September 8, 2008
I drove into Boulder, MT and arrived at Boulder Hot Springs Inn and Spa completely unannounced. I’d had no idea where I was going to stay that particular night, not even any certainty that I’d be in that area. But when I found myself meandering between Butte and Helena, I landed in a serene Montana area aptly known as Peace Valley.
The inn itself dates back to 1863, when the first building was constructed. It has a long history of additions, changes of ownership, restorations, declines, improvements, and varied uses. In 1990 it fell into the ownership of Anne Wilson Schaef, well-known lecturer and author of numerous books, including the popular, “Meditations for Women Who do Too Much.” Under her guidance, and through a current limited partnership, the historic inn has been given new life. Today it stands as a majestic structure against the scenic backdrop of the Deerlodge National Forest. It is a remarkable building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Rising tall in the midst of 300 acres of wetlands, it can easily cause approaching visitors to catch their breath.
There are downsides to traveling without reservations and, even more so, in sliding in without so much as calling ahead the same day. In this case, I arrived to find the inn had suffered an episode of water damage the night before that necessitated closing down a good portion of the main building.
As a result, it had been decided not to take on overnight guests that evening. I sat down in the lobby and was trying to figure out another plan when they offered to give me a tour of the building. I readily accepted. After all, I was there. I figured I might as well see what I could.
The building was impressive, with restoration completed in the west wing and plans in progress for the remaining areas. Staircases, hallways, and archways were beautifully restored. A soothing blend of simplicity and artistic flavor graced the guest rooms. Common areas included a warm, inviting lounge, as well as a quiet, outdoor porch with rocking chairs. By the time we finished the tour, I was thoroughly enchanted. Shamelessly, I managed to talk them into letting me stay for the night.
Given a choice of several remodeled bed and breakfast rooms, I chose The Homestead Room, which looked out over the front property. As with each bed and breakfast room in the inn, the theme and decor were unique to that particular room, which was furnished in antiques, with personal touches added throughout. Every inch was immaculate and inviting. A quilt in soft green, blue, and rose tones covered an antique brass bed. Crocheted doilies accompanied a ceramic pitcher on the dresser. Framed prints on the walls and a detailed wooden model of a covered wagon added to the room’s pioneer ambiance. I felt right at home. With a private bath and writing desk, I was set for the evening.
A major draw to Boulder Hot Springs has always been the healing water that bubbles up from local mineral springs. Piped in at temperatures ranging from 140 to 175 degrees, it is cooled with natural well water and offered to visitors for soaking. Guests can relax in two indoor plunges and steam rooms or opt for a larger pool outside. There’s no need to worry about the water quality, as harmful chemicals are not added to the pure water and the indoor plunges are emptied, cleaned and refilled every evening. Being the only guest on the property that evening, I had the luxury of slipping into the outdoor pool to enjoy a little serenity under the stars.
I slept soundly – so soundly, in fact, that it took a knock on my door the next morning to bring me to the embarrassing revelation that I had overslept breakfast. I opened the door to find Connie, the cook, smiling and forgiving. She encouraged me to come down to the dining area so that she could prepare something to help start my day.
Food is treated with reverence in the inn’s kitchen and my morning breakfast was prepared with fresh, wholesome ingredients. I was greeted with the welcoming aroma of hot coffee and seated in a sunny room, surrounded by walls of artwork, part of a program to provide artists an outlet to showcase their work. Soft music played and sunlight flowed through the windows.
The inn takes care to attend to special culinary needs, with an emphasis on using fresh ingredients for nutritional benefit. My vegetarian status fell right in line with the available options. I was given a half grapefruit topped with sliced apples and cherries, followed by a mushroom, cheese, and onion omelette. Potatoes and cauliflower accompanied the egg dish, with silver dollar blueberry pancakes for extra measure, served with both plum and maple syrups. Needless to say, I knew I wasn’t going to leave the inn hungry.
Before leaving, I hiked up a trail leading to artist and author Dr. Frederick Franck‘s “Seven Generations” sculpture. One of fifteen such sculptures in the world, this work of art pays tribute to the Iroquois philosophy that decisions should be made based on how they affect the seven generations that follow. Set high above the inn and overlooking Peace Valley, the surrounding vista offers yet another opportunity for meditation and reflection.
With the extensive buildings and grounds available, the inn is able to offer pool use to daily visitors, overnight accommodations to travelers, spa services by arrangement and a wide variety of classes, conferences and retreats. Upcoming programs at this time include yoga, journaling sessions and drumming workshops. Recycling and conservation are priorities; pride is taken in functioning in harmony with the earth, rather than using unnecessary resources.
If guests can manage to pry themselves away from such a nourishing atmosphere, nearby areas offer everything from antiquing to fishing to exploring Native American stomping grounds. Ghost town exploration is also a short jaunt away, though there’s always the possibility of seeing the resident ghost, Simone, without even leaving the property.
Boulder Hot Springs Inn and Spa is a fascinating work in progress, continually being restored to new life through the dreams of Anne Wilson Schaef and the caring efforts of a dedicated staff. Its magic flourishes in an atmosphere of personal commitment and love. Fortunately, this means many moments of peaceful relaxation and self-renewal await future guests.