December in Bozeman has been frigid. Temperatures have reached down to -20, and snow covers almost every inch of ground in town. Staying warm isn't the easiest thing to do currently, but that is where the Norris Hot Springs come in.
As we follow the dark and winding road towards Norris, we begin to suspect we have missed the turn. It has been at least 30 minutes and the road around us is pitch black other than the lights of small ranches twinkling in the distance. Suddenly, a sign comes into viewing with sprawling blue letters that read "Norris Hot Springs: Water of the Gods." Apparently, we had made it. Pete and I climb out of the car into the cold night air and walk through the gravel parking lot to the entrance. On one side (blocked by a wire fence) is a row of port-a-potties. On the other side is a small window where we pay the entrance fee of $7 - usually $5 but there is a live band that night. The cashier checks our IDs so that we can get beers, and we walk towards a row of metal patio tables to set down our belongings.
The air is icy cold, and cuts into my skin as I strip down to my bathing suit. "We are insane," I'm thinking to myself. We quickly walk over to another window to order 2 beers and a pizza to share. Surprisingly, the little 'bar' has at least 4 choices of draft beer, and varieties of wine as well. The beers are all local craft brews, making the decision a tough one. I opt for the Salmon Fly Honey Rye by Madison Brewing Company, one that I have had before. We are given a little number sign attached to a rock, and told that our pizza will be delivered to us poolside. Awesome! As fast as my freezing limbs will take me, I walk over to the steps and enter the steaming pool. The sudden switch from cold to hot burns my skin with a sweet intensity. I quickly wade down the steps and dip my shoulders below the water. There are people all around, but we manage to find a spot on the edge with a bench to sit on, and a place to set our drinks.
The pool is heated naturally by the earth, but has been built up to look more like a swimming pool. There are people of all ages enjoying the heat on this chilly night. Laughter echoes around the small space, and notes from the band drift calmly from an enclosed globe at the far end of the patio. The globe has white walls, with dancing neon lights streaming outwards from inside it. The band, although they are only a pools length away, seem like they are playing from a sort of space craft. The indie music is calming and wonderful.
Our pizza is delivered, and is excellent. The ingredients are all locally sourced - some even grown in the garden on property. Spicy italian sausage and pepperoni are hidden under sheets of warm, melted cheese seasoned with a blend of italian spices. After scarfing down the pizza, Pete gets us another round of beers and we let the warmth soak through to our bones. Eventually, we decide to brave the freezing cold once more and venture back to the table where our belongings lay in a heap. Drying off in a hurry, we dress as quickly as possible, and race back to the car to turn on the heat. 40 minutes later, and we are back home, warm and relaxed.