Getting Grounded

By Geneviève Joëlle Villamizar
Avalanche Ranch creates a slice of paradise

The Crystal River Valley has arrived. At our very first visit to the Avalanche Ranch hot springs, I was jubilant over the latest reason why our valley rocks. The hot springs aren’t just superbly, graciously executed; what the Ogilby/Jacober families have created is a true mountain getaway and a slice of paradise.

As you mosey from the local’s parking up to the office to pay, the setting starts to work at you immediately: old farm equipment mingles with vintage Americana; blossoms spill from antique icons. Chickens peck and scratch across the cool, shaded lawns. Guests wander quietly between old log cabins and newer ones. Tranquility permeates the very air. The hot springs, new as of May 2011, but a family dream since 1999, are tucked behind the century old barn. Passing through a custom metal gate that squeaks out a “Welcome,” you enter the springs: a stunning, sunlit bowl encircled by gnarled box elders, ancient scrub oak 30-40 feet high, and a Switzerland ring of mountaintops. Natural music fills the air — the silken spill of the waterfall; different burbles coming from all parts of the stream; the sibilance of a million leaves dancing against one another. You don’t just walk in and “hit” these springs. There’s always a still moment as it hits you first. The grounds around the springs are lovely. Surrounding the entire area and transitioning back into the landscape are waves of wildflowers. Allysum, cosmos, cornflowers and poppies are comfortingly familiar — like those at any merry resort you may have visited growing up. Sitting here typing, I can smell them. As you make your way around, stepping across flagstone bridges spanning the hot stream, newly planted coneflowers, soapwort, snow in summer, roses and daylilies cavort — these xeric troopers are already sinking roots and thriving. The sweetest touch I think, are the tall Western sages. We have so many excuses for not planting our rangier looking natives, but here they’re perfect: the sun-baked scent of sage is, after all, the
background aroma to many of our adventures. Massive boulder terraces embrace the space. The pools themselves are laid out like a sunbathing woman, all welcoming curves and beautiful lines. The lower, largest pool is the coolest at 94-96 degrees. It’s fed by the 5-foot sheeting waterfall, which hides a delightful grotto behind. Above are the hottest pool at 105 degrees and a nice shady one between 98-100
degrees. Scattered around all the pools are 1950s metal lawn chairs, sleek and chic teak
chaises and a few tables with chairs and umbrellas. Prepare to spend the afternoon.
As for the pools? Immersion is divine. The pools are lined in gravel that fairly massages your
feet as you walk. Depending in which pool you soak (my fave is the super HOT one, all the way
up to my chin) the forest opens to a priceless views of Mount Sopris, Elephant Peak or the ridge
between you and Hell’s Hole. At eye level, you might notice how well placed the boulder
outcrops are. I’m told they’re the collaboration between a “zany, funky … alcoholic” rock
maestro and one of the family members, the more linear-thinking of the two. The balance
between both is wonderful. Every single rock, hand picked by these families from their
mountainside, is placed ever so thoughtfully.
As a critical garden thinker, the rockwork struck me most. I can’t relaxin a designed space that
has flaws. Evidence of poor craftsmanship or uneducated decisions unsettle me. My mind eeps working, trying to fix it. Here, I can relax.
On this afternoon, all the guests seem more than just relaxed. An older woman from Florida
thought I was a travel agent, scribbling all my notes. She wanted me to know she loved it. A 30-
something hotty is comatose on a chaise. An uber-tan middle-aged man drifts from pool to pool,
eyes closed and still. My friend Jeet showed up on surprise. We joked about post-cross country
ski bliss with both of our Junipers this winter. The Avalanche Hot Springs are uniquely special.
Like Ouray, Pagosa and Ridgeway, the Ogilby/Jacober families have put this valley on the map.
Photo by Geneviève Joëlle Villamizar. She is a valley mama, still trying to squeeze in a bit of
writing and design. She can be reached at