My first thought is that this can't be real.
I'm watching this from the side, not sure how first-person I want this account to be.
Yes, it's a hot tub, but only in the most primal sense. Your bathtub at home has more technology than this. The Cannibal Hot Tub at Paradise Valley Lodge is simply a 4,400-lb. iron cauldron that was custom-built in Ukraine, but for all its massive, beautiful ruggedness, could have been forged in the depths of Mount Doom. It was shipped to the United States tilted into a shipping container because it was just too big to fit lying flat.
The heat source is a wood campfire, built by the staff underneath the cauldron. Surely that's only for show, I thought; just a gimmick. There must be a more conventional, hidden heat source. As it turns out, there is not. Put it this way: If you threw in carrots and celery, they could bill it as a first-person, interactive soup simulator. Now I get it: Cannibal Hot Tub.
As the fire gets going, the cauldron does what cauldrons do: It gets warm. And then it gets hot. And then it gets really hot. The staff puts some large, flat stones in the bottom of the cauldron, so my friends can continue to cook evenly without searing their feet. It's like a game of hot lava (stay on the stones!), but with actual consequences. When the water gets too hot, my friends turn on a spigot to add cool water and equilibrium is restored. It looks delightful.
My second thought is that this can't be legal.
There must be some law against putting people in a cauldron with only nature's fiery whim and a cold-water spigot between them and a roasted destiny. I decided not think about that too much. Not my expertise. Not my problem.
My third thought is that I absolutely have to do this.
I slide in, and it's absolutely perfect. The rocks on the bottom are warm, not hot. The spigot allows a nearly perfect temperature control. The hanging lights give everything a surreal glow to match the experience of cooking oneself like a fairy-tale wolf while sharing good times with friends.
The steam rising from the water (broth?) mixes with the light smoke from the heating fire to remind me that I'm not in a hyper-controlled, over-chlorinated spa situation. It's an outdoor experience that feels like an outdoor experience should feel: Tranquil and primitive. Safe, but adventurous. Under control, but not without an element of risk.
A soak in the Cannibal Hot Tub is included with your stay at Paradise Village Lodge, but also available separately. You must reserve the Cannibal Hot Tub at least 24 hours in advance. For the entire hot tub (no per-person rate available), it's $25 per hour, two hours minimum, plus $50 cleaning fee.
Paradise Valley is a recently renovated lodge just outside the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, that has been transformed into a Ukrainian village. They have a restaurant serving authentic Eastern European cuisine and beverages, and a cafe/bakery with fresh coffee and pastries every day.
For 10% off, enter TACOMA at checkout, or follow the link here: http://bit.ly/PV-TACOMA