By the time we started to see signs for Ashland, Oregon, we’d left our hotel seven hours ago, and the endless series of exit ramps and truck stop signs was starting to wear on us. We were headed back to Portland from a long weekend in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and we needed a rest. There was no way we were getting back in a single shot — not this time, not after so many custard egg tarts.
I pulled out my phone and slogged through the Siskiyou’s sluggish reception to find a place to stay. Ashland has the same assortment of ho-hum chain hotels as anywhere else — Super 8s, Best Westerns, Comfort Inns — but we’d had a great weekend, and we wanted to keep the good feelings going. Oh, and we wanted a pool.
I’d never stayed at Lithia Springs Resort, but I’d seen the sign every time I’d visited the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. So I called. They had a vacancy, and not only did they have a pool, they had a pool fed by natural hot springs bubbling up from deep under the mountain range. After making us pay with hours of steep grades, nail-biting turns and seemingly homicidal truck drivers, it seemed as if the terrain owed us a bit of relaxation. I said we’d be there in less than an hour.
We made the right choice, because Lithia Springs Resort is the perfect antidote to the rigors of the open road. Pulling into the parking lot, we were greeted by a sprawling, soft-edged cottage garden, lush with color and life, like a pastoral landscape come to life. Brushing past hedges of lemon balm and anise hyssop buzzing with honeybees, we entered the lobby, an oasis of white paint, soft music and herbal smells designed to comfort.
Our spacious quarters offered more delights. A jetted tub (there’s one in practically every room) is plumbed with the same mineral-rich waters that have made Lithia Springs a magnet for people seeking rejuvenation for thousands of years. We stripped off our road grime and wrapped ourselves in plush robes, plopped our feet in the hot tub and laid our hands on a cool glass of Quady North rosé from up the road while we gazed at lacy wisteria and blooming vintage roses in the back courtyard. Bliss. But as tempting as it was to stay in the room forever, the prospect of additional decompressing in the pool was too seductive to resist.
On a Monday in the off-season, we had the outdoor saline pool and enormous clover-shaped hot tub all to ourselves. The water has a slight sulphurous edge, reminding you of its geothermic origins and healing powers, but the odor is a gentle one. After a few trips between the two temperatures, shoulders miraculously un-hunched and hamstrings seemed to unwind like a guitar string settling into tune. By the time we toweled off to head out for pints and pizza at nearby Caldera Brewery, Lithia Springs Resort had worked its magic, and the long drive had already faded into the distance of the rear view mirror.