“If you want to save some money, there is a natural hot spring down by the river’s edge. It’s beautiful and hardly anyone ever goes down there. Just follow the second logging road in through the trees. You’ll find it.”
The woman at the tourist information centre made it sound like paradise: towering cedars, clear water, and bubbling hot springs. And all for free. Who could resist? And, really, why would you want to?
Listen to me read this post:
She was right. It wasn’t hard to find. The logging road was well used and, although deeply rutted here and there, quite comfortably passable until we got to the spot where a tree had fallen across the road. A vehicle was already stopped at the tree because there was no way around the tree. Three people were working away to move the barrier. With our muscle added to the effort, the very heavy tree was rolled off the roadway.
We drove a bit farther and finally a little orange sign nailed to a massive tree trunk along the road indicated that this was where to get out and start walking.
The first path was wide and with many twists and turns, and it ended up at a large wooden tub that someone had built by hand. A green garden hose ran into the huge vat from an unseen source. The big wooden tub was full to the brim with steaming water. I stuck my finger in, pulled it out with lightning speed and thought, “If I had 4000 potatoes I needed to boil almost instantly, this set up would be perfect!”
From where we stood next to the deathtrap hot tub, I could hear water moving swiftly over rocks. We followed a narrower path around a bend and for a few metres before the river came into view.
There, at water’s edge, someone had painstakingly constructed a piled-stone wall enclosing a little hot pool area six by eight feet or so. A dirty and tattered blue plastic tarp also helped to dam up the separate pool. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
Inside that roughly walled off section near the river’s shore, the water was still. Another green garden hose stuck out of the rocks that lined the riverbank. From this flowed more of the potato-boiling hot water I was telling you about. This hot water poured out of the garden hose and splashed into the cold water of the Arrow Lakes chain. Where hot and cold met in the rock pool, the water was pleasantly warm.
We stripped down to our swimming suits, left our clothes on a rock and gingerly stepped in. Not bad. We hadn’t been in there long before someone emerged from the trees on that narrow path. In one hand he held a paperback novel and in the other, half a bottle of red wine. We greeted him. He quietly answered in French and smiled, the light brightening his dreadlocks as he moved out of the shade and into the sun closer to the water’s edge.
Then I watched in fascination as this young man set down his book and his bottle on a flat rock, and proceeded to remove every stitch of clothing. I knew I should look away but this was way too good to believe!
I assumed he was a tree planter, planting new trees in the forests that had been logged. Naked as the day he was born, he scooped up the novel and his wine, and sat down on a boulder. There he read and drank and let his toes dangle in the hot water. From where I sat, I couldn’t argue that he seemed right at home and I envied, just a little, this young stranger’s comfort with himself and the world.
Although I admired his youth and sense of freedom, I decided to leave some of my own clothes on that afternoon because I no longer share his youth and I’ve never quite been that free. Still, the tree planter made the experience of the natural hot springs just a little more natural, and that was great!