Day 7 – Salida to Buena Vista
Today we head down the Arkansas River rafting with River Runners. One of Colorado’s best, this rafting group does several tours here and at the Royal Gorge. After getting set up with the guides and gear on the shores just south of Buena Vista, we get started. At first things stay pretty calm, perfect rafting weather with just enough clouds to take the edge off. Soon enough we go through a series of unique and different rapids, dropping into pools and bouncing off of rocks. All of our guides were loads of fun, sharing their experiences and knowledge of the river with us. They even stopped at one section of the river deep enough to jump in from some higher rock outcroppings, very fun. There were plenty of scenic attractions throughout the trip, including The Smoking Indian and Lion’s Mane rock outcroppings. We even saw a herd of big horn sheep drinking down on the water, which was a real treat. However, despite all the fun we had, the real fun was the rapids. They are spread out throughout the 3 hours or so on the water, giving us a great experience moving from one set of rock outcroppings to the next.
After a rough and rocking ride down the Arkansas River, we headed back to the lodge and hot springs. Along the way we stopped by City Market to outfit the cabin and enjoyed a homemade lunch of sandwiches, pita chips and humus, and salsa and chips. The lodge is nice, a wonderful cabin with a bedroom, bathroom, living area, full kitchen, and second bedroom loft. We’re really able to spread out and enjoy the wonderfully comfortable decor, especially to end our trip around the state.
The springs themselves are something out of this world. Broken into three groups there are the cooler pools and a 300 foot water slide; main hot pools and riverside pools; and an adult only pool with cascading hot tubs. The water really is quite warm, reaching upwards of 103 degrees in some places. I suggest starting with the pool and slide since it features the coolest waters. Between the 400 foot slide and larger sized pools, this makes for a fun atmosphere great with kids. Down the hillside is the original Hot Springs and the main pools there are a must see as they are some of the warmest in the hot springs. Typically the lower pool is 96 degrees and the upper is 103. The lower one is great for swimming, soaking, and milling around but the upper is truly like a hot tub. Across the river are the adults only pool, much like the lower pool in the public bath house area. As well as being adults only, these pools are only allowed for lodge guests. The cascading pools are quite unique, featuring three hot tubs and a decreasing heat as the water falls from one to the next just like a steppe set of waterfalls. These were my favorite pools so far as they are very comfortable with great views of Mt. Princeton. The best though is the natural pools alongside Chalk Creek itself. Here super heated spring water meets alpine cooled creek water and creates a unique experience of soaking in a hot tub, that features running water. By moving river rocks around you can adjust the temperature of your eddy pools, as well as how much water you sit in. Unlike any other hot springs I have been to, this riverside lounging is extremely relaxing and a one of kind experience.
After spending the better part of the day soaking in the water, my family and I decided to eat at the lodge that night. Dinner was great, featuring unique Colorado fare in a wonderfully warm lodge setting. The slow-paced dinner sets the stage for an evening of relaxation after a day of soaking in the hot springs. To begin I ordered a delicious salad featuring a wasabi and cucumber vinaigrette. Though it sounds like an odd pair the two distinct flavors met in the middle to make a great dressing. For my entrée I ordered the Buffalo Rancher’s 8oz steak, with a delicious gravy sauce and sweet potato fries. The steak was extremely tender and succulent, as well as being leaner than beef. Once paired with a glass of Firestone Cabernet Sauvignon, it was a perfect pairing for a relaxing day.
Posted on August 29, 2011, in Colorado Road Trip and tagged buffalo steak, Colorado, hot springs, Mt. Princeton, pool, river rafting, River Runners, waterslide. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.