Years ago, I saw a photo on Facebook of a little girl snorkeling among tropical fish in a rocky pool with clear turquoise water. The photo was tagged at Meadow, Utah. I had never heard of Meadow, but I soon discovered that just outside this quaint town in Millard County, lies a collection of thermal springs.
Two years ago my sister and I made the road trip to see the springs for ourselves. From Meadow at Exit 158 we headed west on a dirt road through fields of tall grass and pastures dotted with cows. We made our way on muddy trails on foot to a series of three small pools. We tried each one. The pools varied slightly in size, temperature and occupants. The two cooler pools were home to transplanted tropical fish and had attracted snorkelers, divers and swimmers. The warmest and smallest pool, a deep opening of volcanic rock and cobalt blue water, was inhabited by relaxed bathers.
Utah started to give up more of its secrets to me after my visit to the pools. I learned about a system of lava tubes that lie not far from Meadow Hot Springs. Last year, my love and I each packed swimsuits, loaded up our bikes, and, I again, drove south to Millard County. Our goal was to find the tubes.
Roughly 160 miles south of Salt Lake City and just west of Fillmore lies the Black Rock Desert. Covering more than 700 square miles, the Black Rock Desert is a result of 17 million years of volcanic activity which has created numbers of geologic formations. Volcanic cones, pressure ridges, craters, vents, domes, lava tubes, and thermal springs can all be found here. Parts of this place are still considered to be active, with a rather recent volcanic event having taken place just 720 years ago.
Upon arrival at Lava Tube Road, my love and I found a spot to park the car and we unloaded the bikes. We rolled through gently undulating fields of golden grasses dotted with beds of black lava rock that looked as if they had been heaved from the center of the earth. After a few miles, we found ourselves at the edge of a partially collapsed lava tube. We dismounted the bikes and descended into the dark where we spent the afternoon gleefully exploring another one of Utah’s unique playgrounds.
After my most recent visit to Meadow, I came across another photo on social media. Utah native Emily Rasmussen is an avid hiker and traveler. She shares her adventures on Instagram as babygotwasatchback and had recently explored this interesting area.
“The lava tubes are super awesome!” Emily says. “You climb down on all these sharp and uneven rocks. You start out with nothing above you, and then you end up in a cave. “Going deeper into one of the tubes, I started climbing through some smaller tunnels. Then I turned off my headlamp. I was in the purest black you could ever experience. It was really terrifying!”
Emily and I talked about the power of social media with regard to the effects it can have on travel.
“It is interesting to watch the trends and power of social media,” Emily says. “These strange, off-the-beaten-path places could have previously been kept a local secret. People see a photo posted on Instagram and then they decide they have to make a stop.”
As the result of just one photo posted on Instagram, these secrets can easily find themselves overrun with visitors. This proved true for the two of us. Neither one of us would have likely visited these sites without first discovering them online.