Thousands have lived without love, not one without water
— W. H. Auden
— W. H. Auden
My solo trip to Iceland last year really solidified my love of natural hot springs. Most people conjure up Pinterest style images of the Blue Lagoon when they think of the infamous hot waters of Iceland. As soon as I found out that the Blue Lagoon is actually man made (and astronomically overpriced), I scratched that off my list. Instead, I visited multiple natural hot pots across the country. Sitting and steaming in a hot river (for free!) after day hiking through Landmannalaguar Highlands was completely satisfying and utterly unforgettable. The Secret Lagoon-aka Gamla Laugin- was my second favorite destination: shrouded in midst (rather, sulfur steam) and surrounded by greenhouses growing some of the only natural Icelandic vegetation- tomatoes. I met an awesome couple at the Secret Lagoon who I ended up traveling with on another day of my trip.
So you see I had to make a visit to the infamous Mystic Hot Springs on my first trip to Utah. I flew into Salt Lake City to meet up with a friend and after a few hours in the city (and the best vegetarian Ramen of my life! Including a miso-beet broth), I made the two and half hour trek to Monroe, Utah.
Mystic Hot Springs, like Iceland, is one of those rare places that words cannot do justice. It is one of the most unique hot springs I've ever visited-and I have been to quite a few! Just last Winter I almost got myself stuck at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon after a tremendous snow storm. Sitting naked in 106 degree hot pots, and a communal wet steam room, with snow cloaking all vision was an indelible experience to say the least.
I was lucky enough to get Mystic almost entirely to myself. There was one other couple there but they stayed in one of the two large communal pools the entire time. I made my way from tub to tub trying out the different levels of heat. And by tubs, I mean actual, literal bathtubs set into the red rock hillside where the natural hot spring bubbles up.
Besides the incredible setting and the mingling of indoor and outdoor space, the property itself is brimming with all kinds of unique oddities. There are wild turkeys and peacocks roaming the grounds. Buses and shacks/mini cabins are scattered around the water source and available for overnight rental. Some of the buses were deadhead transports used to track the Grateful Dead on their cross-country tours.
Mystic Hot Springs is quite likely the closest experience you can get to a hippie commune in 2017. That really sums up the overall vibe and the innate feeling of stepping back in time the second you enter this property.
I've always been a true water baby, born under a water sign. There is something about being surrounded by and cloaked in water that brings me the greatest sense of calm achievable. I used to struggle with intense anxiety and recurrent panic attacks. I learned that if I got into a hot shower or bath when the anxiety first started creeping in, I could almost always abate the fear inducing feelings before they got out of control. This worked better than my Xanax prescription ever did. I would sit in the shower for long periods of time and enjoy the simple, healing feeling of water beating down on my back.
Sitting in the bath, or better yet a natural hot springs, feels like a portal or perhaps emotional deja vu, welcoming me home. I subscribe to the evolutionary theory that we could have evolved from a fish (or at least, gill breathing) species. Many believe that humans originally lived at least a partially aquatic life, but I'll let you do your own research on that. I highly recommend the book The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life if you have always suspected that you are in part a water mammal ;) I won't get into the biology of our bodies or this planet we call home and its overwhelming make-up of pure water since you probably learned about that in third grade science glass. Or even about the symbolic relationship between the moon and water, currents and time, oceans and space....
I will say that there is an undeniable effect of water making me feel strong and magical. I never feel more vibrant or proud of my human shell than I do when I'm soaking in hot water. The feel and look of wet skin glistening in sunshine, of beads of water dripping from our human forms, is intimate and electrifying. The late great Vonnegut (my favorite) said it best: “In the water I am beautiful.”
***I leave you with a few of my absolute favorite quotes about water, followed by photos of the next few stops I made on my road trip before the one and only Zion (blog coming soon!)
You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.
Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.
Human beings are a way that water has of going about, beyond the reach of rivers
You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.
Cedar Breaks National Monument:
Bryce Canyon National Park: