I had the pleasure of visiting several natural hot springs whilst on my travels this summer.
The first was at the top of Napa valley, in a town called Calistoga. There's plenty of natural mineral activity there and I picked Dr Wilkinson's resort to stay in, partly because they offered spa treatments. There were three pools of varying heats, the biggest being like a hot tub for 36 people. I practised some yoga in it (that was a theme of the summer, really....large body of water capable of holding me up? Bow pose practice).
Mr Z and I had a muddy spa treatment, too. Although this was billed as a couples' treatment, we were ushered into separate spas, mainly because nudity was a requirement. The resort was built some time in the 50s, I think, and the decor had not much changed: white tiles and exposed pipes everywhere. I quite liked it once I had got over the feeling that it was like that place where Bricktop keeps his flesh-eating pigs.
Once naked, the attendant bid me shower. Then she helped me into an enormous vat of peaty mud. It was an indescribable sensation but of course I'm going to give it a go. The best analogy I can think of is that it was like crawling into a very accommodating, warm, heavy bean bag. I expected (hoped) to sink instantly but once I had gone a certain distance my body stopped; the attendant heaped mud over me as I tried to wriggle down further. It was quite peaty, rather than sticky. She placed cucumber over my eyes and a cold flannel on my face - the mud was pretty hot. It felt utterly strange. I started to enjoy it after a short while, as long as I didn't move too much: wriggling fingers and toes reminded me that it was something wet, not just a warm, weighty pillow.
After a while the attendant asked me to get out and scrape off as much mud as possible. Hilarious: I looked like Bigfoot. I wetly slithered towards to shower, clumps of the mud dropping out of crevices and creases as I went, and removed what I hoped was all of it. Next came a bath of the naturally hot water. More cucumber and cool flannels; citrus water to drink. I enjoyed this part so much I stayed in for longer than I was meant to.
Once out, it was time for the steam room: a tiny little tiled booth in the corner, with windows, through which the attendant could pass water and flannels. Those flannels! There was an endless supply. After this, another quick shower; finally I was taken to a little cabin where the attendant wrapped me in a light blanket, like a baby, adding yet more cucumber and explaining that it was important to rest to recover from the heat treatments. Fine with me.
I did enjoy the experience. The mud was, as I said, weird; my skin did feel quite soft afterwards, and I was super-relaxed. If I was them, I would more heavily embrace the 50s kitsch theme rather than putting modern accoutrements in, which made the original fixtures look a bit dated. But then, I mostly had cucumber on my eyes, so who really cares how it looks?