My husband and I have an annual tradition of spending Christmas Day at one of our favorite places, Jerry Johnson Hot Springs in Idaho. It’s about an hour and a half drive west from Missoula, Montana. Traveling from town you know you’ve reached the trailhead when you see the beautiful suspension bridge stretching over the Lochsa River (shown above). There’s a nice large parking area across highway 12 from the bridge.
The skies above were clear blue and filled with winter sun streaming down through the evergreen forest. Due to its popularity the 1 1/2 mile trail to the springs is always well worn no matter the time of year. The springs are natural and the hike is on a pretty easy trail. Sometimes it can be quite icy so during the winter months having yak tracks for your shoes is totally money well spent. We visit the springs often throughout the year – for me it’s always a good day when I trek to the pools. There is great medicine in getting out in the woods.
There are a few pools at Jerry’s. The first set are situated at the bottom of a cliff and sit right next to Warm Springs Creek. Noting the picture above, the water fall is all hot water and it empties into a pool below it but there is also cold creek water that runs into the pool right beside it, which holds 4-5 people comfortably. This combination of hot and cold water makes this pool tricky to time right for good soaking. When the creek is too high it washes out the pool and makes it too cold to soak in. In my opinion when you catch the mixture right it is the best pool to soak in given the scenery. We tested it out on this trip and it was too cold.
The next set of pools a few short minutes down the trail are in an open area between the trees and Warm Springs Creek. There are a few 1-2 person soaking pools scattered by the creek’s edge and one nice large pool (pictured above) that can hold 10-12 people comfortably, which is the hottest and largest pool at Jerry’s. The picture above was actually taken in early October when we took a good friend of ours there who was visiting from out of town (all the other pics are from Christmas Day). There is also one more soaking pool just down the trail (which you can see winding into the trees in the pic above). It’s a nice sized pool that has milder water temperatures and can hold 6-7 people comfortably (meaning not piled on top of each other).
Connecting with the beauty of the day, hiking in the winter forest, soaking in natural hot springs, and absorbing the crisp, fresh mountain air is an opportunity for me to experience how beneficial and important it is to commune with nature. The trees, rocks, water, vegetation, and wildlife have so much to offer and teach. I am abundantly grateful for having access to this most wonderful place – I see clearly that each visit helps to nourish my capacity to live more fully in the present moment. Mother Earth is a great mindfulness practitioner and teacher. May I continue to learn from her wisdom.