My eyes are squeezed shut, I am gripping the sides of the car, my feet are pushing into the floorboard I am so nervous I have to pee. I am terrified. There was an upside down car laying in the boulder field just below the road, granted, It looked like it had been there for 40 years or so, but it instantly gave an image to what I was feeling. I have a phobia of mountain roads and yet I regularly sit in the passenger seat while Adam patiently tries to drive while I freak out. Why? Well,I like picking huckleberries and I love hot springs so I find myself in the situation more often than I would like to admit. How did I get here this time?
I am entering the fourth decade of life and to celebrate we turned off our cell phones, threw food, clothes, the tent, the dogs and the kids into the car and embarked on a road trip to places we have never been before. A loop through Idaho stopping to dip into a few of the many hot springs that dot the state as a reminder of when the area was a whole lot hotter.
Our first stop Bonneville Campground.
We walked to the springs before breakfast, the steam rising into the sun, and splashed through the creek where hot meets cold and blends into all sorts of perfect.
The kids pushes the silty sand around and we moved rocks watched the water pool around us until the remnants of the cold night air dissipated and the need for morning coffee was realized.
We packed up and drove on to Pine Flats Campground. We set up the tent and just as the sky came crashing down around us we drove off to explore what was ahead. We stopped at an unmarked pullout, crossed the highway and followed spray painted arrows up the mountain switchbacks.
And there it was in the next draw over: Skinnydipper.
An impressive spring with one summer day perfect pool just over 80 degrees and a steamy hot pool we filled adjusting the flow of hot and cold.
We bounced from one to the other and when we finally walked down the mountain it was early evening.
On the way back to home base we stopped to gather firewood and take a quick dip in the remnants of an old bath house at the Hot Springs Campground spring.
I walked in the morning mist along the river and slipped into a small person sized spring and watched the river flow by. It is my birthday and the moment was just too beautiful to think of anything. I watched the sun rise along the trunk of the pine in front of me. I might have soaked for fifteen minutes or an hour and a half. When I walked back to camp there was fresh coffee waiting for me.
Just around the bend from my morning soak, okay in reality it is a little more like a wade along the cliff with hot water cascading down it, a jaunt across a short pebble beach and across a pleasant eddy is the most beautiful natural hot spring pool I have ever seen. It is comfortably deep and a shower of hot water keeps it hot and clean. I dunked in, fully dressed.
We broke camp and traveled further west and north. Our final destination an illusive spring I ran across the internet and is referred to as M-16 or Sugah somewhere along a forest service road in the Payette National Forest. On the advice of a fellow hot spring enthusiast, and with no help from the forest service employee we asked for directions, we pulled off the road at yet another unmarked pullout along the way and scampered down a steep slope.
We found a small lukewarm pool and we scampered around the rocks and discovered a beautiful sight. Two large soaking pools with wooden bridges across the cold rushing stream.
We were soon joined by a few other groups and I was thankful we had brought along our bathing suits.
We drove on and entered a ghost forest. It was haunting. The white remnants of burnt trees as far as the eye could see with a lush, green understory of shrubs. We set up our tent at what is my favorite campground of the trip: Poverty Flats. It is small. Tucked against the wet banks of the Salmon River with the remnants of forest green above us. There was plenty of firewood, and the site was remarkably less utilized than the other campgrounds at which we had stayed. Before dinner we drove down the road and carefully walked along the sandy path that snakes along the steep drop off to the river. I turned twice and then I saw the spring. A blue jewel blue next the river.
By the light of the camp fire we roasted marshmallows and I cooked my birthday dessert of choice: Roasted Peaches filled with cream cheese and dark chocolate. Yes. They are as amazing as they sound.
I love that the landscape changes every 50 minutes and that from one hour to the next I am on a new planet entirely. I love that the towns on the map are only clusters of a few houses and that gas stations are a rare commodity. I saw more fruit trees than I have ever seen cover the sides of the road: plums and apples everywhere. I love that I have a husband and kids I can take on crazy road trips and that I have a driver who will drive me while I am panicking in the passenger seat. And, I love coming home and that during the three and a half days I was away the kale exploded, the cucumbers bulged and the Wichita Pumpkin grew larger than my head.