As I kid, I spent summer weekends on an island in Maine with my grandparents, swimming in the lake, picking wild blueberries and sometimes spotting a stodgy old moose. For me, ultimate happiness and relaxation is a dip in cold water, a walk in the woods, a hammock and a good book. Throw in a massage and a glass of wine and I’m in heaven, baby. Heaven.
So it’s lucky for me that heaven exists only 40 minutes away from downtown Boulder, just outside Ward, at Gold Lake Mountain Resort & Spa. I visited for the first time on July 4, my birthday, for the day with my boyfriend, Leandro. We checked in at the main desk and for $30 each were handed a canvas tote with fluffy towel and robe and granted access to the grounds (changing rooms with shower, hot pools and lake, canoes, fishing, hiking trails and hammocks) from 9-5 that day.
Though we held ourselves back from booking a room and massages, Leandro and I did wrestle a canoe into the middle of the lake (which actually is more like a pond, and possibly manmade—but it’s clean and fed by mountain run-off.) We lounged in one of the spa’s six outdoor hot pools (though they’re not spring-fed, the chlorine was minimal and they’re nestled under pine trees overlooking the water) and afterwards took a quick dip in the frigid lake, which brought back plenty of childhood birthday memories of swimming in Maine.
Lunch at Alice’s Restaurant was delicious, featuring local organic vegetables and free-range meats—I had crabcakes and Leandro chose steak from the fixed-price menu. All lunch entrees were $15, though we upped the bill with drinks and a killer slice of apple pie a la mode topped with birthday candle. Our day was the perfect birthday indulgence without stretching our budget (the spa, which we missed out on, offers many opportunities for decadent excess and I hear that an overnight stay, which includes a gourmet dinner, is heart-meltingly romantic).
The best part was that I didn’t feel like I was at a spa or a resort. Everything was comfortable and relaxed, unpretentious and organic, yet definitely a treat, like one of my childhood birthdays by the lake in Maine. I eased into an afternoon nap in my hammock, the latest New Yorker open on my belly, the distant snow-capped peaks and shimmering lake fading as I closed my eyelids and let out a deep, relaxed sigh of bliss.