Sweat away your worries in the vapor caves. It’s oddly refreshing

The line between sweating and hallucinating, it turns out, is very fine indeed.

I don’t think I crossed it, but I was thinking a lot about Dante: “Into the eternal darkness, into fire and into ice.”

Except there wasn’t any ice. There was the option of a hose that spouted cold water, there was the option of spraying some of it into a plastic bin and dumping it over my fevered head, but no ice.

Plus, my legs were sweating. They don’t generally do that.

And still it felt tranquil, sitting in the vapor caves at Yampah Spa, The Hot Springs Vapor Caves as one of the features department trio — Ann Wright, Melinda Mawdsley and me. Our Day o’ Caves culminated on a marble bench, sitting side by side like the three monkeys, in a dimly lit stone chamber at 112 degrees, as even hotter mineral water flowed in channels all around us.

The air was thick and heavy, a wet, primordial stew that didn’t so much breeze into my lungs as ooze. It felt strange, and it felt good, and I thought about Doc Holliday. He was rumored to have visited the vapor caves in his quest for relief from tuberculosis more than 120 years before the recent Tuesday when we visited, and so I gave my sternum a friendly punch: Hang in there, lungs! I vowed to be more conscious of my breathing once I dried off.

I vowed a lot of things that day. I vowed to compliment Ann for suggesting we take the vapors, because my initial impulse was to refuse, or at least whine and swan around in full Ophelia. I hate being hot. And I often am, having inherited a polar bear-like internal thermometer from both parents.

Thus, I am pleased to enjoy hot tubs for exactly five minutes, and only in the dead of arctic winter, and I never understood why the folks in “Anna Karenina” are in such a lather to take the waters, or whatever it is they’re always wanting to do. It’s hot! You just sit there boiling like a bean in soup!

So, the vapor caves. The point is simply to sit there and sweat, yes? Like in a sauna? Pretty much.

We descended a flight of stairs from ground-level into the ancient caves. Pushing through a plastic curtain, we were immediately wrapped in the hot humidity and the sulfurous, mineral scent. Delving farther into the caves, we found a chamber with empty benches and sat down. Sweat trickled down the hollow of my back and bloomed in unusual places — on my calves and the tops of my feet, for example.

Yet, it felt oddly soothing, different from exercise sweat or car-in-July sweat, which can feel exhausting, or at least oily. This sweat felt clean. I don’t believe that “sweating out toxins” is an actual thing that happens, but I did sweat out my lingering impatience with the crickets that keep getting in my house, and my worry over the illuminated check engine light in my car, and my concerns about a few deadlines.

Sitting on that bench for the recommended 12 minutes — we lounged in the solarium between sweats — I breathed in and I breathed out, feeling a little boneless, sweating through my swimsuit. The ragged, gray cave walls around us blossomed with calcium and other minerals, and the dim, shadowy light began to feel comforting.

I closed my eyes and sipped my water and thought about Dante, and the sweat dripped off my nose.

Get going: Yampah Spa, The Hot Springs Vapor Caves is at 709 E. Sixth St. in Glenwood Springs, near the mouth of Glenwood Canyon. The vapor caves are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, and a day in them is $12 per person, or $9 if you couple it with a spa service. Wear a swimsuit and flip-flops — towels are provided — and drink TONS of water. Also, heed the advice regarding staying in the caves for 10–12 minutes at a time, or you really will cross the line from sweating to hallucinating.

For information, call 970-945-0667 or go to yampahspa.com.


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