Special to the Review
Every small town has its secrets; they’re the backcountry powder stashes, the locals-only surf spots, or in this case, the tucked-away hot spring. Isolated from crowds of tourists, the secret shared through word-of-mouth hold keys to unspoiled splendour. There’s a speakeasy vibe to these spots; a giddy reverence bestowed only upon those lucky enough to know. So, before you continue, make yourself a promise to maintain the charm of this not-so-secret secret by keeping it within the parameters of marginal secrecy.
The road to serenity begins south, down Highway 23. After slithering down the craggy road, you will reach the ferry at Shelter Bay. Running from 5:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., it leaves once every hour, so check departure times at arrowbridge.ca/ferry.php. The ride across Upper Arrow Lake is an experience in and of itself, slicing through dark water in a basin of rocky peaks and snowy evergreens.
After disembarking the 25-minute cruise, keep on Highway 23 until you pass the small bridge over Halfway River. From there, take the first dirt road to the left. There will be no signs, only road warnings. Getting to the springs from the highway is the crux of the expedition, lying 11 kilometres down an inactive logging road. The road is undrivable in the winter, especially after snowfall, and also during muddy summer months. Towing prices start at $500, so it is best to park at the entrance and head in either by foot or snowmobile. However, it must be said that these hot springs are worth whatever means you take upon yourself to arrive. No matter what, do not let the ambiguous nature of this adventure deter you from embarking on the hunt, for the search of a secret spot is integral to the thrill of its experience.
As you approach the springs, the smell of rotten eggs will bite your nose. Follow the stench until you peel back the curtain of mystery, stepping into hidden bliss. Natural hot springs carry a vibe that commercial springs lack—not only are they free, but they’re earned; they’re real, they’re raw. Disconnection begins as you sink into the hot sulfuric water, head tilting up towards the treetops as clouds morph and mountainsides peek out of the fog. These moments are rare, as we spend most of our days staring at screens and worrying about the future. Seldom do we give ourselves the opportunity to revel in relaxation and sweet contentment, in a place without service or stress, drinking in the greenery we too often speed past.
The pools at Halfway are different than most, having recently undergone renovations courtesy of their host, Bob Moody. His immaculate handiwork maintains Halfway’s essence of nature and seclusion while infusing a spirit of luxury. Perhaps it is the cedar shack, with its engraved sign writing, “There is no place, like this place, near this place, so this must be the place.” Or maybe it’s the cleanliness of the blue water or the surrounding ice-crusted trees that give the impression of fairy-tale other-worldliness. Whatever it is that gives Halfway Hot Springs their whimsical feel, it is certain that the simplicity they offer is worth the toil of arriving. Even Bob himself recognizes there is something special about that place, admitting that while Halfway’s new publicity has made it quite popular, he loves sharing Nakusp’s gift with those that congregate in its little pools of splendour.
In terms of items to bring, your experience will be enhanced by cans of beer (no glass!) and snacks—but make sure to take home all garbage. Do not forget a big bottle of water to prevent dehydration, as well as a few towels and an extra one to stand on. Take extra caution if attending with children or the elderly, as the hike in is challenging and the hot water can be unsafe if exposed to for long periods of time. This goes as well if you have been drinking heavily the night before. There are pools are of varying temperatures, so choose your adventure and change it up or dip in the nearby river if ever needed. Lastly, be prepared for anything when going that far into the reception-less wilderness. That means bear spray, a shovel, hand warmers, extra food, layers, and water are all essentials. Also, keep the local towing company’s number on hand, in case you drive in and get stuck.
Ultimately, one of the greatest aspects of hot springs is that they can be enjoyed no matter the hour, weather, or season. In fact, reaching them at night makes for a whole new experience, as you can light candles circling the pools. For a twist on this adventure, considering overnight camping for a well-spent $12.