Travel: Love the Skin You're In at Terwilliger Hot Springs

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"She threw away all of her masks, 
and put on her soul."
Visiting a natural hot spring had been at the top of my travel wishlist for a long time, and this past weekend, we finally made it to one! Terwilliger Hot Springs, or Cougar Hot Springs as it is also known, is located roughly 50 miles east of Eugene in the Willamette National Forest along Aufderheide Drive.

The hot spring is operated by American Land & Leisure, a concessionaire of the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, and costs $6.00 USD per person per day. A day pass permits you access to the hot springs, trail, lagoon, and parking lot from sunrise to sundown.
Try to avoid visiting on the weekend during the afternoon. The park ranger told us that Saturdays from 1:00pm to 4:00pm are usually their busiest. (Of course, we overslept and showed up at noon on one of the first warm, sunny Saturdays of the year. Don't be like us.😔)
The 1/4 mile hike to the hot spring follows along a vibrant blue-green lagoon across from Cougar Reservoir and offers a view across the water of Rider Creek Falls.
When you arrive at the springs, you'll see five cascading soaking pools, ranging from 112° in the upper pool to 85° in the lowest pool. Naturally, we tested out each, and I personally enjoyed the heat of the top pool the most. I like it toasty.🔥

⚠️ — — — Fair warning, Terwilliger is a clothing optional hot spring. If you are offended by the human body in its natural state, this hot spring may not be for you. It was about a 50-50 split of those that were clothed versus those in the buff.  Getting naked in front of strangers puts one in a very vulnerable, exposed position, so whatever you choose, please do not openly mock others' bodies, as we unfortunately witnessed during our visit, and respect others' privacy by not taking photos of anyone but yourself.

While Tucker and I chose not to wear our birthday suits this time due to the high volume of people that were there at the same time as us (I chose to rock one of the swimsuits from the shop's summer line instead!), it was an enlightening experience in being comfortable and confident in your own skin, no matter how much or how little of it is covered.👙 (And it led to a conversation about whether penises float... so there's that.😂🤔😷🙈)

In the days following our visit, I got to thinking about body image —

When did you become comfortable in your own skin? Were you one of the lucky ones — one of that rare breed that learned to embrace your unique beauty and all of its imperfections at a young age? Was it a process to accept who you are as you are, or did you need to reach a certain physical goal or mental state first? Are you still working on learning to love yourself?

For me, I transformed from a bony preteen with thick bangs and glasses; to an oily-skinned, acne-prone teenager with wavy hair and no boobs awkwardly navigating the world of push up bras, makeup, and uncooperative hairdos; to a young woman in my early twenties questioning every form-fitting outfit choice out of fear of judgement from fellow women after spending my formative years defending my weight.

... then I turned 26, and I realized that the body that had always come so effortlessly suddenly required... effort. I had to change my eating habits. Cook healthier. Exercise more to stay toned. Drink more water. Get more sleep...(Still working on that last part – It's currently 4:00am.😚)

For far too long, when I looked in the mirror, I was unhappy with the body I saw reflected back at me. I didn't feel sexy. My butt and thighs weren't toned like they used to be. My skin no longer stayed a natural shade of bronze from the southern sun ever since we'd moved away. My abs weren't as defined as I would like. My hair wouldn't hold a curl. My face would break out if I so much as skipped one wash.

Black Plunging Mesh Swimsuit
So much pressure. Pressure from society to look a certain way. Pressure from ourselves...

We get bombarded with these images of how we're supposed to look when we wake up, of airbrushed faces, of perfectly coiffed hairstyles, of outfits of the day.... and we tell ourselves that we're less than if we don't live up to the seemingly perfect lives we see depicted on our computer screens.

... but it's not real life. It's staged. No one's perfect. Not even celebrities. Anyone can look picture-perfect with professional photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists...

Real life is the girl in this photo on day 2 of 4 dry camping in Willamette National Forest. No electricity. No shower. Vaulted toilets. Taming her wavy mane with dry shampoo in the morning and washing her face with Nalgene's full of ice cold water hauled back from the spicket and rock hard coconut oil at night.

If you ever wonder why I'm facing away from the camera in most of our travel pictures, chances are that is why.😂 Travel isn't always as glamorous as pictures make it seem. More often than not, I'm a mess. If I've showered within the last 24 hours, my hair and makeup are done, and I'm wearing clothes not covered in dog fur, I consider the day an automatic success.🙌

While almost all of those things I mentioned that I'd been feeling about my body are still true, something shifted in my perspective recently. Is my body everything I want it to be? No. But I finally said 'Enough. No more.' For the first time in my life, I started to embrace my body for what it is and all that it is capable of. I'm 28. Too soon my twenties will be over, and I don't want to regret not appreciating my body while I'm still able to do all of the things I love.

Every scar has a story (and boy, do I have a lot of them!). I bite my nails when I'm stressed or nervous. I'm in desperate need of a haircut. My toe nails are almost always chipped. — But I'm rocking what I've got.

We are all a continual work in progress, and I'm going to love every stage from now on.

Please feel free to share your body image journey, so we can #RaiseEachOtherUp.

"If all girls were taught how to love each other fiercely instead of how to compete with each other and hate their own bodies, what a different and beautiful world we would live in." — Nikita Gill

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