Think of it as a sanatorium and visions of athelete's foot or Thomas Mann dance in your head. Call it "Ye Fam'd Warm Spring," as George Washington did in his journal, and you'll want to make your reservations early.
Believers will want to take the waters at Berkeley Springs for their restorative powers -- against arthritis, rheumatism, gout and skin disease -- as the Indians did long before GW visited the place in 1748.
The sleepy West Virginia town is unofficially called Bath, although Massage would be an equally fitting moniker. The stone tub used by Washington when he camped here on a surveying job for Lord Fairfax remains on view; you may stick a toe in it or drink from a clear spring for free. For the full treatment (starting at 8:30 , 12:30 on Sundays) at the state-owned spa, you'll have to sign up and pay a fee.
Inside, it's humid, green and quiet except for drips and gurgles. The mineral waters run at 74.3o F. and are heated to 85 or until you cry for mercy. The physiotherapists whack you till you leave your anxieties on the table.
The heat cabinet/relaxing bath/massage combo costs $14; likewise, the Roman bath/shower/massage or relaxing bath/massage. Or take any of those without the massage for $9. Infra-red heat is available for $5 and the Roman bath alone is $6 for an hour. You've driven this far, spring for a package deal. Your back will thank you.
But here's the rub: after the hot soaking, muscle kneading, greasing up and powdering down, your wet noodle of a body will beg to be checked into The Country Inn directly adjacent to the baths. That'll run you $38 to $45 a night for two, booked four to six weekends ahead.
If you have energy after the dip, drive on to Cacapon State Park and take in the boating, hiking or picnicking. GETTING THERE Take I-270 to I-70 beynd Hancock to the U.S. 522 south exit. BERKELEY SPRINGS STATE PARK -- 304/258-2711. Baths are open 8:30 to 5 Monday through Thursday and until 9 Friday; 8:30 t 6 Saturday; noon to 6 Sunday. Reservations are available two weeks ahead with payment in advance. THE COUNTRY INN -- 304/258-2210.