Magazine article Sunset

Zen on a Dime

Magazine article Sunset

Zen on a Dime

Article excerpt

Three ways to keep your spirit (and your wallet) full in Lava Hot Springs Idaho

HERE HE IS. An honest-to-goodness Tibetan monk, cupping hot mineral water over his steaming pate on the terraced steps of the dormant volcanic crater. This itinerant monk from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in India has come to Lava Hot Springs in southeastern Idaho via the Buddhist temple in Salt Lake City.

The springs

"Come, come sit. The water is hot and clean," the monk says as I approach him in his reverie. So we sit there, in Lava Hot Springs resort area's hottest pool (up to 112°), closest to the spring's source, sharing through broken language how nice it is in this peaceful spot where everyday life gets lost in bubbles and steam. And while it is only the briefest of encounters, my moment with the monk opens my mind to a new outlook for the rest of my weekend: finding joy in simple pleasures. And maybe even discovering my own kind of Zen. Cost: $7.50

The sleeps

For my newfound post-monk minimalism, Lava Hot Springs Inn and Spa is the perfect monastic base camp. It's no frills (many rooms are bathroom-across-the-hall affairs, though you can shell out more for a larger room with bath and in-room hot tub). But it has everything I need in my spirit of simplicity, namely five outdoor mineral pools right near my door. My favorite is the River Pool (the hottest, at 107°), on the banks of the rushing Portneuf River (there's also a 44° plunge pool for those who are more Zen than I am). Submerged in the steamy water with the wintry night sky overhead, chatting with my fellow soakers, I'm washed by another feeling of pure relaxation, calm, and gratitude-this time without the holy man, but surely in the same spirit. Cost: $79 per night

The slopes

With the crowds and the cost, finding the Zen in skiing can be tough these days. But meditate on this: At its essence, skiing is a simple conversation between your body and gravity. At Pebble Creek Ski Area (28 miles up Interstate 15 from Lava in the town of Inkom), I forget the trappings that come with $ioo-plus lift tickets elsewhere and remember what skiing is all about. The vintage lifts and modest amenities are part of the charm of this place, where the unofficial motto is if you can ski pebble CREEK, YOU CAN SKI ANYWHERE. (The humble hill is celebrating its 60th anniversary this season, so if you're in town on January 24, make new friends at the Snow Ball and during the torchlight run down the Ridge. …

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