Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Testing Spirits around hot Springs

Commentary by Jim Banholzer


Jim Banholzer

Is it right that a hot spring that's been steaming into a creek for millennia can be blocked off from the public without much comment or complaint? When fun like this gets fenced off, it seems to me that a guy and a gal could hike right up the creek from a legal access point and make a splash in any pool within 10 feet of the high water mark. But then again, if serene spring seeking results in motion detectors alerting ruffians with hounds, this may be one bath to just skip.

It's said that Idaho is the state with the highest density of hot springs with hundreds recorded on the state geothermal map. High temperature water bubbles up through faults in the crust, heated from earth below. While filtered through thousands of feet of ground, biologically diverse organisms and elements along with radon teem out of hot springs. Scientists warn of the effects of radon, but many swimmers are undaunted and dip right in, swearing by its purifying power. Soon after they come away from their worshiped hot springs and spas glowing with smiles.

What exactly is going on here? Could it be that these sacred springs, out of which life was originally divined, are radiating elixirs energized at a level so perfect that various maladies are becoming miraculously cured? After all radiation treatments are used extensively on cancer patients. Compare cleansers in hot springs with mysterious results of homeopathic remedies that millions of consumers vouch for.

If slight doses of radon and other rare earth elements could be verified as healing, what a selling point this would make for any company that supplies it. Imagine the marketing values of a product that "contains supernatural ingredients." Every soul from here to the Dalai Lama would gush to gulp down a proper dosage of some amazing radon water.

Might this type of unconventional thinking seem farfetched? Well, consider the hard turn away from spiritualism that science took 100 years ago when Einstein's theory of relativity enabled things not proven by physics and mathematics to be largely ignored. Only recently has a holographic universe theory that begins to delve deeper into some of these greater mysteries been given any credence in mainstream science. What remains to be learned appears boundless.

Promises of new experiences springing eternal hold great meaning—just like holding a grandson in your arms for the first time after a baptism.

Most of what's been lab-analyzed in the last hundred years has been focused away from the hard to explain. Ironically, leading scientists and technical writers sometimes return refreshed from the deep reservoir of the somnolent world gifted with updates to key facts and hypothesises.

The finest magnifiers aren't measuring the positive electrons spinning through a grandson's dreams -while he tosses buffalo nickels into a hot spring wishing pond --spilling mirror self images into open channels of steaming holographic universes that ripple back into the ancient batholith.

Occasionally, the Forest Service threatens to bring in backhoe machine to seal off hot springs, when rules aren't being followed. This brings a measurably deep anxiety to bathers, who feel as though their interior beings will tarnish without their desired meditation spot. This is analogous to the situation salmon face when dams block off water routes to their birthplaces.

Hot springs in Idaho have been utilized into geothermal systems for tropical fish aquariums and alligator farms. Radiant heat pipes have even been plumbed into church foundations, intersecting science with spiritualism. Inexpensive or free public springs are found throughout the state. You can undertake various recreational activities as outlined in the Idaho Mountain Express's "Summer Magic" guide before relaxing in a hot spring reflecting pool at sunset with your favorite book on metaphysics.

Some of Idaho's best springs have been purposely left out of books and Web sites by their authors. It took me 10 years to figure out one of these best-kept local secrets and I'm certainly not about to reveal it here.

However, I will talk about a group of six or so springs I've had my eye on for a while. Looking at the 7.5-minute quadrangle map right at 43.423N by 114.627W it shows that most of these springs are private, but two are marked as on public land. Unfortunately, the chains and signs at the access gate a few miles below make it clear that this is not the route to take. A few autumns ago while working some fences on the Willow Creek side I got a gander at a back way to reach these springs. It looks to be a good two-hour hike over some hills with a divining rod doubling as a snake deterring staff.

As I run up the ridge whistling "This Land is your Land," I'll be wondering, will this great exertion for what may be only a foot bath be worth it? While on the edge of the forbidden springs expecting human encounters, I'll come armed with some good old boy howdy lines like, "I've heard that the people around here are mighty friendly and I just came over the hill to confirm that."

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