Recently, I embarked on a trip to Helena, Montana, to visit my dad. It was a perfect opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of Missoula. Plus, as a fan of the cold plunge, I was super excited to learn that Broadwater Hot Springs now offered one. Having bought my own, which is outside my house, it’s not like I really need one – but, there’s something to be said to doing it in the crisp waters in front of a mountain. Although I’m no expert in water temperature, I estimated their plunge to be around 40-45 degrees—still pretty freaking cold.

And then the concept is you can jump into the hots springs afterward, which sets the stage for a post-plunge delight.

Note: A lot of people will skip the first part.

Broadwater Hot Springs Pools

The Workout Room

As I entered the facility, I couldn’t help but notice something peculiar—the workout room stood empty. It was an unusual sight, considering the well-equipped space offered a plethora of fitness equipment. Perhaps the slight chill in the air deterred visitors from their usual exercise routines. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed working out in cooler environments. There’s a certain invigorating quality to the air when it’s refreshingly crisp. Moreover, having the entire workout room to myself provided a sense of solitude and tranquility. Add to this, that although the threat of COVID has significantly diminished, the presence of common colds and flus still lingers, making it all the more appealing to exercise in a spacious and uncrowded area.

With this said – not one person in the workout room? Seriously? I guess there were some new gyms in Helena that opened up over the years, and, well, this makes it faster and easier for everyone. But me? I kind of like the drive.

The Drive

The drive from Helena to Broadwater was a ten minute journey in itself, evoking a deep sense of meditation within me. And 10 minutes is not really that long. Just long enough to enter Theta state in brain waves. As I traversed the scenic route, my thoughts drifted towards the unique qualities of Helena. Unlike the congestion of bustling cities like Missoula, Helena exuded a sense of serenity and open space.

It was during this peaceful drive that I remembered how brilliant thoughts and ideas often emerge when there are fewer distractions. Like salmon swimming upstream to their birthplace, I found myself drawn back to Helena, where I was raised. The city held a magnetic charm that really took on my creative spirit. They call it the Florence of the Rockies for a reason. It’s all about the lighting. As a former filmmaker, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of inspiration bubbling within me and that screenplay started to create itself in those 10 minutes of silence.

Back to the Plunge

As I submerged myself into the cold plunge, the exhilarating sensation jolted through my body, invigorating every nerve ending. It was a thrilling and enlivening experience, and I kept my stopwatch going until I hit my goal of five minutes.

My daily routine when I wake up:

  1. Cold Plunge for 5 minutes
  2. Workout (bike+strength training+HIIT in some form)
  3. Sauna

To prep myself to go in to the plunge, I have quite the routine. Part of it is where I just say to myself, “All I ask is that we jump in and out. We can stay longer if we want. But at least go in and out.”

And I invariably stay for longer. And then I do another later in the day – which is usually a shorter one.


The Springs Pool measures 30′ x 70′. Its depths ranging from 3 to 4.5 feet promised a revitalizing soak, a chance to wash away the burdens of the day. And as I sank into the water, I found myself surrounded by the embrace of comfortable bench seating, inviting me to kick back, relax, and let the worries of the world melt away. The temperature, maintained between 97 and 102 degrees, was just right for unwinding and releasing the tension that had built up on some level.

But let’s get this straight – when you’re doing something like the cold plunge, you don’t have time to think about anything other than the cold plunge. It’s kind of like Pickleball except you’re freezing.

The temperature of their cold plunge? 54.3 degrees. This is hotter than my one at the house – which is between 48-50. But for some reason, theirs felt a little colder? Maybe this was because I was jumping out of the hot water and into the freezing temperature? Or I didn’t have as much time to prep?

A cold plunge is measured to be such as any water that is below 59 degrees. So 54.3 totally counts. With this said, some cold plunges in the cities are more around 42 degrees which is totally insane if you ask me. And a lot of people have to break ice to get into their home barrow or back yard lake!

Free Winter Frost photo and picture

The Broadwater kindly asked everyone to respect the peaceful atmosphere of The Springs Pool, to leave behind the noodles, toys, and flotation devices. This pool was all about finding serenity, about basking in the soothing waters without any distractions. With this said, it certainly does have more of a party atmosphere than a Tibetan meditation retreat. There’s a bit of drinking. But I’ll tell you what – it would have been amazing if we had this when I was growing up in Helena!

It really adds to the community.

Helena vs Missoula

So if we’re to compare Helena to Missoula – I would say this. Helena is better in the summer because you have the walking mall downtown – which is great for kids. There are no homeless people. You have the Painted Pot and the Archie Bray for art. The houses are a million times prettier and bigger. You also have the Nicholson district, which rocks. And you have this incredible hot springs basically in town. Not every town has a hot springs. So for me, for raising a family, Helena wins.

If you’re a university student, Missoula wins because of UM.

John Michaelsa Missoula native and author, has been captivating readers with his writing for years. A graduate of Brown University’s esteemed creative writing program, Michaels has spent the majority of his career crafting stories that resonate with his readers and capture the essence of the human experience. Despite the demands of raising children, Michaels has continued to pursue his passions, finding solace in the bustling downtown Missoula scene. There, he spends his free time honing his craft, whether it be working on short stories, playing music, or dedicating himself to his work at Sunflower Counseling, MT.