The next morning we got up, ate a hearty breakfast at the Stagecoach, and drove a few miles farther south to the trailhead for Goldbug Hot Springs.
There were several cars parked at the trailhead, with license plates from many states near and far. The trail led us up immediately, then across a bridge and through a valley covered with sagebrush. The rolling hills around us were shades of mint green and rust, fading into a deep blue specked with the white of snow. The air was dry and warm, although it felt like it could take a turn quickly become freezing cold.
Having lived most of my life west of the Cascade Mountains, dry climates always fascinate me. The pastel colors of desert climates contrast the lush, juicy greens and blues in Western Washington. I get used to the beauty of big evergreens and lady ferns in Washington, so it’s refreshing to see a different kind of beautiful landscape. But to be clear, there is nothing subtle about the beauty of the valley we hiked through to get to Goldbug Hot Springs!
Soon Christy and I reached the many pools nestled among pink boulders, looking out over the valley we had just hiked through. It was amazing there! We found our own warm pool, perfect for two people relax in. It almost felt like we were walking through a Paleolithic landscape. It was an oasis.
As I hiked out with my flannel unbuttoned, many of the mormon hikers averted their eyes. It was spring break, and I found out later Goldbug is a recommended hike for young, college mormons.
I was sad to leave such an unbelievable place, but it was time for us to turn back.
I first heard about the Bitterroot Valley in Collapse, where the valley is used as a modern case study of a resource-rich environment that is dangerously over exploited. Jared Diamond argues that the valley, famous for its stars and fly fishing, is possibly teetering on the edge of environmental and economic disaster unless more sustainable practices are followed out.
One of Christy’s former coworkers, Jake, from when she was working in Seeley Lake lived in Sula, MT, a very, very small town on our way back to Missoula. We got to his house, chatted for a while as his kids ran around the large yard and the dogs played, and Jake played us some of his DJ mixes. Club music in probably the smallest town I’d ever been to. It was great.
Later we drove up to Darby in Jake’s truck to visit a “nano brewery”. I bought a light beer that tasted like a dark beer and a hat. Christy and I ended up spending the night on the his couches with a hot wood stove burning all night and a million stars flickering outside the window. I learned it’s true what I about the stars in the Bitterroot.
The next day we drove back to Saint Marie’s, then the following day I drove the rental care back to Seattle, back to reality. I wonder – why can’t hot spring, stars, and open road be my reality?