Friday, June 03, 2005

Did you know how bad hot springs smell?!

Our room for the night was right at the Hot Springs Lodge in Glenwood Springs so after a very long drive (almost 6 hours) we wasted no time in changing into our swimsuits and hitting the pool. This was no ordinary swimming is the world’s largest hot springs pool. Believe it or not, it is two city blocks long! On our walk over, we smelled this awful rotten egg smell. Wondering what it was, Alan mentioned "Oh, that’s the hot springs, didn’t you know they really stink!" Suddenly the glamour of this huge pool was gone. Not only that, but it didn’t even look like a normal pool. Most of the bottom of the pool was dark stone, so you can’t see through the water very easily. The girls were having second thoughts, big time. To top off their dampening spirits, I happened to mention to them that I’d heard some of these hot springs were "clothing optional" so not to get too close to anyone.

We found out that there were two pools there, one heated to 94 degrees and the other to 102 degrees. It’s a beautiful setting right in the middle of the mountains. The hot springs were used for healing by the Ute Indians, and even today many people swear by their healing powers. There was a big sign on the wall listing what minerals were in the water; Alan told us that it was the sulfur that made it smell bad.

No sooner had the girls gotten in the pool than an older man started approaching them. You should have seen their faces pale as he got closer. In just a moment it became clear that he was heading for the steps and not for them; they were sure relieved to find out he wasn’t a nudie! The good news is we never did see any "clothing optional" bathers!

Once we got in the water we didn’t think about the smell anymore and had fun there, even in the 60 degree weather. Only problem was that when you got out you nearly froze. For a short time we got into the hot pool...the whole side of the pool has steps down so you can sit with half your body in the hot pool and half out, and it’s really relaxing. (To be completely submerged for more than a couple minutes got too hot.) After an hour or so of playing we were starving hungry so went back to our rooms to change for dinner. So far we have only been buying supper at night. That’s because every hotel we’ve stayed at has had free breakfast, then for lunch we eat snacks...trail mix, granola bars, cheese & crackers, etc. So by dinnertime each day we are starving for some real food! The kids were getting sick of Mexican food but Alan & I could eat it every day. Someone had recommended Fiesta Guadalajara in Glenwood Springs whiich conveniently enough was right beside a KFC. So Alan & I shared a big plate of delicious chicken nachos while the kids feasted on a bucket of chicken. We knew Coleman was sick of granola bars when he picked up a piece of chicken and said, "Ah, protein!"

We sat outside to eat and enjoyed the evening. There’s a pedestrian bridge which crosses the Colorado River that we decided to cross to go downtown. There was a light rain falling, which got progressively heavier the further we got from the hotel. By the time we finally got the whole way across the bridge it was absolutely pouring so we turned around and ran the whole way back and never did see downtown. The hot springs were open until 10 PM so we headed back out to swim some more, even though it was raining (just lightly again). We had the hot springs practically to ourselves and enjoyed it. The lifeguard let us play in the diving well and the kids had fun practicing their dives. Coleman did a major belly flop and when he came up we said, "Ouch, Coleman, that must have hurt." He said, "No, it just felt like a little a pinch from a baby!" Tough "injury" like that would have had the girls in tears screaming for us to call 911.

Even though the evening was cool, we never felt cold until we had to cross the road to get back to our hotel, and then nearly froze to death. We all needed showers because the hot springs make you feel really gross until you shower off; after that your hair & skin feel nicer than ever. I can see why they are such a popular spot with the locals, and probably really are better for you than swimming in a normal chlorine-laden pool.

The next morning it was time for what else...more swimming! Normally it would have cost our family $70 to get into the pool each day, but admission is included free when you stay at the Hot Springs Lodge, so that made the $178 hotel rate much more reasonable. On our way over we walked past this really small hot spring and noticed a sign "Drinking Spring." There were two people there talking to the man in charge. They asked if they could have a drink and he handed each of them a cup. This was unbelievable to us that anyone would consider drinking this foul-smelling stuff. The lady went first and gagged and spit the water out. Of course the guy downed his sip of it but I noticed he dumped the rest of it out. I don’t care how healing that water is to drink; those people probably felt sick the rest of the day!

Anyway, it was a warm sunny day and we ditched our plans to leave by 11 AM in favor of a day at the pool. There are also waterslides at this pool, which the kids enjoyed. There was a five foot diving board so they had a Olympic competition with their fancy moves. Alan did his wild back flips and Coleman decided he could do them, too. No fear! It was a riot watching Alan teach him how to do a flip. Alan insisted that the key was to keep his chin tucked, so Coleman would go running Sonic-speed down the board with his chin tucked and then do a big jump. After coming up out of the water, he’d yell, "I did a flip!" Eventually he really did do a flip...if Daddy can do it, he'll find a way to do it, too! Caroline also was brave enough to try a few flips and really got good at her diving as well...not only just from the side of the pool but from the diving board as well.

By the time we left around 2 PM I knew we’d spent a little too much time in the sun and we all had sunburns to prove it. The day had started out so overcast that we didn’t put sunscreen on and paid for it later. Someone told me that because of the higher elevations in Colorado you are closer to the sun and burn faster and now I believe them. As a typical teenager, Emily’s biggest concern about our trip was that she wouuld come home without a tan...she doesn’t have to worry now.

So back into the car we piled, with fussy kids hurting from sunburn. I declared a moratorium on talking since all they were doing was fussing at each other. "She said, he looked at me, she touched me, etc. etc. etc." Sure glad I never fussed with my siblings like that when I was growing up! Alan also was a little grouchy and I had to threaten to pull my nice anniversary post about him if he didn’t get nicer.

Our next stop was Moab, Utah. As we left Colorado there was a big sign that said, "You are leaving colorful Colorado." How right that was as the scenery entering Utah was pretty boring at first, and I assumed it was because we were entering the desert. Wrong! It wasn’t long until we started seeing mountain peaks again, snow covered ones! Turned out they were the La Sal Mountains. We loved looking at them but were sure glad we didn’t have to drive up into them.

It took us almost 4 hours to drive from Glenwood Springs to Moab. It wasn’t until we approached Moab that suddenly there were red rocks everywhere! Huge red rocks. Funny thing is Colorado was so named because everything looked very red to the settlers, but obviously they hadn’t been to Utah first or they would have named Utah Colorado (did you follow that?). Red dirt, red stone, red everything.

We checked into our hotel, Best Western Canyonlands Inn, which was at a gerat location right on Main Street, Moab. In fact, it appeared that maybe that was the only street in Moab. It is a much smaller town than I envisioned and seems like the whole town is motels, restaraunts, mountain bikes, and rafting businesses. We found a drugstore and bought some stuff we needed, like sunscreen! As we browsed around the store, we laughed because in the games & puzzles section, here was a selection of "Lancaster County Amish" puzzles! Made us feel right at home. What didn’t make us feel at home was that on our way, we saw a huge poster advertising a gathering of the Utah Free Militia, which said something like "Never forget Waco." Kind of creepy, glad we weren’t going to be around for their big anti-government rally.

We are staying at Best Westerns as much as possible because they have free wireless internet access at all their hotels, which makes it possible for me to post to my journal and Emily to IM her friends. Could you possibly imagine the horror of having to be out of touch with your friends for over TWO weeks?! But seriously, I don’t mind her spending 20 minutes or so every now and then on the computer because she has been an invaluable help to me in getting the pictures posted. Without her you would only be able to read my journal, which Alan has declared "ridiculously long!" But there is so much I want to remember about our trip, and this is the best way to do it!

Every motel we’ve stayed at so far has been really nice, but none so nice as Best Western Canyonlands. There were huge flower pots everywhere, a really neat lobby with several leather couches, free fresh-baked warm cookies all afternoon, free coffee, free game room, not to mention a really nice room, too! In our room there was a free goody bag that included lots of snacks, gum, toothpaste, and even Snap, a fun family card game. It received the Chairman’s Award for being one of the top Best Westerns. Really nice hotel...wish we were here for more than one night but tomorrow we’ll move on – again.

It’s funny how much driving we cut out from our original plans (over 1200 miles!), and yet it still seems like we are moving at a quicker pace than I’d like to be. We are out here for 16 days altogether, until June 14th. Originally we had planned to make it as far north as Yellowstone and as far south as the Grand Canyon. However, after plotting out many different trip versions, it finally came down to the realization that too much driving would not be a true vacation to us. You have this feeling that while you’re "out west" you need to do it all and see everything. After discussing this and mapping out many different routes we finally decided we’d save Yellowstone for a different trip. Besides, my parents have been there in wintertime and say snowmobiles are the way to go, that you don’t have to put up with the horrendous traffic so common in the summertime.

The Grand Canyon, that most romantic of spots, was sacrificed in order for us to spend a few days at the Navajo Mission in New Mexico. Our church denomination sponsors a mission for recovering alcoholics and their families on the Navajo Reservation. They are always happy for help, so when Caroline heard about this it was the one thing she cared most about doing. There are a lot of children there and she wanted to help. So the kids voted in favor of cutting out the Grand Canyon because we couldn’t fit in both that and the Navajo Mission.

Even so, we are moving at a fast pace, seeing a lot but not getting to really "do" the area. We are barely scratching the surface of these national parks. At Rocky Mountain National Park, for example, there are hundreds of ranger programs you can be a part of. We met a family who spends a week there every summer, because there is so much to do there! So us spending a day and a half there just gave us a glimpse of all it offers.

Oh, one more thing about the Best Western Canyonlands. I did our laundry there, and when I left to carry a load up to our room, I’d left the mismatched socks and the paper I was reading on the counter. As I got on the elevator, the maid said something to me in "Spanglish" and all I knew was the word "laundry." I smiled and said, "Yes, a lot of laundry with four kids!" Well, she heard the "yes" and I guess she had asked me if I was done there. When I came back five minutes later the socks were gone and the trash had been emptied! I had to track her down, and with all Spanish-speaking maids there it wasn’t easy. I dusted off my Spanish, did my best to explain the situation and finally she arrived with my socks!

We are about to tour Arches National Park so I'll fill you in on that soon!

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