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NAHBS 2011 part 3: Hot spring safari, Boise home cookin’

Monday, Feb 28

Justin and I woke up early as planned, and managed to have the car on the road by 7 A.M. We drove through the day toward the high, arid mountains of New Mexico, and what the hot spring guide described as “a prize soak overlooked by a castle on a hill.” The spring was just off the road, so we had little trouble finding it. It was dark, and while we didn’t see much of the spring or surrounding area, we did enjoy a bath-perfect soak in one of three cascading pools built into the hillside, as well as great conversation with an insightful 10 year old and his informative mom. She told us the castle on the hill was a “World school”, one of eight- each one teaching top high school students from every country around the globe. He theorized about the cosmos and she told us about a beautiful light sanctuary behind the school that was open to the public, where slatted, prismed windows project rainbows around a central meditation area. After a healthy soak, we followed her directions to a camping area a few miles up the road. The gate was closed, so we settled for a pull-off just up the road and set up what would turn out to be the absolute bitter coldest camp I’ve ever experienced.

Tuesday, Feb 29

I woke up comfortable, in all of my clothes and two tightly sealed sleeping bags, and peeked through the breather hole at the crystallized condensation lining the top of the tent. Knowing that it wasn’t going to get much warmer until long after we had to be on the road, I forced myself up and out of the bags and quickly set about packing up. The air was so frigid that my fingers had become numb and useless before I even had the second sleeping bag packed. I put on my thick winter gloves and tried to jog up the road to generate some warmth, but the thin air froze in my lungs and I was asthmatic and breathless within a few hundred yards. Toes quickly numbing, I scampered back down the hill and resolved to start the car, load the gear, and get in there as soon as possible. Justin was on the same page, shivering and cursing as he bundled up his gear.

The car was just warming up as we arrived back at the hot spring. The scenery was stunning and the water welcoming, as we soaked our way gradually upward from the lukewarm pool to the deep, perfectly round source, the “crab cooker”.(Photos by Justin Brown.)

The spring was nestled in the hillside, hidden from the road by a primitive fence.

I took some steamy pictures from the comfort of the bath...


The lobster pot. It was too warm to stand for more than a few minutes.

After soaking we made our way up toward the castle in search of the light sanctuary. We got directions and a brochure from the security guard and made our way up the hill. The building was a large stone dome, about 30 feet high and 40 feet across, with windows high and low, facing every direction. Each window had a cluster of large prisms, set in different orientations, that were about four feet long and 8 inches wide. We entered through a large wooden door to find a small anteroom and a mat for shoes. Around the corner was the main chamber. The round, off-white chamber was decorated with a brilliant array of rainbows in various lengths and sizes. Each of our footsteps echoed softly on the stone floor as we explored the place. We sprawled about, meditated, stretched, and took lots and lots of pictures. (Photos by Justin Brown)

Holy portals of light!

Someone had left some celebrity sunglasses on the bench in there. How convenient!

Still life with candle and rainbow... pretty much sums it up.

We left the sanctuary late morning and headed for Utah, excited about camping at another hot spring- this one a deep cave in an open meadow in the heart of the great basin. We arrived, tired, after dark. We set up camp and decided to save the spring, about a quarter mile down a path through the meadow, for the morning.

Wednesday, March 1

I woke just before sunrise. The air, while cold, was much warmer than yesterday morning, and I quickly got my things together and scampered outside to look at the surrounding area. It was a broad, flat valley lined with rugged mountains on almost all sides. The distant mountains to the west were bathed in the crimson rays of the rising sun, while the rest of the valley still held the dim purple predawn glow. I found the camera in the back of the car and shot what was probably the best 35mm photo of the entire trip. (Of course, the roll has yet to be developed.) Justin stirred in his tent just as I was finishing packing up, so I waited for him and we set off down a path along wet, marshy ground to the spring. The hot spring was a deep blue hole, about 20 feet across and what seemed to be infinitely deep. The water was a perfect 102 degrees and there was a tensioned rope across the center of the pool, so that we could either stand on shallower shelves along the edge or hold onto the rope, suspended over the cradling abyss. As I lounged on the rope and gazed downward at my pale blue, shimmering feet, I was reminded of the film Coccoon, and mused over what magical effects these waters might have. (Photo by Justin Brown.)

What's IN this water, anyway?

The next stop on our route was Boise, Idaho, only about seven hours drive north. We stopped for a diner breakfast at the “One man band”, a little place with telephones at each booth, so that the cook can get the orders direct, and double as the server. Justin tried to use the phone order system, but the guy just looked over and asked what we wanted. (We were about 15 feet away and the place was empty. Maybe we should have taken the table in the corner.)

After breakfast it was a leisurely drive north. I had met a nice couple at the show who had very graciously extended a dinner and lodging invitation to ease our way back to Portland. We arrived a little early and Lisa was finishing dinner preparations, so Bill gave us a tour of theĀ  house in the meantime. It was a beautiful home with wood and stone floors, comfortable couches, and a semi-open layout that gave it a warm, lodgy feel. We also got to check out the wood shop as well as a very nifty vintage mini-letterpress. Then, when dinner was ready, we sat down to a steaming platter of tender Flemish (beer soaked) beef, sweet cabbage, and the very best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. Then good conversation and a nice, soft, toasty night’s sleep that left me refreshed and ready to drive the final leg into Portland with ease. Thanks Bill & Lisa!