“How far to the hot springs?” I asked. “About 7 kilometers,” Meghan calculated. “And how far is that in miles?” “Maybe…14?”
“We should be getting close,” Meghan promised, pointing at the trickle of hot water meting our icy path.
She’d been saying this for 45 minutes, up hills and through knee-high snow drifts. I’d unzipped my coat, the bitter temperature soothing my sweaty, tired torso. When everything is buried in 12 inches of white, “close” becomes an optical illusion.
Reaching the St. Leon hot springs requires a minor expedition. Located on private land near Nakusp, British Columbia, the sulfurous pools are dug into a mountainside some 7 kilometers from an unpaved, neigh-invisible turnoff. “It’s only about 14 miles,” Meghan assured me, after we’d strapped on snowboarding boots and camelbacks, and crunched our way up the snowmobile path. Luckily, her numbers were exaggerated. After a frigid but fast 40 minute hike – “Look for the blue tarp,” Meghan instructed – we stumbled upon a temporary lean-to dressing room of tarpaulin and pine branches.
Though there are several natural hot pools in the area, St. Leon is the only haunt open to visitors, for free. Layered rock tubs, fed from the spring via black rubber tubing, help St. Leon retain its untouched setting. Those who do make the trek arrive prepared, with candles, sandwiches, wine, headlamps, water bottles and dry towels.
This resolution is harder than it looks. While anyone who has ever worked a 40-hour week can recognize how quickly stress builds up, the duress of long-term travel often goes unreported. You might not be dealing with idiotic coworkers or a demanding boss; but, skillfully bartering for a cross-town tuk tuk, or trying to find a hostel after 30 hours in a vintage bus, are situations just as likely to cause migraines. In either environment, it’s up to us to let off some steam.