Tuesday, February 14, 2012


STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Co. — Strawberry Park Hot Springs is to your average hot tub what Barton Springs is to a typical swimming pool.

They're nothing alike.

It's more natural, more rustic, more scenic — and perfect for outdoorsy types who'd rather jump in a creek than a cement pond.

The staggered series of pools, dammed up and surrounded by pine trees and big boulders, looks best with snow sifting over it. It's best visited at night, too, when stars sparkle and snow glistens.

Beware, though. If nudity makes you squeamish, don't go after the sun sets, when some folks don't bother with swimsuits.

The pools vary in temperature, from stay-in-too-long-and-you'll-get-parboiled to pleasantly warm. You can even leap into the stream at the bottom if you're into ice baths. I tried it, and it left me gasping and refreshed.

Bobbing in neck-deep water, scanning the skies or holding your spouse's hand, you'll slip quickly into the hippie-dippie bliss of the place. (If you don't appreciate hippies, steer clear. The granola vibe is all-encompassing.)

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