I'd been dying to check out Spencer Hot Spring, so when my in-laws asked to have the kids for New Year's Eve, we jumped at the chance to plan a kid-free getaway to the Middle of Nowhere!
We booked a room at the Union Street B&B in Austin made our way east. Austin is really, really cold in the middle of winter (9 degrees that year!), so we opted to stay in on New Year's Eve and toast at midnight from the comfort of the warm bed in front of a "Star Wars" marathon. New Year's Day, we got up bright and early and headed out to Spencer Hot Spring, about 20 minutes away. It's east of Austin on Highway 50, and then a right turn on Highway 376, and a quick left turn onto a dirt road. Just keep driving until you see other cars, or steam rising from the earth.
It was a gorgeous, bright and sunny day, but still in the mid-teens so the hot springs were a popular spot that day. We scoped out the two main pools, which were occupied, and learned some hot-tub etiquette: don't get too close because clothing is optional out in the wild; don't spend all day in the tub if others are waiting; and clean up your beer bottles so those after you can at least pretend they're the first ones there for the day. We stayed in the truck but waved to a guy getting into the top springs. He told us he'd be out in about 20 minutes and to not wander off too far because he wouldn't hold the pool for us. So we wandered around and waited for the pool to open up.
When we finally got in the pool, it was amazing. We were surrounded by snow-covered sagebrush, under a brilliant blue sky, freezing temperatures outside, and sitting in steaming hot water. The upper pool is basically a hole in the ground, reinforced by rocks here and there, so if you're icked out by sitting in silt, wait for the lower pool, which is a big metal trough filled by a pipe from the hot spring. The cool thing about the upper pool is that it has a wooden deck by it, so you can lay out your towels, shoes, and beer or whatever you brought to sip in the pool. Yes, water is the most responsible thing to drink in a hot tub because the heat is pretty intense, but we threw caution to the wind and brought a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the new year. And this was the moment of clarity that set the tone for our whole year. We soaked in the hot spring, sipped champagne, awed at the beauty around us, and planned our goals for the coming year.
They say that how you start your new year is how the rest of the year will flow, and I believe it. There is nothing as grounding as sitting one of the wonders of nature, surrounded by nothing but beauty, and realizing that the world is so much bigger than you.