Friday, August 31, 2012

Frugal Poet’s Guide to Montana-based Hot Springs Spas, Part 1

Symes might offer the hottest, most mineral-rich hot springs in Montana, if not North America
A local Montana gal friend introduced my husband, another friend and myself, three poets from Chicago out on the western trials, to the wonders of the Symes Hot Springs Hotel in Hot Springs, Montana. The unincorporated town proper is one of the funkiest, most laid-back corners of the state, with a natural food grocery, a Zen cafe and lots of former hippy types casually milling around in western laid-back style. We didn't stay at the hotel itself, but paid a mere $7 each to loll for hours in the artesian mineral bath outdoor pools. Meanwhile, dramatic 4,000-foot mountains served as breathtaking background, part of the Flathead Indian Reservation.
Balneotherapy or "taking the waters"
Deep beneath Hot Springs, Montana, lies hot mineral water springs heated by thermal pockets and warmth of the bedrock. At Symes, the hottest (108-degrees?) and most sulfuric-rich pool is absolutely amazing! Our Montana friend told us the waters are only second to Baden-Baden in Germany for rich mineral content. I couldn't find any such claim later online. But maybe she's right!

Our other friend, who has a slight case of arthritis in his hands and lower back, found relief over the next three days after bathing in the sulfuric waters. He mentioned that he hoped to bring his 78-year-old mother up there sometime for her arthritis woes. However, I would imagine the extra-hot waters far too intense for someone in their upper years. But the four of us did feel wonderfully loose and relaxed after lolling in the pools for a couple of hours. It was almost dreamlike!

The Symes Hotel itself is a throwback to the 1930s, when it first opened. Not too much renovation seems to have been made, but the art deco facade is striking. Randomly weird gift shops inside. Off the first floor lobby, a long hallway leads to private, clawfoot bathtub rentable spa rooms. Here is where folks can bathe in mineral waters au natural and adjust the temperature to their liking. These bathtub rooms of barebones, dated design -- kind of remind me of little hallway rooms a house of prostitution might have in a town like Bangkok (not that I would know) -- or as portrayed in that 1980s Albert Finney movie "Under the Volcano." One room even had a thick red rope that looked like a noose hanging from the ceiling. Yikers!

Then, at the end of the hall lies a private whirlpool and sauna spa room, which can also be rented. Poor room ventilation and cramped quarters, however, made it a turn-off and we didn't opt for it. The women's changing room and shower was nice, however.

Looked at another local motel called Alameda's that offers mineral hot springs in its own motel bathrooms and that seems like it might be a good choice for those who prefer the indoor, individual bathtub experience vs.the little rentable bathtub rooms at Symes.


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