Paradise is 45 Minutes from Boise 

An evening at The Springs in Idaho City

I've done the hot springs thing. I've been to the springs where you have to hike miles on narrow, icy, slippery, sketchy trails that run along--and occasionally disappear into--freezing cold creeks. I've been to the springs where too many rowdy college kids and/or naked old hippies cram into a murky bathtub; where your fellow soakers' tooth loss is either due to meth or intramural sports injuries.

This, my friends, is not the experience I had at The Springs in Idaho City.

The Springs feels like a cross between a Southwest spa retreat and a Japanese onsen, with an angular adobe building complete with showers, lockers, earth-tone tiles and antler chandeliers.

Then my man-panion and I got to the pool. It's a Goldilocks pool. Not too hot, not too cold, juuuuuust right; a perfect 96 degrees on a January evening, minus that sickly hot feeling you get from 15 minutes in a hotel Jacuzzi. Multicolored lights jeweled the pool walls, setting the mood. We went on a Friday, a strictly enforced "adult night." Though there were probably 30 people bobbing around, they sounded like distant voices in the large pool.

Wait staff continuously circled the pool's edge, bringing drinks--like whipped cream and caramel-topped hot apple cider and rich glasses of port--and food menus. We ate in a warming yurt, splitting a turkey, bacon and avocado panini ($8) and a Mediterranean plate with light portions of hummus, pesto, roasted tomatoes, artichoke heart and prosciutto ($14). My sweet tooth definitely noticed the absence of a dessert menu.

Our fellow pool-goers oohed and aahed when the staff lit a fire beneath red paper lanterns and let them drift into the night sky. With the exotic "Buddha Bar" Pandora station playing in the background and the steam rising into the night, we attained our Friday-night nirvana.

I enjoyed a 30-minute massage ($45) in a separate warming yurt while my partner explored the steam room. We met in the smaller 107-degree hot tub afterward and agreed on one thing: Who knew paradise was only 45 minutes from Boise?

But The Springs hasn't always been like that. When Wyatt Sharpley and his business partner bought it in 1999, it was an abused and run-down community pool. They planted some trees, pulled some weeds and let the ground "rest" until last Valentine's Day, when The Springs opened.

Sharpley's home is Hawaii, and he strives to bring one word to The Springs: "aloha."

"It's about being heart-centered," Sharpley said. "The water is from a source two miles deep, flowing at 300 gallons per minute, from Mother Earth. It makes you feel embraced. We try to match that [with our service and facility]."

When Sharpley hires a new employee (all Idaho City locals), he tells them he wants not only to have a successful business, but also wants his guests to leave with good energy they will take into the rest of the world.

It's important to make a reservation because they cap the number of soakers. With a $16 entry fee and two-drink limit, The Springs keeps its crowd classy.

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