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"Morton's Warm Springs Resort," Taumra Meraz (Fall 2012)

Earlier this summer I purchased a summer pass for Morton’s Warm Springs Resort. I had heard from others that the place was charming and a great place for parents to take their children swimming. I normally took my daughter to the more popular swimming facilities with slides and diving boards, but one mother raved so much about Morton’s that I thought I’d give it a try. After my initial visit I realized the hidden treasure of Morton’s Warm Springs Resort provides a small-town homey feeling, while inviting locals into its idyllic retreat into nature.

Morton’s Warm Springs Resort is located in the heart of Sonoma County. The surrounding area is a picturesque mix of rolling hills lined with a variety of grapevines for the destination wineries. Morton’s is tucked away among a blanket of large oaks and open meadows. It’s a resort that is rich in beauty and history. Before being settled by homesteaders in the late 1800s, the site formerly belonged to the native Wappo Indian tribe, which understood the healing properties of the geothermal mineral springs and considered the waters sacred (Morton's Warm Springs Resort).

So, on a beautiful, sunny and warm afternoon, I decided to put on those rarely used swim shorts and find out what all the hoopla was about. With my daughter and her friend in tow, we head out along Sonoma Highway eastbound toward a small town named Glen Ellen. The girls are giddy with excitement. The anticipation of splashing around in cool water after winning a combative soccer match is all the more reason to hurry along toward our destination. We arrive after a twenty minute drive along the pristine highway with beautiful oak trees lining the streets – the blue sky and sunlight bursting through at every opportunity; vineyards to our left, small shops and local restaurants to our right.

We pull into the narrow two-way driveway and are greeted by a young woman holding a clipboard who walks toward our car. She offers a warm smile and asks how many and where we’d like to park. Apparently, there’s preferred parking, which is closer to the pool area and costs $5.00, and general parking, which is located a short hike away from the pool area, but is free. We didn’t mind the short hike, so free it would be! As we drive through the gate, we are stunned at how lovely the scenery is. There are groups of people on our left who have created a festive atmosphere on the slightly inclined grassy lawn area. With picnic tables covered with food, they’re entertaining one another with music, dancing and laughter. The smell of grilling barbeque fills the air. Straight ahead we see the three beautiful sparkling pools: a larger one for adults and kids, two smaller ones for wading children and adults alike. There is a snack bar just to the right of the pools and a small clubhouse inside the pool area.

We drive between the picnic and pool areas along a winding road. Its narrow curves takes us over a short bridge, too small for two-way traffic, with the end-of-summer slow moving Sonoma Creek running underneath. Tall trees surround us, until we come to the clearing where the free parking area rests. We quickly park, unload and start toward the pool area. As we pass the picnic area, there are couples and small groups who have come just to laze on the grass for an mellow afternoon out. Upon entering the pool area and finding a spot to lay our gear, we notice children of all ages enjoying the afternoon sun. Some are splashing and wading in the “big” pool with their parents, while others are enjoying playtime with their siblings and newfound friends in the “kiddie” pools. There are parents who are instructing their offspring in the art of swimming and some who lay in the sun while their kids chase one another around the pool area before doing a cannon ball into the deep end. The atmosphere is one of relaxation and happiness. I wonder what it is about this place that causes people, from what appears to be different backgrounds, come all the way out to this secluded area to swim instead of someplace closer to their homes.

I lay back on my reclining lounge chair as the girls impulsively kick off their outerwear and jump hand-in-hand into larger pool. I begin to ponder the different ambience of this locale in comparison to the newer swim facilities. Though sliding down winding slides is exciting and standing in a pool with water splashing down on you like a fountain that periodically overflows is fun, there’s definitely a different energy at the more modern-styled swim centers. Could it be that most are located in the middle of town, so the afternoon doesn’t begin with a beautiful and relaxing drive to your destination? Does the overwhelming smell of chlorinated water and roped off lanes for lap swimmers have an effect on the disposition of the visitors? What about the expectations of visiting such a new structure? Sure, there’s a furor of excitement shared amongst the youth at large waterparks, but why is the energy so different at a watering hole?

I look around and there seems to be numerous single parents who have decided to come here with their children for the afternoon. Many would be considered physically unattractive in their bathing suits by today’s body-conscious standards. Some of the adults are soaking up the sun rays while others have become acquainted after their children befriend each other through water play activities. I look up and realize there is, what appears to be, a home above the snack bar. At that moment, I’m sure a light bulb is illuminated above my head. Morton’s isn’t just about swimming or picnicking. It creates familial-type atmosphere as if one has gone to visit an elderly uncle in his country home setting and we’ve been allowed to enjoy the grounds. There’s no pretense; we come just as we are. The kids are energized, yet simultaneously relaxed. The adults feel safe and welcomed. The spring waters aren’t overly chlorinated and offer a connection to years past when there were no swim centers; just watering holes where the townspeople congregated on warm summer afternoons at the end of the week to catch up with friends and family alike as the kids frolicked in the natural waters.

As the five o’clock hour rolls around, we hear an announcement that swim time is over. We’re welcomed to stay and lounge for another hour on the grassy knolls of the resort for another hour. There’s no rush. The girls and I wander over and spread out a blanket atop the plush grass. They begin to play tag. There’s no Gameboy, iPad or radio, just good old-fashioned fun. We begin to pack up our things a short while later and my daughter’s friend comment, “Wow, this was a perfect day.” My daughter and I reply with smiles on our faces, “Yeah, it was.”

Works Cited
“Welcome Page.” Morton’s Warm Springs Resort. n.p. n.d. Web. 03 October 2012