Historic Hot Springs in New Mexico
Don and I don't usually have spa resorts on our "Must Try!" hotel list. But after our daughter told us about her stay at Ojo Caliente, we were curious.
Her description of the historic hotel and the healing mineral pools was intriguing. We decided to book a night for our road trip in May.
Oasis in Northern New Mexico
We arrived on a cool and windy afternoon. We let the air blow us right through the entrance!
As we headed down the path, I wondered about the Pueblo ruins that I heard still remained above the property. Pueblo tribal communities flocked to these sacred waters, long before the tourists did.
A stone walkway took us by the historic building that housed the restaurant and original hotel.
There were a number of newer options for overnight accommodations, but the historic inn was the most authentic... and cheapest.
We headed towards the lobby and gift shop, to see about checking in. The wind whipped at my hair and blouse.
The gusts added a comical flavor to our arrival, but I sobered up before heading in. I had read earlier that the resort had some kind of Quiet Zone policy. I got serious and used a half whisper to inquire about our room. The man behind the desk looked at me oddly... I grinned and continued in a normal voice.
Our room wasn't quite ready, so we headed back, to check out the historic building.
I tired to imagine the stucco structure, in 1917. I'll bet there was less landscaping and more dust.
A long porch covered the front of the building. I wish we could have made use of the rockers or a porch swing. Verandas and porches always a delight me, but the wind and dust did not.
The Artesian Restaurant
We peeked into the restaurant, at the end of the building. I took a photo of the cozy fireplace, but refrained from snapping pictures of the guests, who were seated at the wine bar.
I had expected to see spa guests wandering in robes, but I hadn't pictured robed guests at the the bar. That amused me.
Taking The Waters!
As soon as we were able to check in, we changed into suits, wrapped up in the hotel robes and headed for the healing waters!
It was 3 pm and there were nearly a dozen pools to be experienced! It was time to Take the Waters... which I can't say without laughing.
This is the courtyard scene that met us, after we walked through the lobby.
However my photo doesn't show all the people I saw, walking and lounging... and whispering. I held off with my intrusive camera and took most of my pics in the early morning.
This pool was the only one large enough and cool enough, to actually swim a stroke or two.
But the air wasn't warm enough to tempt me. I skipped this one.
Lithium, Sodium, Arsenic, Iron and Soda
The Ojo Caliente Springs are known for their unusual and rare mineral combinations. Each pool had its own special mix of minerals. The temperatures varied as well, so it seemed like Don and I should have had some special plan for Taking The Waters. But we didn't have a clue. We just headed for the first pool we could find, that wasn't too crowded or intimidating.
This pool was nice and warm. The iron-rich water bubbled up from a pebbled floor. We gave it a few minutes to be sure we'd gotten our iron benefits... to our blood and immune systems.
Lithia or Lithium?
I believe this one was the Lithia Spring... or do we say Lithium?
Don and I joined 8 others, all quietly allowing the minerals to aid digestion and relieve depression. I'm glad there were no quizzes with all this info.
This little house held the Soda "Steam" Pool.
It was the most memorable. Don and I read the sign, Silent Relaxation and decided we were ready to take on the challenge of soaking without even whispering.
We joined about 6 others in the little rock building. One woman was reading a book while she soaked. Another woman was doing some kind of exotic stretching. 2 young women stood in the pool, staring into their cell phones. "Oh come on!" I thought.
The sounds of the water lapping and echoing were indeed soothing, but I also felt like a kid, on the verge of laughing in church. Especially when I saw Don, floating on his back... drifting towards a meditating soaker. I couldn't alert him fast enough. The two had a surprise encounter and the quiet was broken with some muffled laughter.
So Many Pools
Each pool had its own vibe. The sunny pools beside the rock cliffs, seemed to be the most welcoming.
The Arsenic Pool (not pictured) seemed to be filled with the most serious soakers. One woman was clutching her head like she had a migraine. I'm not sure if the waters helped her head, but at least the arsenic was good for her arthritis, stomach ulcers and skin conditions. I just relaxed for a while and thought about Cary Grant and those hilarious little ladies in, Arsenic and Old Lace.
We found this bowl-shaped pool in a covered space, up some stairs. The small, circular shape, encouraged guests to acknowledge one another.
When the drain suddenly made a long and loud, burping noise, we strangers suddenly became grinning friends. Don quietly responded to the sound with, "Excuse me." Suddenly there was laughter and a quick debate about whether laughter was admitted in the whisper zone.
Don wasn't up for the getting dirty, but I headed into the mud bath area and climbed into a pool of murky water. After sitting a while, I realized I was in the rinse-off pool. I eventually climbed out and headed over to the mud faucets, that I failed to see earlier.
First, I slathered some of that watery mud onto my legs and arms and then I baked in the sun. The toxins were supposedly releasing from my pores as the clay dried. But it was chilly, so I didn't bake long, before I headed to the warm pool. I finished it all with a little sprinkle-bucket-shower. So fun!
Before heading to the real showers, Don and I peeked around at all the peaceful, resting spots.
I didn't see anyone making use of the labyrinth.
A few people lounged on the Adirondack chairs, waiting for the sun to pop out from behind clouds. (It was all blue skies in the morning!)
If I'd had a warm cup of tea or cocoa, I would have gone for one of the rocking chairs... later in the evening when a fire was crackling.
We headed by the potted flowers, to the locker rooms...
leaving wet footprints behind.
Old Bath House From 1868
Before reaching the Ladies Locker Room, I was tempted to turn in at the old Bath House. I could smell the heavenly scented products that were being used for luxurious spa treatments, inside. I skipped the pampering and continued on, for my free shower.
The steamy shower and dressing area, seemed to be occupied with day guests. Most overnight guests have their own shower, but Don and I were in one of the historic rooms. I showered, then headed back to our shower-less room, in my robe.
Back at the Inn
On the way back to the inn, I paused to check out the old phone booth.
The vintage booth amused me, with its "tin can" hanging, where the phone should be.
It was nice having a room right down the hall from the dining/bar area. If we hadn't dampened our robes, we could have kept them on and conveniently strolled down to dinner.
I liked our old door. We hardly needed a lock at all, but I had some fun with the old chain lock. I decided not to play with the metal bar that opened the transom, above the door. I love hints of the past.
Our little room was quiet and comfy. Our window looked out towards the porch.
Maybe it was good that the weather didn't lure crowds to the area outside our window.
Reading Lamps and Robes
We were glad to at least have a half bath with our room. The robes and towels and linens were all soft and comfy. Since there was no TV, we were especially appreciative of the good reading lights.
All was peaceful in our little room, until we stepped on the squeaky floor! The noise was ridiculous... like a sound you'd hear in a "3 Stooges" movie! I was so glad there wasn't a second story, above us!
Dinner at 7
The restaurant looked inviting when we had a peek in the afternoon.
The food reviews were great, so we made sure to have reservations.
Clothes at the Bar
We headed to the bar first. Luckily we were dressed, since we spotted no robes. No one was whispering, either.
Jeremy was our welcoming bartender. He made me a refreshing, prickly pear margarita, with wine. Before long, everyone was chatting around the bar, as if we were in someone's living room.
Socializing into the Evening
I ended up canceling our reservation, so we could continue chatting with a wonderful young couple, about photography... weddings...Cuba... Africa...
We ordered mouthwatering fish tacos and Caesar salad from the bar menu. After eating, we continued conversing outside, around a fragrant pinyon fire pit, with other interesting folks. It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to have a social ending to our quiet afternoon, in the soaking pools.
Don and I have stayed at plenty of historic hotels. This time, we stayed at one of the oldest natural health resorts in the United States.
I may have chuckled about "taking the waters" and all the whispering. But really I was so impressed with our legendary oasis! It's too bad we had to rush back on the road the next morning. I was just beginning to learn how to relax and enjoy!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!