How do you take a vacation when you are already on vacation? We found out today that you can indeed find those moments in the intensity of traveling to slow down and take some time for reflection. Leaving Gardiner today we came about 30 miles to the intersection for Chico Hot Springs and Pray, Montana. At this intersection we found ourselves in Emigrant, MT. There’s definitely a story behind that town which I will save for later. A lovely German woman, on vacation here, took our pictures in front of The Old Saloon which was started in 1902. Looking for an old schoolhouse for a friend at home took us down the road towards Pray and Chico Hot Springs. Finding a couple of back roads to take was fun and then we came back to Chico Hot Springs and Hotel to see if we could soak in the hot water for a bit. The hotel, which was established in 1900 had a couple of rooms for a great rate and so we decided to stay.
Chico Hotel and Hot Springs
The Chico Hotel has a lot of options but we stayed in the old, turn of the century part of their lodging. Wonderful rooms with iron beds and minimal furnishings are part of this hotel’s experience. Natural hot springs underground feed two pools which are open to guests. One of the pools is directly fed from the spring and is at about 105 – 109 degrees (Fahrenheit). Water from this pool runs over into the a larger pool and mixes with air cooled water. The temps in that pool range from 98 – 95.
Debbie decided to spend the afternoon outside writing and reflecting on her traveling. Pat, Fred and I chose the hot springs. Walking into the pool was like entering a really hot bath. Clear water with no obvious smell covered us with a delicious warmth which soaked into our bones. Floating in the hot water we watched families with children swimming and playing in the cooler and larger pool which was separated from the hotter pool by a concrete wall with lower sections along it where the hot water could over flow into the bigger pool. We chatted with children who were playing in the bigger pool and met one young (9 -10 year old) budding politician who made it his business to know everyone in the pool. Watching him “work the pool” was fun. A whole group of “real” cowboys came in to soak in the pool. When I say real cowboys I mean they had spurs on their boots. Once they had changed into suits and were in the pool we watched as our young politician floated up and asked them what they did. They told him they were professional rodeo cowboys. “No you’re not” questioned our young friend, but sure enough they were the real thing. After soaking in both pools for over an hour, we left for our rooms and to clean up for dinner.
We drove back hardly taking our eyes off of the surrounding mountains and fields. On the way back we passed through Emigrant again. In August of 1864, three emigrants came to Montana on the Bozeman Trail. There were other people working the creek for gold so they decided to go further up the mountain (Emigrant Peak) to dig. Having success they and others worked this strike which was deep in Crow territory. As winter closed in they moved back down into the gulch and formed a settlement of about 50 rough log houses with dirt floors. A rough winter caused the supplies to run short. Venison was plentiful and eaten 3 times a day. By 1866 most of the prospectors were gone due to the hard conditions and Indian hostility but it was a once in a lifetime strike for those men who came to work it.
Chico has been a fun and restful break in our traveling.