- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

PONY, Mont. (AP) - As we turned off of U.S. Highway 283 just at the edge of Pony, 94.7 FM, the Harrison School District radio station, ushered us onto the dirt road that led us into the mountains and to the hot springs soak we eagerly awaited.

Charley Pride and Warren Zevon provided the perfect soundtrack to our destination: Upper Potosi Hot Springs.

Since I moved to Bozeman nearly five years ago, friends from all walks of life shared stories of the natural hot springs just outside of Pony.

And this week, I finally found time to take the trek myself to soak, my friend Kaj offering to join me for the afternoon adventure.

The drive from Bozeman to Pony never ceases to amaze, especially this time of year when the trees have turned and the mountains have been dusted with bright, white snow. The views, coupled with spotting wildlife like two bald eagles and a herd of antelope, made the hour or so drive west go almost too quickly.

Once to Pony, we turned south and headed into the woods for an eight-mile trek to the Potosi Campground.

That dirt road was full of deep bumps and pot holes, so we had to take it slow. But that was quite all right, as the road runs parallel with Willow Creek, weaving through farms and ranches, past sheer rock walls, all the while heading toward snowy mountain peaks.

We parked at a completely empty Potosi campground and found the trailhead.

A friend we stopped to see on the way up warned us: Earlier that month a moose carcass had been found just a few hundred feet past the hot springs, meaning bears were likely in the area.

And he wasn’t joking. All along the trail to the hot springs were orange signs warning visitors - “10/7/2016 Carcass in area. 300 ft n. of trail, east of hot pot.”

Despite a few jitters the warning gave us, we forged ahead on an easy, lovely stroll on the snow-dusted trail that eventually led us to the springs.

The walk is no more than a mile until the trail veers off to the left on the top of a short hill leading down to the fence-lined hot springs.

With its proximity to the campground, the hot springs are a popular destination in the summer. That wasn’t the case this week, however.

The pool isn’t very large, holding maybe 10 people comfortably. But we didn’t have to worry too much about that. Arriving early Wednesday afternoon on a day that didn’t get much warmer than 50 degrees, we had the hot springs to ourselves.

For nearly two hours, Kaj and I soaked in the refreshingly warm hot springs, staring out at the views of snow-capped Tobacco Root Mountains as well as beautiful fall-colored valley.

Aside from the gentle sounds of a little stream of water flowing into the pool and another flowing out of the other side, all was quiet.

Like a broken record, as we sat in the warm waters, Kaj and I repeated the same sentiment over and over again - “This is wonderful.”

On the drive out, country crooners like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash continued singing to us as we marveled at how relaxed and slightly sulfur smelling we were. But we both agreed.

We will be back.

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The original story can be found on the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s website: https://bit.ly/2eyZYA6

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Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com

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