We took a motorcycle road trip to Virginia, Memorial Day weekend. There was family to meet, famous roads to explore, and of course, Foam Henge. In the midst of the…
We took a motorcycle road trip to Virginia, Memorial Day weekend. There was family to meet, famous roads to explore, and of course, Foam Henge. In the midst of the amazing natural beauty that Virginia boasts, one of the most unique stops was for an hour of soaking at the Jefferson Pools, which includes the oldest bathhouse in the United States.
This was the first bathhouse I’d ever visited, so the second we pulled up to the old wooden structures, I held my breath, thinking there was a batch of rotten eggs nearby. Michael explained that it was the sulfur coming from the natural hot spring mineral water, which was clearly abundant.
Every day, millions of gallons of fresh, warm, spring water flows through the two adjacent pools, housed in aged octagonal domes. The gentleman’s bathhouse was the first in the U.S., built in 1761; the womens’ bathhouse followed in 1836. When we arrived, the family soaking session had just ended, so we joined the swimsuits-optional adults soaking session. I packed my bathing suit, but I can’t remember if Michael did. We paid our $17 and parted ways for the next hour.
The changing rooms are small closet-sized spaces with curtains in the door way. As I changed, I could see other women through the cracks, facial features like mosaics through the splintered sunlight. Aside from the occasional cough or splash, there were no irreverent noises. This was a place of highly sophisticated relaxation and everyone knew it.
I grabbed a wet swimming noodle from the wall (everyone else had one) and lowered myself into the comfortably warm water. It was crystal clear, and if I stood on my toes the water level would end in the middle of my chest. Feet pouncing on the stones below, I found a good spot in the middle of the pool, away from any bodies, and not facing any guests. There was only a small handful of women there, and we ended up perfectly spaced out, but I still sought to enjoy a sense of seclusion.
I didn’t notice that I fell asleep. In the middle of my careful breathing, eyes closed, I drifted off and fell face-first into the pool. A couple of times, actually. Before I knew it, 45 minutes passed, so I decided to explore the overflow room.
It was located next to the changing rooms but looked like a dark, mossy green closet, with three or so steps leading down to a small nook with a sitting stool submerged in the overflow. Unlike the calm pool outside, this time, the water was rushing through fast like a waterfall. I sat on the stool and lost myself in the water again, which beat the tension out of my neck and shoulders.
My hour was up. A kindly woman took my towel by the door and I tipped her two dollars, smiling and rejuvenated. In the whirlwind of the weekend, it was the perfect stop. I feel like it wasn’t too expensive, especially for an occasional treat. Hopefully I’ll come back again next year, but I know for sure I’m on the hunt for something like it in the Philly area.
Google Maps Route: We checked out a lot of neat stuff that weekend!
Foam Henge: 4942 S. Lee Highway | Natural Bridge, VA 24578
Jefferson Bath House: 7696 Sam Snead Highway | Hot Springs, VA 24445