in Canada, we stayed the night at the Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort in British Columbia.
it offers access to the 108 degree mineral water forced up from the lakeshore fault below these caves. the hot mineral water flows into the caves, creating a natural steam bath, which is said to have healing qualities. but whether ailments are cured here or not, wading in caves of spring water is a unique and truly surreal experience.
the resort sits snug up against a mountain overlooking Kootenay Lake. if nothing else, it's a serene place to watch the sun rise and shoot its rays at angles along the blue ridges of the mountains on the other side of the lake. and from the deck of the springs, all you can see in the distance are mountains and water, so you almost forget there's a road below or a town anywhere near.
the pool on the deck holds 96 degree mineral water and acts as a relaxing break from the intensity of the caves adjacent to it. because, though they're gorgeous and completely magical, the caves are much too hot and steamy to spend very much time in.
the first time i went into the cave, it quite literally took my breath away. i underestimated how steamy it would be and didn't prepare my breathing, so i panicked a little when i walked in quickly and suddenly had a LOT less oxygen than i was hoping for. luckily the cave is shaped like a horseshoe, so i just walked through the loop, composed myself, and went back in.
once your body gets used to the heat and the initial shock of oh my god, this is dark and scary fades away, it seriously FEELS SO GOOD.
there was a moment when i sneaked off into a corner of the cave, sunk down real low, watching the water trickle from stalagmites and thought something along the lines of: umm... i'm in a cave... inside a mountain... in canada... sitting in mineral water heated by the earth's crust...
i was in the moment without an inkling of concern for anything beyond that cave. it was beautiful.