On a cold December night at Glenwood Hot Springs, Donna Love wades through steaming water that smells like eggs.
Around her, people chat in multiple languages. Some dive. Others swim laps. Many just relax, melting away their cares in the mineral-rich steaming water. Christmas jazz and Bing Crosby’s crooning play softly on speakers.
With a big grin, Love strikes up conversations with families and then offers to take their photos on their cellphones.
What’s the catch? She says there isn’t one. How much does it cost? Her services are free.
“I want to make sure everyone has great memories, so they come back, because I feel so blessed about just living here and being able to come here,” she says.
Love has been doing this for the past four years, nearly every night, for an hour and a half, taking thousands of photographs.
“Something that I do every day is five random acts of kindness,” she says. “No easier place to do that than right here.”
Love, who’s in her seventies, has lived in Glenwood Springs for four decades, ever since she packed everything she owned into her car and crossed the country with her three children.
She planned to go to Seattle, but she never made it. Instead, she and her kids stopped and stayed in the Glenwood Springs — a decision she calls a “miracle.”
The hot springs pool, one of the largest in the world, is something of a melting pot, at the intersection of two major highways: I-70 and Highway 82.
In October, Love started tracking where the visitors she photographs come from. Each night, after taking pictures in the hot springs, she goes home and scribbles down guests’ countries of origin.
So far, she’s taken photos of people from 33 different countries.
“We're just blessed to live where people from all over the world come,” she says.
With its mountain views and geothermal hot springs, Glenwood Springs has long been an ideal destination for tourists and locals alike, but it's also a work in progress.
The resort has spent millions of dollars on upgrades, redoing the therapy pool and a section with slides for kids.
Love says there’s rarely an off-season, though COVID-19 hit the resort hard, and many of the improvements went unappreciated for a few months after the resort temporarily shut down.
But once again, skiers, hunters, hikers and leaf-peepers are flocking to the hot springs year round, and when they’re not out and about, they’re soaking in the springs.
Her favorite time of year is just after Thanksgiving when the Christmas lights are on display — half a million, by her count.
“We're right across the street from the Hotel Colorado,” she said, pointing toward the historic hotel. “And so right at dusk, all of a sudden, every light goes on in town.”
The annual New Year's Eve celebrations are also magical, but there’s really no bad time to visit Glenwood Springs, she says.
“We have the most beautiful valley in the world.”