps fill flash would have sharpened up the plants; I’ll have to try that next time. Or just bring a tripod. And maybe if I ever visit Valley View again when temps are in the single digits at night, I’ll have the fortitude to soak in the Party Pool at night, as Todd suggested. It just sounded so coooooooooooold to me.